Music Makes Better Cents

by jon bosworth
If you listen to too many news reports, it will make it hard to get into the spirit of the season. To use a comparison often called upon in this past campaign season, no matter how disastrous things seem on Wall Street, we still have Christmas down here on Main Street. Just like the Whos in Whoville, even without our material possessions, we will still get into the Christmas spirit.
For many, this Christmas won’t be like Christmases past. There won’t be a holiday bonus. For some there won’t even be a holiday paycheck. So the question will be how to enjoy the season without the promise of a new wide-screen plasma television under the tree.
Another aspect of increased mortgage payments and decreased job availability is that working families are working twice as hard. My wife and I called a couple that we haven’t spent much time with lately because of frantic work and school schedules, and set the time aside to get some dinner and catch a show. It wasn’t until we were sitting around at a bar after a performance in Jacoby Hall that we really realized how important taking these times out can be to our own sanity.
In this time of “economic crisis,” as we’re told this is, it is also becoming increasingly clear that the most important factor in that big bloated mythology of the American economy is the consumer’s dollar. To those that have a few in their pocket: those dollars are the most attractive things in the world to everyone in Washington and New York. So how you spend them is now a matter of much scrutiny and the power of your choice has never been more potent.
But nevermind the intensity of that focus. When you are trying to find the right gift for someone, it is about more than just budget and economy. It is about getting them something that has enormous staying power; something that underlines your respect for them and gives them something they will cherish forever. A ticket to the symphony is a dignified gift of music that funds the local cultural community and delivers holiday memories that can last a lifetime.
“Ninety-five percent of our orchestra’s budget stays here in the community, so it’s not like that money is going off to some other country or part of the world. It supports local professional artists that live and work here, not some gadgets made in Japan. These artists really help infuse the arts and music and quality of life here. Not just through what they do as part of their jobs here, but living and working and teaching and being part of our church music and active in our community. It’s a good re-investment back into our local economy.”
Stacy Ridenour is the new Executive Director of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. In years past the JSO has been intrinsically intertwined with the holidays in Jacksonville. Without the benefit of snowy nights or ice skating, Floridians have to engage in traditions to bring on the holiday spirit, but after the vacuum of our orchestra last season during the musicians lockout, conventional wisdom is that those traditions will need a kick start this year.
According to Ridenour, the tracking numbers are not showing that to be the case. The performance we attended in mid-November was played to a sold-out crowd. It seems perhaps absence made the heart grow fonder.
“We’ve got this wonderful professional orchestra performing at an incredibly high level. Our holiday programming has such a high level of community engagement. The Nutcracker has, obviously, the professional dancers, but also a whole host, just scores of local children playing the mice. The chorus sings the parts. You bring all of these community people into that experience and then their extended family becomes part of that tradition. Then maybe their kids are no longer mice in The Nutcracker, but it became part of their tradition.”
The former director, Alan Hopper, left the Executive Director position only months after the lockout was over. In August, Ridenour interviewed for the position. By the second week of October, she was moving into an Arlington home.
“We recently became ’empty nesters’ so it was a good time from a personal standpoint to make a life change. And of course there’s the weather – many more days of sunshine!”
With Ridenour at the helm of management, the hope is that she will bring sensitivity to the relationship with the musicians. This isn’t just because the members of the Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids Orchestras rave about her, although that may well be true, it is because her husband and her son are both accomplished classical musicians themselves. In fact, her connection to Jacksonville originally came from when she visited to watch her husband perform with the JSO back in 2005.
“I set up appointments with the office staff to review their scope of operations and also toured Jacoby Symphony Hall in preparation for the hall renovation in Kalamazoo. We were working with the same acoustician, Larry Kirkegaard, who had strongly urged me to see and hear Jacoby.”
Indeed Jacoby Hall is one very compelling reason to enjoy the talented musicians of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.
“An orchestra’s instrument is the hall. When you’re in that hall you want to close your eyes and listen to the music. It gives you a highly impactful experience. The heartbeat of that drum right on your chest and the vibration of the strings in your feet; it’s such a great experience.”
Ridenour has visited orchestras all over the country and notes that even bigger orchestras in larger markets don’t necessarily get the combination of having a great orchestra and a great hall.
“I would dearly love for the entire community to feel that this is their hall, their arts center. A place they should be comfortable going. It is a community asset. It doesn’t have to be an expensive ticket to Masterworks to go and enjoy this great community benefit.”
But if value is really your breaking point on purchasing tickets to the symphony, look into it. Ridenour is quick to point out that you can get tickets to some of the Family Series shows for as little as $5.
“If you look at our product line, we have a wide variety. From the Masterworks to a little more casual classics with the Discovery Series and the Family Series. Plugged In is kind of for the baby boomers with the symphonic rock. The Pops does everything from big band to jazz.”
So whether you’re buying gift certificates to the symphony to share in a multi-generational experience, offering to watch the kids while your hardworking friends go on a much-needed date, or simply integrating The Nutcracker into your new holiday traditions, nothing kicks the holidays in more than a night with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. And it’s the sort of purchase you can feel good about in every way. Call the JSO Box Office at 354-5547. Hours are Monday through Friday, from 10 am to 5 pm or you can visit