A few Sundays ago, I visited Nemours to see the gardens and the house of Mr. Alfred I. duPont. When I walked into the music room I was drawn to the Steinway piano and thought that was most likely where it all started for the Delaware Symphony. Mr. DuPont’s piano and violin on display next to it reminded me of the small group of friends who founded the Tankopanicum Orchestra which eventually became the DSO.
I am sure, and I know, that the orchestra has had its challenges over the years as it has grown into the professional group it is now. Nonetheless, I hope Mr. duPont and his friends will be happy with the way we have sailed over the past decades and with what we are looking to become.
We all now know that the past 19 months have been tough for those of us in the performing arts. Last April, I wrote here about the work we have done to keep our ship afloat during the pandemic. We continue to be grateful for the support we have received and the lessons we have learned, and we are excited and optimistic that we will return to the concert in person in the months to come. We can’t wait to see you again!
It’s no secret that in addition to COVID, the Delaware Symphony has overcome obstacles in recent years.
It is through the efforts of the community, the very generous patrons, the musicians of the orchestra, the board of directors, the staff and the musical director David Amado that the DSO has regained organizational stability and has continued to offer exceptional programs at the highest artistic level. It was no small feat, and the collective efforts are important.
Now is the time to look to the future.
Long before the pandemic, symphony orchestras across the United States struggled to find the most effective way to connect with the general public and provide better access to the public.
The Delaware Symphony is no exception, and I knew it was a challenge when I arrived.
I was fully aware of the need to address the past, the present and the future at the same time. It was an intimidating juxtaposition of tasks, but one that I couldn’t ignore.
As an organization, we began to understand that returning to our pre-COVID modus operandi was not the answer, and there was a sense of urgency about the need for a new plan for it. to come up. As we began to see that we were going to survive successfully over the past few months, we quietly began new strategic planning to shift the focus of the DSO. We soon realized that we need to look outward for real success rather than continuing to look inward for pure survival.
This process required a lot of listening. And although I had heard a lot about the glories and troubles of the past, I was mostly interested in ideas for the future.
It was no surprise that the possibilities are endless.
While we will certainly continue to serve our loyal classical music lovers, we must find ways to get our musicians out of the concert hall and into the community. Outdoor concerts, family concerts and increased outreach activities with new partners in education, health and social services are all on the table as part of our new strategy.
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We will also address the ongoing challenges of creating a sustainable plan to deliver concerts and public awareness activities to the counties of Kent and Sussex. All of this will take a lot of hard work, careful planning, patience, and funding, but there’s no doubt that it has to be a big part of the future of the DSO.
I have read that there is an extraordinary strength in the bond between the survivors, and like many surviving arts organizations, we have found that we are stronger as an organization over the past few months. Our relationships are stronger and we benefit from renewed, positive and transparent communication between the Board of Directors, staff, musicians and our colleagues and artistic partners in the community. All of this is a great foundation on which we will grow.
I hope that M. duPont would be happy with what has become of his Tankopanicum Orchestra.
During my visit to Nemours, my guide pointed out that he was a tenacious man, overcoming the loss of his family, partial loss of sight and, tragically, his hearing.
I hope he appreciates our survival, as well as our tenacity, as we move forward to continue his work.
JC Barker is editor-in-chief of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra.