Book Post #16: La Jolla Music Society reaches out to young audiences

“At my first post concert artist interaction, I was amazed to meet Mr. Dudamel and hear his perspective about the performance, the audience, and what it was like to be San Diego. It was an electrifying experience. Experiencing him on that level was very meaningful.”

This was Johanna Schiavoni’s response after meeting the world-renowned conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, in person through a new initiative at the La Jolla Music Society (LJMS): The Allegro Society.

Allegro (ə-lĕg’rō, ə-lā’grō)

In a quick, lively tempo.

The Allegro Society is an organization of young professionals from across the business and professional spectrum who are dedicated to the arts and the active support of the La Jolla Music Society. The Society connects younger arts audience members directly with artists through performances, special day-of-performance receptions, and various other leadership development and networking events.

The Allegro Society was conceived in the spring 2008 by two LJMS Board members, Rev. Eleanor Ellesworth and the Hon. M. Margaret McKeown who had a vision to engage younger arts audiences. They began recruiting Allegro committee members in the summer 2008 with the help of the full Board and the President and Executive Director of LJMS, Christopher Beach. By the fall, the Board and LJMS staff had recruited 20 individuals in their twenties and thirties from diverse sectors, including Johanna, who now Chairs the Allegro Society and sits on the LJMS Board of Directors.

“I love the visual arts and I’m a big supporter and patron. I was yearning to get involved in the arts in San Diego.”

The Allegro Society boasts two membership levels: $250 and $75.  Both levels are completely tax-deductible because the membership is designed to be a direct donation to the organization.  As Johanna emphasizes, one of the goals is to “cultivate a habit of giving” to the arts among a younger set of patrons.  The membership functions as an access key.

Each year, the Allegro Society with the help of LJMS staff select at least 4 performances that the members will attend and help promote. There will be a social networking event in conjunction with each performance opening the door for young arts patrons to meet the artists one-on-one, gather for happy hour events or post-concert receptions. Allegro Society members can also purchase discounted performance tickets and attend the ultimate annual event: The LJMS Gala concert and post-concert dessert.  This highly coveted event can cost around a thousand dollars to attend (with a pre-concert dinner), but the Allegro Society is given the opportunity to attend the post-concert reception with membership. Early on, the Allegro Society learned that cost and flexibility with offerings was the key to recruiting and retaining members.

Allegro Society membership also opens up a network of like-minded young people who have opportunities to socially interact while supporting and maintaining excellent arts in San Diego.  Membership provides access to the LJMS staff, Board members, and donors: individuals who are normally outside the members’ professional circle and work in different fields, but with whom share a common ground: supporting the arts.

Recently, the Allegro Society added a leadership development component by hosting a no cost leadership roundtable hosted in the home of a LJMS Board member.  Two Board members, Dr. Martha Dennis and Mary Ann Beyster, who are civic leaders and successful businesswomen, shared the stories of their career paths: why they got involved in the LJMS and how it unintentionally (but positively) influenced their professional endeavors.  The formal discussion lasted only about an hour, but the attendees talked and exchanged ideas for several hours before and afterward.  Feedback from the group was universal: The business leaders inspired the young attendees, and the presenters were enthralled by young people’s questions. It was an incredibly successful event.  Connecting seasoned arts patrons with new arts supporters is a wonderful way to build continued and long-term support for the arts.

“The key is to get them in the door. Once they experience us, they are hooked.”

Currently, there are 15 Allegro Society subscription members. At the end of the 2012 season, Johanna plans to have recruited a total of 40 members.

The Allegro events are staff operated. As the Chair, Johanna has monthly teleconferences with Ferdinand Gasang, Development Director, Kristen Sakamoto, Marketing Director, and the three other Allegro Society Executive Board members, Matthew Geaman (Vice-Chair), Brandon Freeman (Events Chair) and John Yamauchi (Membership Chair), to do event planning, outreach, updating, and event review. Johanna is responsible to report to the Board about Allegro and also take communication back to the Allegro Executive Board.

Ultimately, the Allegro Society and LJMS is about building a community of arts patrons of all ages. There is a huge benefit for younger people to interact with community leaders and leading philanthropists.  At each concert, there is an opportunity to meet someone new. The more you attend, the more you become an insider. At a certain point, you start bringing new people in.  The goal is to diffuse the exclusive image of LJMS.  Insiders want to share the joy and the experience of the arts with outsiders.


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