Executive Director Report: Reflecting on a year of meaningful growth and change

Reflecting on a Year of Meaningful Growth and Change

Dear IO Community,

As I reflect on my first year as the Executive Director of Inside the Orchestra, I am filled with gratitude for the  journey we’ve embarked on together. At the heart of our mission lies a commitment to ensuring young people have the opportunity to fall in love with orchestra music. We know the world of the orchestra should be a place for everyone, and we are committed to ensuring that our programs instill a sense of belonging in every attendee. The journey over the last year has been nothing short of inspiring, and I am thrilled to share the progress we’ve made.

Milestones and Achievements:

Accessibility – This year we are hosting 32 Tiny Tots  performances across the metro area.  We have a completely open-door policy at Inside the Orchestra, and the newly-launched “Overture Outreach Ticket Project” continues our commitment to providing   free and discounted tickets to families and schools in need.  This year we will provide more than 3,000 tickets at reduced-price rates (or entirely free) – a value of more than $60,000 (thank you to our donors!)

New Programming:  We successfully piloted a new chamber program for schools, aimed at combining orchestral music and social and emotional learning (SEL) outcomes. We partnered with a local Board Certified  Music Therapist to develop the learning objectives and our very own Conductor Dan beautifully arranged a collection of diverse pieces that come together in an interactive and fun 45-minute program for young people.  While the program is still evolving, it has been well received by teachers and administrators.

Partnerships with Libraries- This past year, we were happy to partner with both Denver Public Libraries and Anythink Libraries (Adams County).  We will bring music programming to every library location in both counties before the end of our fiscal year and will continue to get our bilingual storybook that accompanied our original production of “A Surprise for Rabbit” into the hands of young people through this partnership. To date we have distributed nearly 5,000 books.   All books include a QR code link so families can enjoy online activities, videos, and  original composition, along with the story written and illustrated by local artists.

Contract with the Denver Musicians Association:   I am pleased to have signed a  3-year agreement with the Denver Musicians Association. I am honored to work with our local musician’s union to help ensure that our beloved musicians are compensated fairly. We are nothing without our Orchestra.  

The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (the SCFD):  The Metro Denver area remains a model for many cities looking to invest public funding into arts and cultural organizations. I’m proud that Inside the Orchestra is in the top 10% of Tier III organizations in regards to awarded revenue. We are receiving significant General Operating Support from both Adams and Denver Counties. The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (a sales tax in the metro area) is only possible thanks to voters like you.

Welcoming New Voices and Visions:

New Board Members: We are thrilled to welcome several new faces to our Board of Directors.  This year we welcomed Kristi Franko, Del’Shawn Taylor, Janet Yenter and Kome Muller.  Each brings a unique set of skills and talents that promise to propel our mission forward. Their commitment to our cause and passion for making a positive impact align seamlessly with our organization’s values. Read more about all of our Board Members on our website. 

New Team Members:  It has been a year of transition.  I humbly took over the leadership of Inside the Orchestra from Shelby Mattingly who provided more than 10 years of service as the leader of what was founded as “The Junior Symphony Guild,” and is now our treasured “Inside the Orchestra”. I was honored to join the team in November 2022; since then, we also said goodbye to our longtime Program Director Sara Hare. I was pleased to appoint Valerie Johnson , a talented musician and educator who has been playing in our Orchestra for more than 10 years.  

The diverse perspectives and collective expertise of our Board of Directors, staff, and artists will undoubtedly continue to contribute to the growth and success of Inside the Orchestra.  

Impact Stories:

Receiving feedback from our audience is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of our work and I want to share a few with you.  Below are a few comments we recently received in our follow-up surveys.  

“This is one of the greatest programs available to our family!”

“Thank you for sharing high quality classical music in a way children can enjoy! “

“I get so emotional during these concerts being able to expose my daughter to live music in this very special way. Keep up the fantastic work!!!!”

Challenges Faced and Overcome:

The pandemic was not easy for Inside the Orchestra, but thanks to the community, we remained fiscally sound over the last few (difficult) years. However, we are not yet out of the weeds.  My reflection on the year wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging financial challenges. Like so many performing arts organizations, we are not yet back to our pre-pandemic numbers in regards to attendance and revenue.  Additionally, we are managing increased costs of goods and services (most significant  are venue rental costs, production costs and staffing expenses.)  This is why we gratefully engaged in a 30-year (2% interest) EIDL Loan from the Small Business Administration in 2021. This cash infusion will help us remain financially stable as we continue rebuilding our revenue in 2024 and beyond. My promise to you is that we will invest all of our revenue responsibly and in a way that can help ensure long term success of our orchestra.     

IO is deeply  committed to innovation and excellence as we adapt to a post-pandemic world. We are always working to identify new funding sources and partnerships. Inside the Orchestra is resilient and we are excited for our next chapter.  

Our Continued Reliance on Contributed Income:

We literally can’t do what we do without the support of generous individuals.  Ticket revenue to our Tiny Tots concerts cover only 52% of our costs.  We utilize funds from grants, sponsorships and revenue from the sales taxes collected from the SCFD to offset costs, but it’s not enough. We need your support. 

Your gifts make a difference.  We are beyond grateful to the individuals who support us year after year.It’s not too late! We are pleased to share that our monthly giving challenge has been extended. Thanks to our community, we are 1/3 of the way to our $15,000 goal. Our anonymous donor will match monthly gifts of 18 months or more through the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2024) to reach our $15,000 goal. Help us spread the word, and if you are willing, join today by making a monthly pledge and double your impact.

Whether you make a monthly pledge, a one-time gift, volunteer your time, or even simply help us spread the word, we are grateful! 

Looking Ahead:

IO remains the only professional orchestra in the world solely dedicated to childhood music education. Program design is based on how kids learn about and engage with the arts. We are committed to providing access to high-quality, interactive programming and to ensuring that performers and styles of music performed represent diverse cultural backgrounds. 

 We are committed to ensuring that our world-class programs instill a sense of belonging.  Not only are all children welcome at Inside the Orchestra, every child belongs and is invited to experience world-class orchestral programming in their own authentic way.  We respect the children we serve.  This focus on accessibility and belonging came out of our most recent Strategic Planning Session with our Board of Directors.  As we continue providing engaging, professional orchestra programming for nearly 10,000 people in our community each year, we are continuing our commitment to accessibility as we focus on growth and sustainability.   

You can check-out a summary of our Strategic Plan on our website.  

In the spirit of gratitude this holiday season, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to you. I always welcome your suggestions, comments and feedback.   Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

 Here’s to many more years of making a difference, hand in hand.

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