The Boston Classical Orchestra is located in Boston, Massachusetts and calls Faneuil Hall, where they have historically performed the majority of their concerts, home. The orchestra was founded by violinist and long-time Boston Classical Orchestra concertmaster Robert Brink- giving their first performance in May 1980 at Faneuil Hall. In 1983, Harry Ellis Dickson took the position of music director. During his 16-year tenure the orchestra’s offerings tripled, world-class solo artists were engaged and a program of in-school youth concerts was created. When Mr. Ellis retired in 1999, Steven Lipsitt was named music director and continues to be a strong and innovative figure at the heart of the orchestra.

The Challenge

The Orchestra offers outstanding performances of the chamber orchestra repertoire in an intimate and historic setting, concentrating on music of the Classical period. Through imaginatively presented live concerts given in the relaxed, intimate atmosphere of Faneuil Hall, the orchestra seeks to foster a sense of connection between audience and performer and to strengthen its appeal to a growing and varied public.

Over the past several years the orchestra, like many of its kind, has suffered from the financial hardships caused by a decrease in concert attendance largely due to an aging subscriber base and an overall lack of community awareness.

In 2011 Slightly Mad was brought on in an effort by then President, Dick Edwards and Executive Director, Sean Roberts to help bring consensus to a misaligned board of directors and bring focus to the organization.

The Reality Check

We applied our proprietary strategic business and brand planning process called the Reality Check. We conducted interviews and strategic exercises with key stakeholders including the full board of directors, senior staff, the press, orchestra members as well as current and past subscribers.

The various members of the board were not in agreement on some key elements of the orchestra’s 30 plus year old mission. Among the many issues – there were some on the board who felt the orchestra needed to innovate, moving in a more modern musical repertoire, provide more community programs or commission new works. Some felt that the orchestra was forever tied to their historic venue (Faneuil Hall) while others felt that the venue was more of a distraction than an asset and that the orchestra should entertain other options. There were disagreements about their “perfect audience” , how to attract new fans, what age groups to appeal to and how to incentivize them.

Our Reality Check enabled us to identify the core issues that were causing such disrupt, research them and clearly demonstrate the key truths which were at the heart of the board’s disagreements.

Our Solution

We were able to determine and exhibit who their loyal (and often neglected) fan base is and how they are perceived by them. The reality is that the orchestra appeals to those who have a warm spot in their hearts for Boston history, who appreciate beautiful music but are not necessarily “aficionados”.   They overwhelmingly felt that the appeal is the intimate classical chamber music experience that is tied to the historic Boston venue of its birth.

We were able to bring alignment and consensus to the board and develop a new brand essence: “Boston’s Quintessential Classical Experience.”

This new essence was met with unanimous approval by the board and has informed a new brand identity created by Slightly Mad. Slightly Mad continues to work with the orchestra to help them address the many other important insights with clear recommendations and strategies as we move forward.

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