The Super Long Way to Carnegie Hall

I’m a pretty determined person. I’ve been to a lot of cool places (Australia, Singapore and Italy), done a lot of cool things (met Yo-Yo Ma, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, got my motorcycle license), and crossed every single one of them off my very hot bucket list. I’m also pretty good about not letting something I really want to do stay on the list too long. That’s why it’s been driving me crazy that “See Something at Carnegie Hall” has been on the list since 5th grade. Before there was an official list. Before I even knew what the “bucket” part of bucket list meant.

I’ve wanted to go to Carnegie Hall since 1972. That was the year my big brother Mark told me Cat Stevens, Carly Simon, Elton John and Carole King would be performing there in June. Okay. I was eleven, lived in Milwaukee and had cash-flow and transportation issues to overcome, but I was seriously star-struck, and Carnegie Hall was now on my musical radar.

Now, Carnegie Hall has about 100 performances per year. And, I haven’t seen the inside of my 5th grade classroom for forty-something years. That means, I’ve missed about 5,000 performances. Oh, I’ve been to New York many times. And, each time, I’ve gone with every intention of “catching something” (anything!) at Carnegie Hall. But somehow, I have never gotten closer to this world-famous venue than a late-night drive-by in a smelly yellow taxicab on an incredibly cold winter’s night. Until last year. I finally got to Carnegie Hall, and it was a life-changing experience.

The orchestra performed Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony and Aaron Copland’s, Bought Me a Cat, accompanied by 2,000 singing, recorder-playing, elementary school kids from the NYC school system. The kids had all participated in The Weill Music Institute’s Link Up, a year-long, in-school, interactive music program for third, fourth and fifth graders, which culminated in a live musical performance with the orchestra at Carnegie Hall. They were all having the time of their lives. Laughing. High-fiving. Fist-bumping. Clapping. Cheering. Music-making. It was an incredible ode to joy-- one I will never forget. And, I won’t have to.

Thanks to a generous donation from Diane and Gary Glick, we are bringing this award-winning program from Carnegie Hall to the South Shore. This month, the Phil will become one of 100 communities across the country—and the world—to give this musical gift to our children. Our kids will not only study great music in their music classes, they will make great music with their classmates, and—on one magical day, they will be part of the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra.

Watch this short video with the Columbus Symphony. I can’t think of a better gift for our children. I can’t think of a better way to honor our mission to present programs that nurture a life-long appreciation of music. And, I can’t think of a better way to start the New Year right. With music.

Into the Shark Tank

I can’t get enough of ABC’s Shark Tank. Every week, a new group of entrepreneurs has roughly ten minutes to convince five self-made, multi-millionaires to invest in their businesses. No pressure there, right? Well, that got me thinking. What if I asked the Sharks to fund the Phil? Hmmm. Maybe? Probably not. Although it would definitely be worth a shot, I’m pretty sure my pitch would not cause a feeding frenzy among America’s most ruthless investors.

KIM: Hi, I’m Kim Corben. I’m seeking $530,000 to produce the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra’s upcoming concert season.
SHARK 1: Do you have proof of concept?
KIM: Well, we’ve been bringing music to the community for over a hundred years, so we’re pretty sure it’s a good idea.
SHARK 2: What are your projected sales for the year?
KIM: Ticket sales will be about $325,000.
SHARK 3: What do you hope to clear from that?
KIM: Nothing. Ticket sales only cover musician and production costs.
SHARK 3: So, you’re in the red every year.
KIM: Yup. Every year.
SHARK 4: Raise ticket prices.
KIM: Can’t. We want to keep the arts accessible to everyone.
SHARK 5: Cut expenses. Do you really need all those musicians?
KIM: Yes. We really do. It’s an orchestra. Not a quartet.
SHARK 2: How are you going to make up the difference?
KIM: From investors. That’s why I’m here. In the Tank.
SHARK 1: What percentage of equity are you willing to give me?
KIM: None. The Phil belongs to the community.
SHARK 1: So, how do I get my money back?
KIM: You don’t.
SHARK 1: I don’t make any money?
KIM: No, you make people happy.
SHARK 1: I’m not in the business of making people happy.
KIM: Really? It’s all we do.

When you put it like this, our funding scenario does sound a bit out-there. And, I don’t mind telling you that when I ask you to not only purchase tickets but to collectively invest an additional $530,000 every season, it’s more than a little nerve-wracking – especially at the start of the season when we’re the furthest from our goal. But, I also don’t mind telling you this: This is how successful, nonprofit, professional orchestras work. Our ticket sales are strong. We are an excellent steward of our resources. Sixty-percent of our operating budget goes directly to paying our musicians and producing phenomenal concert experiences. And, without a shadow of a doubt, the Phil brings the best live entertainment to the South Shore community. Every year. We also bring incredible and innovative musical opportunities for children. Period.

Thank goodness, we don’t need to rely on Sharks. You get it. Intuitively. Without explanation. (With just a gentle reminder, or two). You are one of our investors because music matters. It’s something you can’t live without; it’s something you want everyone in our community to share. 

So, c’mon. Let’s make some music together. Please renew your previous gift to the Phil this season or become a first-time investor in this extraordinary organization!

I’ll touch base with you frequently throughout the year to share more thoughts and show you how your support impacts the community in ways you may not have known. I also want to hear what’s on your mind. So, catch me after a concert.  Meet me at a soirée. Send me an email. I’m easy to find… just a phone call away.

Kim Corben
Executive Director