Darwin Symphony Orchestra on partnerships and community
Darwin Symphony Orchestra is a growing force in the NT.
We spoke with General Manager Karen Relph on the exciting developments in partnerships, sponsorship and collaborations happening at DSO in
What are you currently…
I am enjoying the annual feast of tennis and pondering over the final season of DCI Banks.
Brixton Beach by Roma Tearne. It’s an intriguing story of a Sri Lankan Tamil war survivor (and sculpture artist) Alice. The story delves into her new challenging life in Britain and her journey using the therapeutic power of art which enables her to survive.
Healthy post-Christmas food: light meals, Asian soups. Tom yum is a favourite.
2015 was a big year for Darwin Symphony Orchestra – what is exciting you about DSO’s future?
The diversity of the 2016 season is attracting a lot of positive attention and has wide appeal to existing patrons, and will, no doubt attract new audiences. The 2016 season- ranges from the solemnity of Jenkins’ Stabat Mater right through to Nigel Westlake’s Babe which engages with the family audience. In addition, the DSO will develop a new community engagement program with a series of three DSO Family Proms workshops.
Long-term sponsorship commitments give arts organisations the ability to plan for, build and measure success. DSO recently secured three-year funding agreements with several major sponsors. Can you tell us about what it takes to nurture these relationships?
In a small community such as the Northern Territory, it’s important to gain an understanding of what outcomes the various partners and stakeholders want to achieve through their relationship with the DSO.
These outcomes may range from an association with the brand, unique hosting and hospitality opportunities or behind-the-scene support. No matter what the outcome, it’s the constant communication, delivery, monitoring and nurturing of each relationship that insures these become long term mutually beneficial relationships.
For many years Michael Sitzler and his family have been exceptional supporters of the DSO – a contribution that was recently awarded the Administrators Medal by the NT government. What’s the key to its success?
This relation typifies the success of a long-term relationship between a local NT organisation and their mutually effective affiliation with the DSO. Michael and the Sitzler family have had a long and cherished association with the DSO since its inception 26 years ago.
Sitzler, one of the largest construction companies in the Northern Territory, has grown alongside the DSO. In the early days this involved assistance with the construction of an outdoor performance venue at the Charles Darwin University – the Soundshell – in 1978 through to their support of the iconic Bolero on the Gorge which was performed on a floating barge in the Katherine Gorge in 1992.
In 2011 the Sitzler Red Desert Tour entertained the Alice Springs community over a period of five days with local collaborations and two DSO concerts, Songs from Big Sky Country and Symphony under the Stars.
The performances featured the collaborative efforts of the DSO and a range of national and local performers. From this tour, the DSO was awarded an ABAF Toyota Community Award. And in 2013, DSO and Sitzler once again joined forces with the DSO Uluru and Alice Springs Tour of 2013, including the highly acclaimed Sitzler Symphony under the Stars in Alice Springs.
By opening up these valuable avenues of awareness and support, Sitzler has assisted the future of the DSO through performances, allowing it to work on a larger scale over a bigger geographical area and to create learning and development opportunities for players and audiences across the Territory.
How important are new partnerships to the sustainability of the DSO’s work in the local community?
Essential! While we continue to develop new corporate partnerships with the orchestra in 2016, the DSO also offers individuals and patrons a range of opportunities to support the DSO through a closer relationship. Individual partnering opportunities include Player Chair endowment, our 250 Club loyalty program and a range of player development and instrument acquisition support funds.
DSO’s recent focus has been improving your marketing presence and increasing your profile by investing in high quality marketing collateral and securing new media sponsors. Why this focus and how is the investment paying off so far?
The DSO has a range of core messages that it seeks to convey through our marketing. Within the NT we seek to increase the awareness of our activities to attract players and partners, to attract new patrons and to celebrate the activities and outcomes of our unique orchestra. Within this message we also recognise the support we receive from our partners, supporters and patrons.
At a national level our message conveys the unique and resilient nature of the DSO. For the last 26 years the DSO has held the status as the only volunteer community orchestra that represents a state or Territory in Australia.
We enjoy the highest level of direct marketing support within the NT, through partners such as Southern Cross TV and Territory FM. This support has advanced our patron awareness and attendance enormously. In addition to this, the support of national media, including: Limelight, The Australian, ABC radio, RN, Andrew Ford’s iconic Music Show, and strong coverage from ABC 24, have all been instrumental in escalating the national (and international) awareness and attendance.
The NT also remains one of the world’s popular tourist destinations. Increasing awareness through Tourism Top End, Tourism NT and Conventions NT insures that visitors have the highest awareness of orchestra performances and how to access these events.
Streamlining administration and reporting is a challenge for many small-medium arts organisations. You recently undertook an audit of your internal processes – do you have any tips for other organisations looking to shore up their operations?
We’re a small and diverse management team who seek to deliver a Mercedes product on a Volkswagen budget. As such, it’s important to establish good reporting and time management systems that can utilise the brief quiet periods of lull between concerts and events to complete the essential reporting and development tasks. The development and implementation of an effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system will go a long way to assisting with this.
What’s on your wish list for 2016?
Achieving satisfactory outcomes for our broad range of DSO partners, supporters, patrons, players, volunteers and audiences; an increase in patronage at our Master Series concerts; and the initial exploration and design of an effective CRM system.
Finally, what three words best describe DSO?
Resilience, remoteness and resourcefulness.