We love feedback – positive or not

By September 14, 2015Commentary
onstagescreen_blog

One of the great things about my job at The Schubert Club is that people here in this community care about what we do.  Maybe this engagement stems from the fact that we are The Schubert Club, or maybe it’s more to do with the long association so many people have with this organization.

Over the past weeks I’ve received several phone calls and emails reflecting on last season and expressing thoughts and hopes for the coming seasons.  Though positive feedback is always nice, I also genuinely appreciate hearing about the things people didn’t like.  We have so many audience members with years of concert-going experience and well-tuned ears, that I find all comments about artists, programs, venues and presentation issues interesting and helpful.

One person recently brought up the close-up projection of the keyboard onto the big screen which we used at Benjamin Grosvenor’s recital earlier this year (and Valentina Lisitsa the season before).  Very politely and articulately, she explained how she found it distracting.  As I was writing my reply to her, I thought it might be helpful to post similar answers here.

  • Did the artist initiate the big screen idea or The Schubert Club? It was actually The Schubert Club.  I asked both our 2014-15 season piano recitalists (Richard Goode and Benjamin Grosvenor) if they would consider the use of the screen.  Richard declined and Benjamin said he didn’t mind.
  • Do artists find it distracting? Benjamin was asked afterwards (not by me), and he said that he just wasn’t aware of it. So, I think the answer in his case was “no”, it wasn’t distracting.
  • What feedback have we got from other audience members? Honestly, we’ve had positive and negative feedback.  Definitely the majority was positive, but it’s hard to say whether that’s 70% or 80% or 90% positive.  In our online post-concert survey, 86.2% of respondents (125 people) replied “Yes” to the question, “Did you enjoy having a screen with projections of the artist on stage?”  8 people replied “No” and 12 answered “Indifferent”.

Some people have asked me whether we will have a big screen for Igor Levit’s piano recital in the new Ordway Concert Hall this season (February 16 & 17).  The answer is that we will not.  The Concert Hall is smaller, more intimate, and most audience members will be much closer to the stage.  Furthermore, we will have audience members seated behind the stage and so hanging a screen would be more complicated from a technical perspective.

Whenever we experiment with ideas around presentation or other aspects of concert programming, I fully understand that people will have different reactions.  Some will be positive and some negative, so it’s important for us to know what people think.  So, please give us feedback and help us make progress improving the concert experience.

4 Comments

  • James E. Frazier says:

    I realize that many factors come into play when selecting dates for the Schubert Club concerts, but I want to express my continuing dismay over the fact that the traffic in downtown St. Paul is horrific on nights when there is also an opera at the theater and a game at the Excel Center. The simple fact is that downtown St. Paul is not equipped to handle the parking required by the patrons of so many events. I’m sure the Schubert Club appreciates the fact that an otherwise wonderful evening can become quite unpleasant when parking is as difficult as it was last night.

    By the way, the concert was magnificent.

    • Tessa Retterath Jones says:

      We do realize that traffic was very chaotic on Thursday evening. I’m happy to inform you that none of the remaining concerts conflict with a Wild game for the rest of this season. We’ll try to do a better job to make sure our entire audience has lots of alerts about potential traffic issues in the future as well. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Patricia O'Gorman says:

    The Beethoven Piano Trios on the October 1 concert were wonderful. But the second one (c minor) was marred by the cell phone ring tone not once but TWICE, and the couple whispering to each other (the same row as the cell phone ringer) throughout the entire performance. I left angry at the failure of the ushers to (1) take the woman’s cell phone away from her and (2) failure to “shush” the whisperers. It was also inexcusable for the ushers to continue to seat people during the second trio (the c minor, no less) while the performers were playing. Particularly in this new theater, where the acoustics are so finely-tuned that virtually everything can be heard from every location within the space, much more attention must be paid to audience members who don’t respect the musicians and fellow audience members.

    • Tessa Retterath Jones says:

      Thank you for sharing, Patricia. We appreciate hearing from you and agree with your frustration. We will continue to remind people at the beginning of concerts to turn off ringers and alarms. I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed the program.