At nearly 30 years old, the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra is doing some soul-searching to discover its identity.
An early outcome of this strategic planning process is the decision to start a new after-school music program for at-risk kids.
While the orchestra is also getting a new logo with more contemporary-looking lettering, executive-director Chandra Kastern said the orchestra’s rebranding effort means much more than a new look on paper. Market research, strategic development and design were done in partnership with Reaction Marketing, with some funding from Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the City of Red Deer.
“We’re working on a strategy in respect to our identity,” said Kastern, who’s concerned that many area residents still don’t know the RDSO exists, even though the orchestra was founded in 1987.
“We’re guesstimating that less than 70 per cent of people know we have a symphony orchestra.”
Kastern feels some parents “kind of know” about the orchestra because of the successful Choir Kids program in which the RDSO provides musical back-up to student choirs at special in-school concerts. As well as continuing with this popular program, the RDSO also planning to expand its educational offerings by starting a Music Plus after-school program at G.H. Dawe and Normandeau Schools.
Kastern said it will begin as soon as possible in 2017 with $7,500 in seed money from the City of Red Deer’s Community Development Fund, in partnership with the Red Deer Public Schools Foundation. Music Plus is based on a social movement called El Sistema, which tries to spark social change through teaching music to at-risk kids, said Kastern. “Part of our strategy is asking: What do we do for the community?”
The public school foundation recently held a used instrument round-up for Music Plus, collecting donations from people who had band instruments collecting dust at home.
The RDSO is also boosting its profile in other ways, including expanding its mainstage concert series to seven shows from six. And the orchestra is continuing to seek a larger performing arts space, although Kastern realizes building projects are a harder sell during economic downturns.
She believes other ideas will come out of the RDSO’s strategic planning, in which goals and visions for the future are discussed by the board.
The orchestra, which nearly sells out most concerts conducted by music director Claude Lapalme and featuring guest soloists, has had to deal with reduced provincial funding since 2011. Kastern said this has meant the RDSO is relying more on seasons subscriptions, community fundraising and business sponsorships.