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The Art of Audience Engagement
Episode 126
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The Art of Audience Engagement

CI to Eye with Holly Mulcahy

This episode is hosted by Dan Titmuss.

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In This Episode

Audience engagement is critical for attracting and retaining new attendees. But what exactly does it look like in practice?

For Holly Mulcahy, “audience engagement” isn’t just a marketing platitude—it’s a promise. In this episode, the Wichita Symphony Orchestra’s Concertmaster and Partner for Audience Engagement shares what wine-tasting and birdwatching have to do with orchestral music, and why deepening audience relationships now will pay dividends for our organizations in the long run.

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CI to Eye with Holly Mulcahy

Dan chats with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra’s Holly Mulcahy about crafting music-inspired cocktails, leading audiences through a bird sanctuary, perfecting the “post-show hang,” and transforming on-site engagement strategies.

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Dan Titmuss: Hello everyone, Dan here. So we all know that audience engagement is critical for attracting and retaining new attendees, but how exactly do we do that in practice? And what kinds of pre- and post-show activities work best to break down barriers for newcomers? To answer these questions, I caught up with Holly Mulcahy, Wichita Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster and Partner for Audience Engagement. For Holly, “audience engagement” isn’t just a marketing platitude—it’s a promise. She talks about crafting music-inspired cocktails, leading audiences through a bird sanctuary, and perfecting the “post-show hang.” She also explains exactly why deepening audience relationships now will pay dividends for our organizations in the long run. This episode is full of inspiration that will transform your on-site engagement strategy. I can’t wait to share it with you. So let’s dive in, shall we? I’m here with Holly Mulcahy, concertmaster and Partner for Audience Engagement at the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, and we’re thrilled to have her here on the pod. Holly, welcome to CI to Eye!

Holly Mulcahy: Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here.

Dan Titmuss: I’m so excited for this conversation. For our listeners who are meeting you for the first time, quickly walk us through your journey as a violinist and how you got to where you are today.

Holly Mulcahy: Yeah, I started violin… I got interested in the storytelling of violin. Specifically, Scheherazade was the piece that drew me in because as a child you had the choices of a Disney princess or this Scheherazade who told very powerful stories and used the violin as her voice. I thought, “This is magical.” And so I checked out the violin and along the journey, enjoyed various steps: youth orchestras, my first professional orchestras… Then something just kind of switched in me where it wasn’t about my enjoyment so much that was the importance. It was about the audience’s enjoyment and having that mirrored back to me, reflecting what their experience was. So the violin has taken just a roundabout course of how I got involved to now the importance of how other people are involved.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah, you kind of allude to the many, many different roles you’ve had and many different projects you’ve had over the years. What’s been some of your favorite professional roles and projects?

Holly Mulcahy: Yeah, absolutely. I live my life in thirds. Concertmaster, executive director of a nonprofit, and I also have a solo career. The concertmaster has been very fun for me for a number of reasons, and that’s just connecting with the audience, being engaged with the musicians, to the music director, to the audience, and reverse. And I started a nonprofit called Arts Capacity, which takes music into the prisons, and I’ve learned a lot about human nature and finding a pathway through music to really connect and communicate. And the other third of my life, this kind came about of wanting to suss out a passion that I have. I love movie music and especially Westerns, the film soundtracks from Westerns.

Dan Titmuss: Iconic.

Holly Mulcahy: Yeah. So I asked a Hollywood film composer just kind of on a whim, would you be willing to write a soundtrack-style violin concerto in the style of an epic Western? And he said yes. And it’s been a really fun audience engaging kind of piece because it allows space for audience to find their own experiences and imagine their own mental movie. So that’s been the path.

Dan Titmuss: And what brought you to the Wichita Symphony Orchestra?

Holly Mulcahy: It was just an opportunity. I was invited to guest concertmaster for a number of concerts and the chemistry between the board, the musicians, the staff, the audience just really felt organic and it felt like a place that I could be my best and bring in my best qualities, which is inclusion of new audience members and finding joy in that.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah, it’s unusual for a concertmaster to be so involved in audience development and engagement. Did the symphony dream up this role for you or was it something you felt passionate about and then wanted to bring in? How did that relationship begin?

Holly Mulcahy: My previous symphony, the Chattanooga Symphony, I had the same position of concertmaster, but I was doing this anyway and had tried a number of different projects. And so that was appealing to the Wichita Symphony and their executive director talked and we came up with creating an actual position for this. And we’ve really expanded the opportunities and really put a focus on why this is important and being able to capture the data of how many new people are coming, what kind of experience are they having… So just breaking down the barriers, building the bridges, and making everybody feel comfortable, feeling welcome, feeling like they belong, not just like they’re fitting in, but they actually feel like they belong in the arts and that their opinions matter. And that kind of empathy, just engaging on that kind of level, just empowers the audience. And they know when they’re being listened to, they know when they’re being included. And I think we’ve got a really good system going at the Wichita Symphony for building with sincerity.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah, it feels like there’s a lot of active listening and hospitality towards guests that you’re bringing in, actually listening and hearing what they have to say.

Holly Mulcahy: Exactly.

Dan Titmuss: I think that takes a whole team as well. I think many arts organizations, the onsite engagement lands squarely on the marketing team. What are some of the benefits of involving more voices, specifically artistic voices?

Holly Mulcahy: Right. You’re right. The artistic voices have the experience on the art side. We are the ones that have the passion. We’ve spent years learning the symphonies, learning the concert repertoire. We are very familiar. I think involving artists with the participation of audience and getting conversations going helps create a landscape that is kind of a shared experience where it’s just not one sided, but also informing the musicians, the artists, to listen too. Because we’re asking them to listen to our music, but we need to listen to their response to our music. It’s a conversation. And then adding marketing into that absolutely helps craft a brand, helps craft a succinct message and keeps everybody kind of going in the same direction.

Dan Titmuss: So as concertmaster, do you feel better positioned in some ways to guide newcomers through the art?

Holly Mulcahy: I do. I think it’s because it, it’s a platform kind of seat. It’s a leadership. I’m second face of the orchestra right after the music director, and I’m not just putting in bowings, the bow direction up or down for the section, which is a choreography, if you will, for the orchestra. I’m not just telling my section, you’re too loud, you’re too quiet. We can play this this way. I’m looking at the audience, I’m looking within the audience. I’m inviting them into our world. And so being a liaison actively helps me do the concert master job as well as the audience engagement job. And that is by choice. Not everybody’s comfortable with that.

Dan Titmuss: And you’ve helped implement several on-site engagement tactics. Can you walk us through some of your favorites?

Holly Mulcahy: Yes, there have been many. I first started doing food metaphors, food and drink metaphors. We would have a wine tasting at one function, I think this was before I came to Wichita, where we were coming up with what does this wine taste like and what music pairs well with it? And using terminology that fits both the wine world and the music world. You want it to be smooth and mellow or really crisp and sparkling. Those words work in the music world just as well as the wine world. And to pair these with wines and having the wines being tasted while the music was being played helps people find their own language of enjoyment, their own way of discovering, allowing their curiosity to manifest a little bit more naturally than “Here is how to enjoy a piece of music. And this is what you need to know.”

I think getting to food and the wine and even coffee metaphors helps expand. So that’s something we’ve started doing. We’ve created cocktails to go with certain themes, and it doesn’t always have to be theme-based, but it just could be one idea that can spark. For instance, I’ll tell you what I’ve got coming up. We’re going to be performing the Mahler Symphony Number One. Within that, Mahler quotes some cuckoos, some birds, and he references a field, a meadow of birds singing. And that’s cool. But I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to gather a bunch of people and have a bird expert walk us through a nature preserve and look at birds. We don’t have to necessarily talk about Mahler’s piece from top to bottom and the significance of the first and the second movement, and let’s put ourselves in Mahler’s shoes and walk through that meadow and feel and hear the birds and just have a little bit of friendship built in. And then say, by the way, we’re going to be playing something similar to this. Mahler was inspired by what you just heard basically. So those kinds of things.

Dan Titmuss: Awesome. And what sort of feedback did you receive from audiences about these engagement initiatives?

Holly Mulcahy: They loved it because it’s open to our musicians, our audience, our staff, our board. And I think having all of those stakeholders have a beer, have a wine, share over a burger… It’s important to experience the concert again through other people’s eyes, but just getting to share the stories and the perspectives gives a 360 degree view of that one concert. And I think that when you don’t have that communication afterwards, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

Dan Titmuss: I’ve definitely changed how I view films. Like, my wife and I used to–in New York, we used to walk to the cinema, watch something and then walk back and it was a half hour walk each way. And every so often we’d stop for a drink somewhere. And I remember there was one film, the Green Knight, where I saw it and I didn’t think that much of it. And then on the walk home, by the time I’d walked home, I completely changed how I viewed it because we’ve discussed it. You are sort of re-experiencing it with other people after you sort of tear it apart and chat through it.

Holly Mulcahy: I think that’s exactly it. And if an orchestra has a second concert, it gives a chance to say, hey, I want to hear this again. And then you can have another ticket. And funny story about that violin concerto that I mentioned earlier: the audience engagement from that on the second day, that sold more than the first day because people wanted to see it and experience it again because afterwards they all talked with each other and said, oh, I love this part. This reminded me of this and this sounded like that. And it just kind of gives a chance to open the door to experience a piece of art again, but with a different perspective.

Dan Titmuss: Do you have a sense of whether these efforts have grown the symphony’s number of new attendees? If so, do they typically return for more than one performance per season?

Holly Mulcahy: I don’t have the hard data on that, but my perception is I just look at the social networks of friends that I’ve created and they’re bringing their friends in and they’re being a mouthpiece and saying, hey, we’re going to the symphony. So they create a social network where they invite people and then it expands after that. But I don’t have, “We’ve increased our tickets by 20%.” But I’m seeing the social networks expand. That’s what excites me.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah, that sense of community reminds me… I do a lot of improv comedy, as I’ve mentioned before on the podcast. And the theaters that are always most successful have a bar associated with them or an area where people can hang out and chat after the show. And as improvisers, we love to tear apart our own performance, as I’m sure classical music also has as well, where you go deep into it, but also you can chat with the audience and bring people in. Like an oyster knife almost. Just opening it up for people, something that can seem quite dense and intimidating.

Holly Mulcahy: I think it is very intimidating. And like you say, just opening up just a crack and inviting people in on their terms, not our terms. But I think shoving all the information all at once at the same time is exhausting. And it’s intimidating and nobody wants to feel stupid. They don’t want to feel dumb. They don’t want to feel like they’re not welcome because there are so many avenues into enjoying the art. And that’s what I’ve kind of centered my whole life around.

Dan Titmuss: Going back to the wine metaphor, you’ve actually written about the similarities between classical music and the wine industry before. What are some of the big lessons we can borrow from that industry for elevating the audience’s experience of classical music?

Holly Mulcahy: Well, I think the book that I read that inspired this was by Bianca Bosker. The book is called Cork Dork, and she’s a journalist who takes, she just drops everything to become a wine expert, to just take you through the whole journey. And as I was reading this, it’s struck me what a metaphor our two industries are. We’re selling expensive luxury items, and you don’t need wine. You don’t need to go to the orchestra. I’m going to argue that you might need to later, but you don’t need it. There’s a lot of snobbish and stereotypical things associated with both the wine industry and the orchestra industry. A lot of jargon, words that make it sound extra snobby. Both disappear after they’ve been enjoyed. You sip the wine, it’s gone. You go to a concert after it’s done, it’s gone.

Dan Titmuss: Wow. I love that point. I’ve never thought about that before, how they’re both ephemeral in nature. They disappear after you’ve enjoyed them. That’s such a great metaphor. I love that.

Holly Mulcahy: Yeah, exactly. And both offer something that’s enjoyable and can offer a way for people to get together and have community and have social networks through these things. But where the wine industry is different from where the orchestra industry is currently is, they’ve done more data research, they’ve done more consumer testing, and the blog that you’re referencing was called the Merlott Effect. And I got a little bit of flack from people because I went through the Yellow Tail Winery as an example of how they did some data testing and consumer blind taste testing. And people said, oh, but that’s not real wine. I’m like, you’re missing the point. You’re missing the point. So they mix some certain grapes and it doesn’t count as real wine in the true wine enthusiast’s mind, but that’s exactly the point that we have to struggle with in the orchestra world.

And so both, if you want to try to find—this is a terrible metaphor, but one could almost argue that the pops material for orchestras could be considered the Yellow Tail of the wine industry. But that’s a gateway in, and all you do is like what you just said, you just get an opening. There might be something on that pops program that makes somebody curious, and if they feel curious enough and welcome to fit in, to feel a belonging, they’re going to go check out the Mahler Symphony, the Hindemith Symphony. And it’s just finding that taste.

Dan Titmuss: And let’s talk about the importance of closing the loop with audiences, not just inviting them to see a show, but creating that feedback loop that really involves them in the artistic experience.

Holly Mulcahy: Yeah, I think typically we’ve kind of come to this business, the orchestra business, as we’re going to advertise and then present the concert and then invite you to the next one. And we seem so confident about knowing that Beethoven will sell a house out. Really? How? Maybe just from past ticket sales, but are we missing something else by not talking to somebody? So right now, traditionally, audiences aren’t really invited to have a voice, but it’s their experience. And if you look at companies like Amazon, I mean, as soon as you buy something, they’re like, how’d you like the thing you’ve just bought? And then you’re invited to leave five stars or a comment. We don’t really allow access for that in this industry, and I think we’re missing a great opportunity. So post-concert talkbacks and after-concert hangs, for those that want to stick around.

Surveys are another thing. People can get bogged down with email surveys and they might not be fun, but I played with one orchestra and they had in the front lobby, it was super simple, just a big piece of sheet paper, and it had the three pieces on the program and the composers, and all you had to do was pick your two favorites just by putting an X. It was very simple and kids were invited to do that as well. So you could just kind of see the favorite piece. And I like that because that gives an audience an immediate chance to say, here’s how I felt. My opinion matters. I love that.

Dan Titmuss: And how can closing the loop help inform future marketing decisions and programming choices?

Holly Mulcahy: I think that the biggest thing is the audience knows they’re being heard, but when you share that because of the reaction we’ve gotten from the audience, we’re programming a Philip Glass Symphony, that kind of gives a little bit of social proof that we didn’t choose this, but our audience did, and we are happy to present it for you and with you. And closing that loop by allowing them to share their opinions helps them promote, ultimately, because then the audience can say to their neighbors or to the people in church, “Hey, they’re going to be doing this Philip Glass Symphony, something I’m familiar with.” And to see that validates an opinion.

Dan Titmuss: And it gives stakes almost in the future programming, right? If you recommend something and then the programming reflects that, you kind of feel like, oh, I made that happen.

Holly Mulcahy: And audiences are different from city to city, state to state. So what may work in one city will probably not work in the other. And that’s where I also think that the industry can get a little flawed is, oh, they sold out playing a Mahler Nine, we should do a Mahler Nine, assuming that it’ll sell out. And that doesn’t really inform that you’ve been listening to your audience because it could be the Janáček Sinfonietta that sells your house out because you already have a relationship. But it also helps reassure trust with an audience. And that’s something that we really, really do in Wichita Symphony. It’s a partnership with our music director, Daniel Hege, and myself, is we listen to the audience, we program with them, and then they feel they are heard. And that trust is pretty automatic now, so that when we put on something, the audience knows it is with them in mind. With and for them.

Dan Titmuss: Arts organizations are still struggling to recover from the financial effects of the pandemic, which means budgets are especially tight. How would you respond to department heads and executive directors who question the ROI of on-site engagement?

Holly Mulcahy: It’s really hard to get an ROI—return on investment—on engagement, like a post-concert hang or a special recital, wine pairing kind of thing. You can’t really track that that wine pairing recital is going to influence directly the final concert of the season. But what it does is it builds relationships long-term and builds trust long-term. And I think that you start to feel [that]. But it should, audience engagement projects should never be, oh, we are really coming up against hard times. We need to do more audience engagement and expect it to turn around in two or three months. My nearly 10 years with Chattanooga Symphony, before I switched over to Wichita, it took about six years to really develop the relationships, to really get to know the people and to make them feel welcome and hear what they wanted, too. Certain situations in that city would not work in Wichita and vice versa. And so finding that rhythm, it’s not an overnight thing and it won’t happen in a matter of months.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah, absolutely. It makes me think of, we often think about returning to the mission and not being completely focused on ROI because they kind of feed into each other sometimes.

Holly Mulcahy: Yeah, they absolutely should. I think when you start to lose the mission, when you start to panic about finances, that’s when you need to just step on the brakes and go, why are we doing this?

Dan Titmuss: Yes.

Holly Mulcahy: And if you are sincere with your mission, sincere with your purpose of, why are we doing this? Well, we’re presenting an art to an audience. Why? Because they need it. Why? Because maybe they need to escape their lives for two hours or maybe they need to be challenged. Why? The next why is, are we listening to them? To what they’re not saying because they’re not comfortable? They may say, “Can you play Beethoven Five? I guarantee you’re going to sell a house out. My whole family will come because that is what they know.” But finding ways, and this goes back to the wine tasting, finding ways of sampling different kinds of music and making people feel intelligent about why they’re listening to this, why they like that, and to let them come to their own conclusions. I think that different results would start to manifest.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah, that deeper listening reminds me of notes on writing. There’s a concept of what’s the note underneath the note that you get? Listen to the note they’re saying and take that first level of, yeah, they didn’t like this bit, but what they’re really trying to say underneath the note. And that deeper listening is just about engaging more with that audience and understanding the audience even more.

Holly Mulcahy: Exactly. Exactly to the point. And this is why I like the post-concert hangs so much to close the loop, because very often we’ll have a new piece of music on the front. We just had a concert this past weekend in Wichita where we played a piece by Nokuthula [Ngwenyama]. Brand new piece, gorgeous. And we played Hindemith Symphony, and then we ended with Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto. The feedback from that concert—while the Rachmaninoff piano concerto was like, oh my goodness, the soloist, she’s amazing, it’s one of my favorite pieces—the feedback about the first piece was unbelievable. People wanted to hear that again and again. They want to hear more from Nokuthula. And now knowing that, that gives them a name that they can remember, a piece that they can remember, something they’re familiar with that they weren’t necessarily familiar with before. So hopefully orchestras will say, this is the kind of music people want but they can’t articulate because they are only familiar with the comfort level of saying Beethoven and Mozart, because that’s what our society has pumped into them. But finding what they’re not saying, you find that out at the concert, the post-concert hangs, and then deeply listening to them changes how you program and changes how you involve your audiences.

Dan Titmuss: Yes. Yeah. Let’s talk about applause in classical music, you feel pretty passionately about the audience shaming that can happen when new attendees don’t know the customs of performances, like not clapping between movements. This is something that I definitely feel. I think the first time, one of the first bits of classical music I ever saw, was Elgar. And in between the movements, I automatically went to clap because I’m primed to clap anyway. I am the sort of weirdo who, I quite like it when we clap when the plane lands. It’s my worst trait. But why is this audience on audience shaming so harmful?

Holly Mulcahy: Oh my gosh, this is the hill…. one of the many hills I’ll probably die on. Audience on audience shaming. We, meaning the industry, can make people feel as comfortable as possible, but it is the fellow audience members who dictate the final… whether they’re comfortable or not. And we currently are doing nothing to help that situation. And by nothing, I mean we don’t really stand in front of the orchestra before a concert and say, the next piece is four movements—or four segments or four chapters or in four parts, because what is a movement?—and what we would like… the intention with the X, Y, Z symphony is to have a cohesive sound with the tension of the silence. Or have the person stand in front of the orchestra before the concert and say, clap when you feel like it, you have our permission, our blessing.

If you feel the joy or you feel that we really rocked it out of the park, we want you to express that. This is your experience. That informs the regulars who are the traditionalists that we are seeing. There’s going to be applause, or we’re trying to make an agreement that eliminates the shame and the feedback. And the opposite point of that is people will say, well, it’s written in the program. And usually in the program it’s small and it’s kind of in the back when to clap, what to wear, those kind of things. Nobody reads the program, nobody. And if you’re reading the program, you’re not listening to the music. And if you’re reading the program and you got there a half hour before the concert, then you’re not having a good time enjoying the lobby drinks and that kind of thing. And then if you want to also argue the traditionalists that say no clapping between movements, in Mozart’s time, they were clapping between movements and within the movements. He wrote his father and said, “They loved this violin passage so much, they were clapping within the movement.”

Dan Titmuss: As a performer, do you find yourself getting surprised by people’s reactions? Or when people do clap, is that kind of thrilling? Or how is that experience?

Holly Mulcahy: I’m surprised now when they don’t clap. It kind of is a little bit heartbreaking after putting out this amazing sense of energy after the first segment, movement, chapter, whatever you want to call it. And having that silence is just like, “But we just did a great thing. We just performed this amazing thing. And you’re sitting there like, nothing?” It just feels so incongruent. One of my favorite examples are like the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto or the Piano Concerto, the first movement, you want to just rocket out of your seat and go, “Bravo!” because it ends on such a thrilling note, thrilling dynamic. And I think it’s not normal just to repress. You’re paying to have a feeling. And then when you’re not invited to express joy, that’s just weird. And the polite applause in between… Somebody might feel that they want to clap in between, and then the shushing that happens is embarrassing. So I’m trying to prevent that. This is something that I’m wanting to address so that we don’t shame people who are going to be future ticket buyers. We want people to feel welcome on their own terms. And reiterate that there are no rules, just traditions.

Dan Titmuss: There’s nothing worse than getting shushed. It feels just like a mixture of embarrassment and anger and shame of being shushed.

Holly Mulcahy: It’s totally shaming. And why would you want to come back to re-experience that feeling? I wouldn’t, nobody wants to feel that. It’s a horrible feeling.

Dan Titmuss: Our listeners work across a wide spectrum of artistic genres, from classical music to contemporary theaters to film houses, and it seems like all of them are struggling to break down barriers for their art forms so that more people can enjoy what they do. What’s your advice for how arts administrators in other genres can similarly break down barriers for new audiences to enjoy their art?

Holly Mulcahy: I think it is finding the similarities and then appreciating the differences. And that goes on to just one-on-one basis or just small groups and hopefully let that transfer out. For example, I’m going to bring back the birdwalk I’ve got planned. You’re building a language that puts everybody on the same level, and when you start to put everybody on the same level, then you can start to introduce, by the way, if you liked listening to that bird, you might listen to our Mahler Symphony. Or if you liked tasting this wine, you’re really going to love the complex nature of this piece. It eliminates your experience level as knowing a Bach piece or an experience level here or there. And I think finding that little vulnerability together helps actually build a path forward into the art, into the genre.

Dan Titmuss: If you could broadcast one message to executive directors, leadership teams, staff, and boards of a thousand arts organizations, what would that be?

Holly Mulcahy: I think as arts administrators and as artists—and this goes for everybody on the other side of the stage, not the audience, but people who are very familiar with our art—I think find the most uncomfortable thing that you don’t know anything about. And go to it. And I’ll give you an example. When we first moved to Chicago a number of years ago, I’d never been to a hockey game, and I thought, this is uncomfortable. I am a classical, classically trained musician. Tell you what, if you stand up in a hockey game while the puck is in play, you’ll get chastised. I learned that the hard way.

There are rules. And I think feeling that opens your mind and makes you look into your own art and your own experience differently. So I would encourage everybody to go to something that they are not comfortable with, with open eyes and an open heart and feel that vulnerability, feel the shame. I’d also encourage everybody to go through their own ticket buying process. Know what it’s like to buy a ticket, know what it’s like to park in the paid parking, not the employee parking, but the paid parking. Know what it’s like to not understand where you’re going to sit and just feel it in the most vulnerable way. And the best way to feel vulnerable is to find something that you’re not interested in and do it because it really opens your mind very fast.

Dan Titmuss: I love that answer. It reminds me of, I was just getting into American football and my wife and I, we went to an Eagles game because her family’s from Philadelphia, and it was the Eagles versus the Jets. We were there a little late and we saw them kick off, and they did really well in returning it. We were cheering, we were cheering… We were cheering for the wrong team. And we were surrounded by Eagles fans who were looking at us in our brand new Eagles hoodies thinking, what the heck are you cheering about like that? It was the most embarrassing moment I’ve ever felt as an audience member.

Holly Mulcahy: I think that’s a really valuable tool to have though, because you can flip that easily into somebody who just clapped in the wrong place, and you can flip that into somebody who maybe came in jeans that have holes in them. But I think it really opens up your mind to the possibilities of feeling that I’m out of place. I don’t fit, and I am not belonging at all. So yeah, you are not selling tickets to yourself. You’re not marketing to yourself. I keep seeing orchestras that seem to be focusing on the orchestra, focusing on the maestro, focusing on the guest artist in the print copy, in the video copy, but you never see the audience enjoying the thing. I think that’s the biggest reminder that we have to have is there are people that are different than us that will still enjoy the art we present. So we need to not look at, how would I buy a ticket? But, how are 50 other very different people who might be hockey fans or football fans or Led Zeppelin fans, how are they going to be marketed to? How are they going to be buying a ticket?

Dan Titmuss: That’s marvelous. I love that. That’s such a great message. Thank you so much for joining us, Holly.

Holly Mulcahy: Thank you for having me.

Dan Titmuss: Thank you for listening to CI to Eye. This episode was edited and produced by Karen McConarty and co-written by Karen McConarty and myself, Dan Titmuss. Stephanie Medina and Jess Berube are CI to Eye’s designers and video editors, and all work together to create CI’s digital content. Our music is by whoisuzo. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please take a moment to rate us or leave a review. A nice comment goes a long way in helping other people discover CI to Eye and hear from experts in the arts and beyond. If you didn’t enjoy today’s episode, pass it on to all of your enemies. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube for regular content to help you market smarter. You can also sign up for our newsletter at capacity interactive dot com so you never miss an update. And if you haven’t already, please click the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts. Until next time, stay nerdy.


About Our Guests
Holly Mulcahy
Holly Mulcahy

After hearing Scheherazade at an early age, Holly Mulcahy fell in love with the violin and knew it would be her future. Since then, she has won multiple positions in symphonic orchestras across the country while maintaining a robust solo career and a small non-profit organization.

Holly is currently serving as concertmaster of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and Chattanooga Symphony & Opera. In addition to those leadership roles, she also serves as Wichita Symphony’s Partner for Audience Engagement; a position dedicated to building meaningful relationships with audiences by breaking down stereotypical barriers.

Holly began developing her leadership skills at the renowned Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University with former Baltimore Symphony concertmaster Herbert Greenberg. In recent seasons she has enjoyed serving as traveling concertmaster for Emmy Award winner George Daugherty’s Bugs Bunny at the Symphony, and as guest concertmaster for the Columbus Symphony, Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, and a one-year appointment as interim concertmaster for Orchestra Iowa.

As an in-demand performer, Holly balances her orchestral duties with numerous concerto performances across the country. Passionate about performing living American composers’ works, Holly has been featured as soloist for concertos by Jennifer Higdon, Jim Stephenson, Philip Glass, and now a concerto by Hollywood film composer, George S. Clinton.

This new concerto by George S. Clinton, The Rose of Sonora: a violin concerto in five scenes, is inspired by true stories about the lives of legendary women in the Old West and takes the listener on an epic western adventure of love, loss, and revenge. Booked coast to coast, immediately after the world premiere, Mulcahy and Clinton have received rave reviews and a solid fan following who travel to each performance.

Believing in music as a healing and coping source, Holly founded Arts Capacity, a charitable 501(c)3 which focuses on bringing live chamber music, art, artists, and composers to prisons. Arts Capacity addresses many emotional and character-building issues people face as they prepare for release into society.

In addition to an active performing career, Holly is the author of Neo Classical, a monthly column on the future of classical music. On days off, Holly maintains a reputation for planning and hosting exquisite gourmet parties in her Chicago home.

Holly performs on a 1917 Giovanni Cavani violin, previously owned by the late renowned soloist Eugene Fodor, and a bespoke bow made by award-winning master bow maker, Douglas Raguse.

Visit HollyMulcahy.com for more information.

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