The World’s a Stage

St. Louis Symphony heads overseas for the first time in 14 years.

 

Anyone who frequents Powell Hall is already well aware that it houses a world-class orchestra. Now, it’s time for the rest of the world to recognize it as well. This September, the St. Louis Symphony will go on its first European tour in 14 years—a huge step for a group that has spent the last decade working hard to remain relevant and reach new audiences. The tour will bring the Symphony to prestigious festivals in London, Berlin, Lucerne and Paris from Sept. 4-7—visiting four cities in just four days. ALIVE sat down with St. Louis Symphony President Fred Bronstein to talk about what this tour means for the orchestra and the city.

ALIVE: This tour is a long time coming—why is now the right time?
Fred Bronstein: Over the last three or four years, we’ve been really focusing on St. Louis—rebuilding the audience base, broadening and diversifying the programming. But,
I think it’s also very important for an orchestra of this stature to undertake projects that really project it to a national and international audience. It’s a top-of-the-line tour for the orchestra to take; only a handful of American orchestras get invited to these venues.

ALIVE: How did St. Louis catch the attention of these international festivals?
FB: We started to plan for this about three years ago. I visited the festivals in September 2009 to talk to my counterparts there about the St. Louis Symphony. At the same time, these are venues that our Music Director David Robertson has regularly conducted in, so his work is known there. Between that and the reputation of the St. Louis Symphony, which is very strong nationally and internationally, the invitations came.

ALIVE: What were some of the challenges in making the tour happen?
FB: As important as it was to do the tour, we felt very strongly that it had to be undertaken with the utmost financial responsibility. It needed to be fully funded and not impact the day-to-day funding of the St. Louis Symphony. Tour fees will never pay for the full cost—in our case, they pay for about 50 percent. The balance is paid by underwriting—we have a corporate sponsor, Monsanto—and there was a small group of anonymous donors who banded together to help make this possible.

ALIVE: What does touring do for the orchestra?
FB: Touring is important because it builds the reputation of the orchestra. And, it’s important for the musicians because touring just makes you better. You play in different halls, you have to adjust to different circumstances, and it is wonderful for bonding.

ALIVE: How does it benefit the city?
FB: St. Louis is a city that is very rich in its cultural institutions. This is a great opportunity for the Symphony to really project the brand of the city. There are great things happening
here, and as I see it, part of our job in a tour like this is to represent all that St. Louis has to offer.

ALIVE: How has the Symphony been working on its own brand lately?
FB: We felt that the brand as it existed for many years didn’t really reflect who we had become, in terms of the breadth of people that we were reaching. So, to give it more of a contemporary feel, the brand really has evolved. The central tenants haven’t changed—quality is first and foremost. But most importantly, when people come here, it should be transformative. They shouldn’t leave two hours later the same way they came in.

 

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Fred Bronstein

 

Photo credit: Jules Brown

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