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Symphony develops strategic plan

April 5, 2016
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Kalamazoo symphony
Founded in 1921, the KSO is the third largest professional orchestra in Michigan. Courtesy Kalamazoo Symphony

A nearly 100-year-old symphony orchestra has released its new long-range strategic plan, which it said will position it for future viability.

The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, which will celebrate its 100-year anniversary during the 2020-2021 season, said it began the process of creating a new strategic plan in 2014 and is now ready to unveil the results of those efforts.

The initiatives that will guide the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, or KSO, forward during the coming years were informed in part by an in-depth community survey as well as with help from Arts Consulting Group, which partnered with the organization on its strategic planning process.

KSO highlighted four key findings discovered during its planning process that it has incorporated into its long-term strategic plan:

  • KSO said the community “highly values” the symphony orchestra and recognized it as a “well-managed and stable” community tradition. It was also praised for its contribution in helping to create a desirable place to live.
  • The community wants to see KSO grow a more demographically diverse audience by expanding access, creating fresh program options and collaborating with other area organizations.
  • Community members are eager for informal social opportunities to engage with the KSO and other music lovers. Community members are also seeking more meaningful concert experiences and deeper connections.
  • KSO’s educational initiatives remain a “highly-valued and important” cornerstone of the organization, enhancing learning experiences and fostering a love of music for students, and providing greater access to underserved audiences.

The orchestra has incorporated these findings into its long-term plan and the organization said it will be guided over the next three to five years by the following initiatives:

  • Optimize the KSO concert experience for audiences and artists alike by cultivating artistic excellence, offering a diverse array of concert options and producing musical performances at the highest level.
  • Enhance KSO’s education programs and community partnerships to provide meaningful ongoing musical experiences and effective entry points for the community for all ages — from preschool to adult.
  • Strengthen and sustain KSO by growing the audience, increasing financial support, building awareness of programs and developing an engaged board and volunteer base.
  • Create a more resilient organization by strengthening the workforce and improving stakeholder reporting and communications.
  • Celebrate KSO’s 100th anniversary season (2020-2021) with a wide array of events and initiatives that deepen the community’s connection with the orchestra and assure financial stability for the future of the organization.

KSO noted orchestras across the country are struggling with aging audiences, changes in technology that provide alternatives to the concert hall and increasing competition for financial support, which make well informed strategic plans particularly important.

KSO is the state’s third-largest orchestra with an operating budget of nearly $3 million and more than 80 musicians and professionals employed full- or part-time.

It serves Michigan’s fourth-largest metropolitan area, providing more than 30 concert performances each year and reaching more than 40,000 music lovers.

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