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San Francisco Symphony’s SoundBox hits its mark

SoundBox Opening
Chris Bowen
| March 31, 2015

SoundBox, a new initiative launched last year by San Francisco’s Symphony Orchestra to draw in a new audience, appears to be hitting the mark. Designed to appeal to those who may not have attended any classical concerts before, many of them younger, the series commenced with a sell-out crowd of 450 in December.

Now, after just three iterations the critics are impressed:  ”it took less than a scant four months to transform from a promising experiment into a scene of its own” says review John Marcher in A Beast in the Jungle; “what struck me was how quickly the demographic of the audience changed, as if with each new show the average age of those attending decreased by a number of years”. The New Yorker’s Alex Ross agrees: “the San Francisco Symphony is seeking to diversify its offerings and capture the attention of a younger audience. With SoundBox, it has hit on a winning formula”

Performed in the rear of their regular venue Davies Symphony Hall, a previously drab rehearsal room has been transformed into an attractive night club style space, complete with industrial aesthetics, giant screens, lounges and an acoustic environment. The same performers who perform the orchestra’s concert hall repertoire take the stage for this series, where a relaxed and free flowing atmosphere prevails.

The series presents eclectic repertoire from Monteverdi to Steve Reich, and Musical Director Michael Tilson Thomas sees the series as a laboratory to draw people inside the performers’ world. It is also designed to draw people into more serious music. Its successful promotion includes a so called ‘anti-marketing strategy’ designed to appeal to new rather than regular orchestral audiences.

You can listen here to a PBS podcast on the series and find more press comments and story links here.

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