Ted Simons: Ballet Arizona, Arizona opera and the Phoenix CIM for are set to perform together at a gala fund-raising event this try day evening at symphony hall. Here to talk about it is Allison Johnston, executive director of ballet Arizona, Scott Altman, Arizona opera's general director, and Jim ward, president and CEO of the Phoenix symphony.
Allison Johnston: we are kinds of positioning it as a night of firsts. This is the first time the three major arts organizations in Phoenix are working together to collaborate on an event. There's a part that's fund-raising. That's the gala part. We also have a concert part where the three groups will be performing together. That's a first. It's the first time we have ever had a collaboration like this. Then that kind of leads us into collaboration where we're all using the same ticketing system as well. It's really been very exciting to be part of this because it's never been done before in the Phoenix community.
Ted Simons: why hasn't it ever been done before?
Scott Altman: I think the poses challenges between organizations that have sometimes different cultures. We have just realized that at this point in time with this collaboration of leaders and patrons that it's a great opportunity for all of us. It's the rising tide. By working together we can be more efficient. Question reach our extraordinary fine arts patrons throughout the valley and throughout the state.
Ted Simons: was there maybe a little provincialism in the past?
Jim ward: Absolutely. This is a culmination of a two-year process where we began to discuss ways we could both potentially lower our expense models and create better impact for the community. It started off as a conversation with the CEOs that we brought board members together in a committee. We have a number of demonstrable ways we're collaborating. One is the formation of a consortium around a software program we are all now using, working with each other to provide better impact. Then this trio gala event as well. There are other ways that we can collaborate down the road.
Ted Simons: have we seen this kind of collaboration in other cities, other companies?
Allison Johnston: I think in other cities. This is the first time in Phoenix. I think it really took the three major arts organizations to come together and say we really want to do this because it really helps to promote the arts in our communities there have been other models but I think we're the first here.
Ted Simons: was it something that was forged in -- this have happened without ten years ago without a recession pushing things along?
Scott Altman: I think the rescission and the economic times have certainly instigated the conversations. But there were other models that have been around for a while, but you know, it's rare to have three major fine arts organizations working together on so many front. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We're in vigorous conversations all the time about how we can continue the model and create greater efficiencies for the organizations.
Ted Simons: how can you continue the model? What else is out there?
Jim ward: There's a lot of ways. We're looking at our back office operations, all of us over time have developed sometimes dupe licktive efforts that we're similar in what we do. There are ways to collaborate in those ways. There are other ways we could reduce the expense model by coming together to try to get health insurance, liability insurance. All those discussions are currently happening. We hope will yield some benefit.
Ted Simons: Certainly the collaboration is yielding quite the evening here. What can we expect to see, hear, witness at the trio gala?
Allison Johnston: I would say a whole lot of wonderful music, singing, ballet. So each group will have a chance to kind of debut their own art, if you will, so the ballet will be doing some pieces, then the symphony, then the opera. We come together at the end for an event that brings all three groups together. Beethoven's 9th symphony, we'll have the opera, ballet and symphony performing together. I think there will be over 100 people on stage at one time.
Ted Simons: how does the ballet incorporate Beethoven's 9th?
Allison Johnston: Difficultly, actually. I think my artistic director, he is a visionary. He can pretty much choreograph to anything. This will be certainly a tribute to his vision and his artistic excellence. It's definitely been a challenge to get off the grounds.
Jim ward: the choreography is world premier. This is grand mu choreography that he's bringing to the stage for this particular piece. Not only is it our three organizations, we're going have our Phoenix symphony choir and boys choir. We're going to have a lot of folks on the stage. It's going to be great.
Ted Simons: Opera folks move around. So was it difficult? How much of a challenge was this?
Scott Altman: You know, we're all in the business of creation. As soon as you get great minds together to talk about what's possible, we said, dream something up that's collaborative. The Beethoven 9 there are four soloists world class performing in that segment. It was up to them to say, I can choreograph anything. First time.
Allison Johnston: That's another first.
Ted Simons: you'll probably get a lot of interest on that. The symphony where we have Shostakovich and Mozart as well?
Jim ward: Of course. It accompanies the ballet and the opera. We're going to preview a little of Romeo and Juliette. It's just a wonderful piece of great art.
Ted Simons: how difficult is it to stage something like this? Just from step one to what we're going to see, how difficult is that?
Allison Johnston: I think that our production and technical crews and our performers make it look so easy, but there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes. We were just talking about how actually the symphony has a concert tomorrow and then they end at 10:00, they have to break it down and build out the stage. There's a lot of people involved in this. It's definitely a lot of work. You start in the morning and they don't finish until the wee hours of the evening getting the stage ready.
Ted Simons: were there any times -- obviously I think everyone wants a fund-raiser to be a success, but you never know when you're going to get a diva who has a problem here, the lead violinist, says give me a break. Did you have that at all?
Scott Altman: The artists are so enthusiastic they are bubbling with excitement. We haven't had any of it. They are rarin' to go. They are just as thrilled about the event and innovation behind it. They have all performed around the world. This is a first. It's on the top of their list. Highlights.
Ted Simons: With this being a first, talk about does it put Arizona in any kind of a map, A, B, where is Arizona on the map as far as the fine arts are concerned?
Jim ward: Well, look. I think I'll speak for myself but I'm sure my colleagues feel the same way. This is not about comparing ourselves to anywhere else. We're here to service our community and our state. I think we all do a phenomenal job of doing that and we are great assets to the state in terms of not only the aesthetic cultural value but the cultural economy and those things as well. This is a rare opportunity for the community to celebrate these key assets that are world class coming together. It doesn't happen very often anywhere else. But certainly for us it's a first time. It's going to be a wonderful event.
Ted Simons: how do you convince people that the ballet, the opera, the Phoenix symphony, are key assets to a community?
Allison Johnston: I think when you look at as Jim said really the economic impact and what we contribute at that level in terms of the development of the community and of Phoenix, positioning it that way, showing them we actually are very viable and thriving industry, we contribute over $4 million in the Phoenix area to this economy. I think that that's very important. I don't think people realize how much we contribute and how much we give back. Between all our organizations we probably give millions of dollars back towards arts education in the community. That's what this gala actually is benefiting is our community outreach programs and our education programs. So we're doing that to augment education and to give back to the community as well.
Jim ward: excuse me. Look, we just did the study in Phoenix, and the arts community in Phoenix has an economic impact of over $300 million. That's on par with the super bowl. That's on par with the bowl games. That's on par with spring training. So we are very much a part of a thriving economy here and the revitalization of Arizona is dependent on that thriving culture because at the end of the day in order to diversify that economy, a lot of industries look to see whether that culture is thriving and it certainly is here.
Allison Johnston: One other thing that's very interesting, Phoenix is trying to revitalize the downtown area. They have been working in this area called the discovery triangle, Washington avenue now they are trying to create this entrepreneurial row and position that assess the leading entrepreneurial center in the nation. The opera is moving into a new building in that area and so are wee. We're the cornerstone arts organizations in this area that the city of Phoenix is really put ago lot of focus on to develop and to bring new business and to bring new people into Arizona.
Ted Simons: So, when someone says opera, I never go. I don't care, when they say that how do you convince them that it is important?
Scott Altman: Have you seen any of the dramas on TV? Any 9:00 slot? I guarantee it's been written by an opera composer 150 years ago. Whatever you can plot out it's set to music and there's nothing like experiencing a live opera, a live symphonic or a live ballet performance. It's just not the same until you're in the house feeling that emotion.
Ted Simons: How do you cultivate that new audience, convince them to go watch the ends of the world with a ring cycle kind of a thing?
Scott Altman: As soon as you explain that it's a friendly environment, breaking the notion that it's an exclusive scenario for any of our major performing arts, the opera has sur titles above the stage in English. We have activities in the hall prior. The ballet is friendly environment. We tell stories through our performances. It's just about educating the public.
Ted Simons: I think especially through the education and community outreach is starting with the younger audiences and really giving them that exposure is a way to get to their families as well.
Ted Simons: We have 30 seconds left. You see new audiences showing up?
Jim ward: You bet. Look, we impact through education. We alone impact over 65,000 kids in the valley every single year. They go home, tell their parents, the parents show up and we have family programming, pops programming, and so absolutely it's happening.
Ted Simons: symphony hall this weekend, February 8th. Good luck. Friday night. Do I say break a leg?
Jim ward: remember, folks can buy a ticket just to the performance. Those tickets start at $35. It's a great value for the evening.
Ted Simons: thank you for joining us.