Dayton Philharmonic: Columbus Symphony fans not a “big pork chop”

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The uncertain future of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra seemingly creates an opportunity for other orchestras looking to tap the Central Ohio market. A contract dispute between the CSO board and musicians canceled the summer Pops series and threatens the fall schedule. WOSU set out to see if other symphonies are honing in a possible marketing opportunity.

It came in an upscale coupon packet in Dublin – a flier for the Dayton Symphony Orchestra: buy season tickets, get one concert free.

“We don’t look at this as, oh gee, there’s a big pork chop over there, let’s go get it,” Dayton Symphony Orchestra director of marketing and public relations Dave Bukvic said.

Bukvic said the coupons were sent to select neighborhoods on Columbus’s far west side and parts of Cincinnati. He said the fliers are part of a marketing pilot program – not a reaction to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s uncertain future.

“I hope people who live in Columbus don’t think this is a response to the trials and tribulations they are having because we think it’s a horrible idea for Columbus to not have a world-class orchestra just like Dayton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, they deserve it and they should have one,” Bukvic said.

He said the Dayton Symphony broadened its marketing radius when it moved to its new performance venue in 2003. And he said the fliers in Columbus and Cincinnati were planned in February before the Dayton orchestra knew about Columbus’s financial problems.

“We’ve been mapping our customers both pops and classical as we’ve been going along through the years here to see what kind of radius we can really pull from. And the left edge of Columbus, as we call it, is really pretty far. And we do have subscribers there but they have to be in that sort of, that top cluster segment of people who are really into the music,” he said.

Right now, Bukvic said the DPO does not plan to market to the rest of Columbus. He said the far west side of the city is already a hike to Dayton. It’s about an hour and 20 minutes from Dublin.

The symphony orchestras in Cleveland and Cincinnati said their marketing departments have no plans to heighten campaigns in Columbus.

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra marketing director Sherri Prentiss said their marketing budget, like many symphonies, is tight. And she said their plan is to stay focused on their immediate region which includes parts of northern Kentucky.

“We operate very leanly and I see us as having a lot of opportunity in our backyard here in the Cincinnati Metropolitan area first and foremost,” Prentiss said.

Cleveland Symphony Orchestra public relations director Anna Papakhian said the Cleveland orchestra already has some patrons from the Columbus area.

“We don’t have specific marketing plans to enhance anything in the Columbus area,” Papakhian said.

It’s about an-hour-and-45 minutes to Cincinnati and almost two-and-a-half hours to Cleveland. Dayton’s Bukvic said if anyone stands to benefit from Columbus’s misfortune it would be Dayton because it’s the shortest drive.

“I would say Dayton probably does stand to gain maybe a little more if Columbus decides it is not going to field an orchestra, than Cincinnati might or that certainly Cleveland might, Cleveland being farther,” he said.

But none of the orchestras were thrilled at the prospect of gaining from Columbus’s loss.

“We are hoping for the best in Columbus. Well we certainly feel for our friends in Columbus. Come out and support the Columbus orchestra.”

And Dayton’s Bukvic said the symphony would even consider reducing marketing efforts in Columbus.

“We really don’t want to be seen as predatory. That’s not how orchestras should be working with each other. I think it’s a double edge blade because what we would like to say is if there’s a point at which Columbus music fans are not getting the fix they need as far as classic, well sure, we’d like them to come over. But I also don’t want, we don’t want to as an organization do anything that would inhibit them from getting back on their feet,” Bukvic said.

There’s still demand, though, for symphony music in central Ohio as seen by two CSO musician concerts this month. The concerts follow months of talks with the symphony’s board which canceled the summer season in May.

Columbus Symphony Orchestra Committee Chairman Jim Akins said the two concerts brought in about $30,000 that will be split up among the players.

“There are many musicians that are in single income households. So they’re being hit very hard by this. So this will help them with their health care coverages and things like that,” Akins said.

With the success of the first two concerts, the musicians plan two more – one later this week and one next month.

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