Imagine it is Sunday afternoon and you have tickets to a performance of the Quincy Symphony Orchestra. You arrive at Morrison Theater early, settle into your favorite seat, and peruse the program for information about today’s repertoire. Soon the conductor takes the stage and the music begins. You are transported to different worlds on the streams of beautiful melodies. At the conclusion you are happy because there is plenty of time to get to your favorite restaurant before the dinner rush. Your companions discuss the music and someone wonders how much rehearsal time a concert requires. That sets you on conversation about all facets of putting on a concert and even though you don’t know for sure, it’s fun to consider.
Now imagine if the two happy hours you spent enjoying the concert are rewinding at fast speed. You and your companions are able to get a “behind the scenes” glimpse of how this beautiful event came to be. You’ve been given a front row seat for the challenges and triumphs of producing a live music event. Just imagine, it’s no longer February, but the previous May.
May, nine months before the concert: Dr. Bruce Briney, the Music Director of the QSOA is completing his ideas for a season theme, and along with that, finalizing decisions on which repertoire the orchestra will perform for you in February. Choosing music is one of the most important tasks for all our conductors and they spend countless hours considering selections that will suit their audience and musicians. For this event he will also consult with the conductor of the Youth Orchestra and they will select music that the students will perform side-by-side with the adult orchestra. This concert also has two to three Young Artist Winners so he must leave room for their performances.
June, eight months before the concert: The general manager of the Quincy Symphony Orchestra Association is burning the midnight oil. She’s written many grants throughout the spring, and this month and has one more to write. Grants help fund all aspects of the QSOA, but this particular one will support the Quincy Area Youth Orchestra when they perform an overture for you side-by-side with the Quincy Symphony on Valentine’s Day.
The general manager determines the best source for next season’s orchestra parts and arranges for music purchase or rental.
Rehearsal dates and times are determined and the general manager arranges contracts with all rehearsal and performance venues, including for the February 14th performance.
July, seven months before the concert: With the season theme and most music content decided, the office staff is having a busy summer. A season brochure is designed and printed so our patrons can mark their calendars and order season tickets. The brochure includes information about the Feb. event as well as all the Symphony Chorus, Youth Orchestra and Youth Chorus concerts we will produce this season. You buy a season ticket for the first time.
The program booklet you enjoy reading as you await the music requires months of advance work. An artist is chosen, advertising is secured, lists of donors must be created, checked, and re-checked. Information is written about the season, the organization and musicians.
August, six months before the concert: Tickets are designed and printed in many combinations: adult and senior season, adult and senior single tickets, Flexi, sponsor, youth and many others. Once the season tickets are printed they are mailed to our patrons.
The Young Artist Competition is scheduled for December and rules are posted on our website. Speaking of website, all the information for the new season must be updated, so when you forget the start time of our Valentine’s Day concert you can easily look it up.
Auditions are held for new musicians and rehearsals begin for the season.
September, five months before the concert: The QSOA office is very busy now and the season is about to begin! Even though it is still a long time until Valentine’s Day much of the work we do now will affect that event. Final corrections must be made to our program books, all season tickets must be mailed and sponsor packets must be delivered.
We hold our first QSO concert at the end of the month and, as a season ticket holder, you attend.
October, four months before the concert: The Youth Orchestra has auditions. Scheduling an audition is fairly easy for the musician, but involves a lot of detail work for the organization. An audition location must be secured, 40-50 students must be scheduled (grouped by instrument family), audition judges must be arranged, forms (application, travel, and parent volunteer) are collected, tuition fees are recorded, and acceptance (or sadly sometimes rejection) letters sent.
The Youth Chorus, which held auditions in May and August, presents its fall concert at the end of the month.
November, three months before the concert: Applications are due for the Young Artist Competition. Many applicants will contact us to help them determine if their music selection is available for our orchestra. Acquiring their music is crucial. If they choose an obscure piece that we don’t own or cannot rent or buy, we won’t be able to perform behind their solo.
Judges from out of town are secured for the Young Artist Competition once we know which instruments will be represented during the competition.
The Youth Orchestra meets weekly to rehearse for their season which will include the side-by-side performance with the QSO on Feb. 14.
The Quincy Symphony Orchestra or Chorus performs the second concert of the season and, as a season ticket holder, you attend.
December, two months before the concert: The Youth Chorus holds an audition for their spring season.
The Quincy Symphony Orchestra and Chorus presents the Holiday Concert, and, as a season ticket holder, you attend.
The Young Artist Competition is held and winners announced. We now know which talented young musicians will perform for you in February. Orchestra music for the winners’ selections are purchased, rented or borrowed in time for the first rehearsal just weeks away.
The office secures a city permit for the spring raffle.
The orchestra librarian marks bowings into all printed orchestra music for the Feb. 14 concert. Bowings are musical notations to ensure the stringed instruments perform in unison. The roster of musicians is determined, and folders of music are prepared for all.
Publicity efforts for Feb. 14 begin and may include: writing press releases, scheduling media interviews, creating social media posts, writing scripts for a TV commercial and much more.
January, six weeks before the concert: The librarian distributes music and orchestra rehearsals begin early in the month. These will continue weekly, barring any weather cancellations, until the concert.
A concert poster is designed and printed. Eight teams of Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) members will distribute posters throughout the area.
Raffle tickets are printed and distributed to musicians, Encore volunteers and board members. You might buy one from a QSOA friend.
January, three weeks before the concert: Single tickets are distributed to Hy-Vee, County Market, and Sturhahn Jewelers so folks may buy single tickets to the event.
Our Young Artist Winners rehearse with the orchestra.
Substitute musicians are frequently needed with very short-notice when a regular musician is not able to attend a rehearsal due to illness or weather. The QSO general manager handles this while simultaneously securing musicians for the March and April concerts.
Arrangements are made for our Youth Chorus to sell refreshments during intermission. This is an important fundraiser for the Youth Chorus.
Board members sign up to serve as ushers, and Encore Volunteer Council confirms their volunteers for selling tickets at the concert.
February, 10 days before the concert: The program book is finalized with repertoire and notes, Young Artist biographies, plus a listing of all participating musicians.
February, two days before the concert: The office staff gathers all the supplies that are needed for the concert. Using the beautiful Morrison Theater means there is very little preparation needed for the audience seating, but since it is an off-site venue from our offices, everything else must be transported in. Some of the larger items that must be moved to the venue include special instruments, signs, programs, decorations, and refreshments.
The Steinway grand piano at Morrison Theater is tuned.
February, one day before the concert: The general manager and orchestra librarian set up the stage for dress rehearsal. Sometimes this involves moving choral risers into location, but this concert is orchestra only.
Musicians arrive and will rehearse for the next three hours according to a schedule laid out in advance by Dr. Briney. Stage hands are trained and rehearse the equipment moves which will be needed during the performance.
The office staff sets up the lobby. This is often a physically demanding job, requiring table set up, moving boxes, decorating, and hanging signs.
Volunteer musicians stuff programs with raffle flyers during their break.
February 14: Concert Day! The office staff arrive a couple of hours before the concert. They will make final lobby preparations and then assist patrons and volunteers.
Youth Chorus parents set up cookies and drinks to be sold during intermission.
Our audio technician arrives and sets up his equipment to make an archival recording.
Encore volunteers arrive and begin selling single tickets to the concert.
Board volunteers (and often their family) arrive to serve as ushers. They will collect tickets and distribute programs, monitor the doors, and generally help the office staff as needed.
Office staff will assist patrons with lost ticket issues, and since it’s the start of our raffle, will sell those tickets.
Our photographer moves throughout the venue documenting the performance.
The conductors, youth orchestra musicians, adult musicians and Young Artist Winners arrive and warm up. Parent volunteers assist the younger students as needed.
You arrive and settle into your favorite seat. The concert begins and although there may have been many challenges for the musicians and office staff over the last nine months, you don’t notice any of that. You just enjoy the performance. The musicians’ talent and hard work produces a beautiful concert and you are very glad you chose to spend the afternoon with the QSO. You go on to a nice dinner with your friends where you discuss the concert. For you it has ended but for the QSOA, there is still a lot of activity.
15 minutes after the concert: The librarian collects music folders from the QSO musicians. She will spend the next few days organizing all the music and ensuring that there are no missing pieces. Music from the QSOA library will be re-shelved; rented music must be carefully sorted and shipped back to the owner.
The general manager oversees the stage cleanup including removal of music stands, lights, and special instruments. Equipment is moved back to the office storage area.
Volunteer ushers move through the auditorium and pick up dropped programs, litter—and, find the umbrella you left behind. (Call us on Monday and we’ll return it!)
The office staff removes signage, takes down decorations and generally cleans up the lobby area. The general manager makes a final walk-thru of the back-stage and lobby areas, and thanks the custodial staff at Quincy Public Schools who helped with the lighting, sound, big screen and any facilities issues throughout the dress rehearsal and performance.
The day after the concert: Office staff unload supplies, tidy up, and count tickets. They spend a few minutes enjoying the general feeling of a successful event even while they are in the midst of working on the next one.
This is just a small glimpse of the behind-the-scenes efforts it takes to produce a two-hour concert. All these months are not devoted to just that one event, however. During the time leading up to Valentine’s Day we have produced four concert events, and have five more in the planning stages. We have held auditions, managed donations from our generous supporters, written many grants, and completed innumerable small and large tasks in the pursuit of our mission: to bring fine symphonic orchestral and choral music to the people of Quincy and the surrounding area, to provide organizations for local musicians to perform such music, and to create and support programs that encourage young musicians to continue fostering their interest and skills in symphonic and choral music.