By SUE SUCHYTA
Photo by Sue Suchyta. Dearborn Symphony Orchestra conductor Kypros Markou (left) rehearses with the Dearborn Youth Symphony May 4 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn in preparation for the May 8 Side by Side Concert with the Dearborn Symphony.
DEARBORN – As Dearborn Symphony Orchestra supporters look for ways to increase concert attendance next season, whether they must do so to survive or thrive depends on one's point of view.
For music director and conductor Kypros Markou of Grosse Pointe Farms, reaching new audiences is a goal driven by a desire to expose a larger audience to the symphony’s quality concerts.
“I wouldn't say we are declining, but we want to double the audience because we think we have a very good orchestra,” Markou said. “Speaking philosophically, yes, we need the money in order to keep going.
“But from my perspective, I love music. I believe in music. The musicians share that love with me, and we feel that is our gift to the community. So we would like to share it with as many people as possible.”
Markou said the challenge for the Dearborn Symphony is to tell people that if they attend a concert, they will experience something truly special, and they will be transformed.
“If I win a new listener, then I have succeeded,” Markous said. “If I can move the audience with a musical play, then I have succeeded. If the audience goes feeling something from the music, that is success.”
For tickets and information about the Dearborn Symphony and its 2015-16 season, call 313-565-2424, or go to dearbornsymphony.org.
Symphony president Sandy Butler said they have a very loyal audience base, but it is aging, and the challenge is to interest a new generation of people.
“We need to appeal to a broader group of people,” Butler said. “The interesting thing is, if they get them in the door, they often will love it. The trick is, they hear ‘classical concert' and they think it is going to be stodgy, and they are not. Not at all.”
She said it costs $25,000 to $30,000 to produce one regular season symphony concert, which include salaries for the musicians, director, personnel manager and music librarian, and music licensing fees.
She said their group sales office lets community organizations sell concert tickets as fundraisers, with the organization receiving a percentage of the ticket price, and that effort has successfully introduced new patrons to the Dearborn Symphony.
Butler wishes more people knew about the experience the Dearborn Symphony offers.
“They'll have a fabulous time if they come to the Dearborn Symphony,” Butler said. “They will leave with a song in their heart. They'll dance down the aisles.”
She said the symphony's classical music concerts stimulate an audience member's mind and imagination.
“It takes away all the worries of the world,” she said. “I come (to rehearsals) and feel refreshed. It really is very stimulating, and enlivening.”
Butler said that every great city has a great orchestra, and it would be a serious loss for the city of Dearborn if it did not have its orchestra.
“It's a gem for this community,” Butler said, “and if it loses the Dearborn Symphony, it (will have) lost something big that can't come back. It's too hard.
“Putting on concerts is expensive. You couldn't bring it back. But it is one of the things that makes this city, gives it an extra special glow, because it has a first-rate orchestra.”
Markou said while he appreciates the business side of running a symphony, his goal is to maintain a certain level of artistic integrity.
“I studied music, and when there is resistance (to music) that the big population doesn't like, I don't give up,” Markou said. “I say we have to win them over.”
He said he does not play more Arabic music to appeal to Dearborn's population demographic simply because the culture does not have the tradition of producing classical orchestral music.
“As far as I am concerned, the classical music audience is always a small percentage,” Markou said. “You are never going to have 50 percent of people liking classical music. Usually you're talking 3 to 4 to 5 percent. They do know among more educated people it is higher.
“This is very general. You can go to a poor neighborhood elementary school, and the kids right away love the classical music. But in general, among the highly educated population, the percentage is higher for classical music, because they have been exposed to it.”
He said you cannot really know who will like classical music. For some people it will click, and for others it doesn't, but it won't click unless you get exposed to it, so you make classical musical available.
“Just try it,” he said. “You will find that it is fun. You will find that it is enjoyable.”
He has taught at the college level for many years, and he said he finds that young people are more interested in attending live musical performances than they were 30 years ago, and they are more open-minded.
“I teach 20- to 25-year-olds at Wayne State with the orchestra, and they are much more interested in contemporary classical music, but they are also interested in Bach, and the Renaissance,” Markou said. “They love Mozart. I didn't expect that. My students at Wayne State just soak it in.”
He said his dream symphonic season for Dearborn would cost a lot of money and frustrate the board, but it would include eight to 10 real classical programs a year, and a series of four or five chamber music concerts, with string and woodwind quintets as a side offering.
He said he would like to have a series of different concerts for children: one for 3- to 5-year-old children, one for fourth- to sixth-graders, and then a different program for 14- to 15-year-old children.
“By that time, if they hear it when they are 4, and then they hear it when they are 8, 9, 10, and then they hear it when they are 14, 15, you will catch a much larger percentage,” he said.
Markou said it doesn't matter if you are a child or an adult when you discover classical music, because it opens up a whole new world for you.
“We have a really good orchestra,” Markou said. “I am very proud of them. We have such a good orchestra, and good concerts, good programs, it's a pity not to have a full house. Here is a wonderful orchestra worth hearing.”