We love feedback – positive or not

By Barry Kempton

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.