Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Vienna, VA

What Would Beethoven Think?

Festival conductor Emil de Cou prepared program notes to be tweeted at intervals during the performance–in time with the part of the music to which they referred.

Wolf Trap – The Nation’s Only National Park Dedicated to the Performing Arts – Opens a Cellphones ON Section During the National Symphony Orchestra Performance of his Pastoral Symphony.

One of the most interesting elements to the “cellphones-on” Wolf Trap initiative was that when the company announced this new presentation style, they received increased interest/comments via social media, particularly from new and younger audiences interested in attending. Wolf Trap was delighted that many in attendance did participate…and by being in the special section on the lawn, it did not disturb those who chose not to participate.
Under the experiment, live program notes were sent via Twitter during a performance of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. The NSO at Wolf Trap Festival conductor, Emil de Cou, sent text messages highlighting the countryside sights and sounds – rattling carriage wheels, singing birds – to which Beethoven was paying homage in the symphony. Maestro de Cou said: “I have designed the tweets to go perfectly with ideas I have about the piece as I conduct it, but also some interesting commentary to go along with the sights and sounds of Beethoven’s day in the countryside – an adult musical pop-up book written for first timers and concert veterans alike.’’
The messages began during intermission and provided facts about Beethoven’s life and work. Tweets were then sent at specific points in the score, becoming streaming program notes that marked musical signposts depicting Beethoven’s symphonic tribute to a day in the country.
Wolf Trap staff engaged the programming department to make frequent posts on its blog in advance of the performance to generate interest. Blog readership has grown by 400%. They also have a Twitter Review program in place where attendees can tweet their “reviews” either during or after the performance – and have ramped video sharing — engaging a Multimedia Intern to capture video and produce/post short vignettes on You Tube either in advance or after the performances. Video views have increased by 50%.
An important note from Lisa LaCamera, Senior Director, Communications and Marketing: “We have a cross functional Social Media Team in place – marketing, PR, web, programming, etc. since there is so much cross-over among functions, and integration is critical. We are just doing our best to keep up with this fast-changing media environment – trying to keep abreast of new trends and technologies, while being thoughtful and strategic about what we decide to implement or not.”

Proof points:

  • Live tweeting during performances can enhance the experience for new and seasoned concert goers
  • Cross functional social media teams help maximize institutional engagement and support
  • New and younger audiences are looking for creative ways to engage with traditional art forms

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