Christine Kasten has seen a lot of growth during her five years with the Venice Symphony, first as executive director and now CEO of the Sarasota County nonprofit music organization. Now, as the pandemic moves to a more open phase, she seeks to continue the organization's 20% annual growth rate in ticket sales.
The future to capture that business includes a supported youth orchestra, more concerts and more community-based concerts, Kasten says. As it is, the symphony, with a 64% uptick in presale tickets and a 25% increase in season packages under Kasten's watch, sells out almost every concert. Performances are held at The Venice Performing Arts Center.
The biggest contributor to the success thus far, says Kasten, was realigning the direction of symphony. That started with a new music director. “When I first started, one of my first mandates was hiring Troy Quinn,” Kasten tells Coffee Talk. The selection came after a comprehensive search that ended in 2018. Quinn took a unique approach for the organization, in combining classical and pop concert series. “We have such a loyal fan base that his programming resonates well,” she says.
The symphony, with $1.35 million in assets according to its latest public tax filing, recently announced Quinn's contract has been extended through the 2027-28 season.
Quinn’s unique approach to programming got the ball rolling on restructuring the symphony. Kasten continued it by establishing a new chair society that promoted the symphony through sponsorships and exclusive VIP receptions. “It created a sense of common opportunity for our patrons to have social events so that we could get to know them,” Kasten says
Kasten also expanded the symphony’s marketing by reevaluating its reach, logo and website. “We were getting the word out the best we could, but we can always do better,” she says.
The pandemic created a challenge for the chair society, but the symphony adapted. On top of holding four virtual concerts that exceeded a record 13,000 views, the chair society was able to continue through virtual interactions. “We’ve gone through so much growth,” Kasten says. “We are really proud.”