Blossom at 50, Cleveland Orchestra at 100, Looking to the Future

The 9th Executive Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Andre Gremillet (Mark Urycki/ideastream)
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The Cleveland Orchestra is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and the 50th anniversary of its summer home, Blossom Music Center.   The orchestra’s 9th Executive Director says it’s well positioned for the future. 

Andre Gremillet told the Akron Roundtable today (Thursday) that not only is Cleveland the only major orchestra to be started by a woman -it’s the only major orchestra in a small market.                                                       

“We need to have a higher penetration in terms of audience which we do.  Most orchestras and most classical music markets have a 4% of a population.  We have a 7% penetration rate, which is remarkable.   It says as much about the people here than it says about the orchestra.”  

Gremillet says orchestras can’t charge customers what it actually costs to operate so they have to rely on philanthropy and by going on the road to play concerts in Europe and Asia and establishing a residency in Miami, Florida.  He said the organization is looking to China and the Middle East.

Last year the orchestra finished with a $4 million dollar loss on a $54 milllion dollar budget.   But Gremillet sees signs of a strong future.

“This orchestra is not only the finest in the country but it is arguably the orchestra with the youngest audience in the country. On any given night at Severance or Blossom 20% of the audience is 25 years old or younger and that’s unique.”   

Andre Gremillet addressing the Akron Roundtable (L) and president of the Cleveland Orchestra Board, Richard Smucker. (Mark Urycki/ideastream) 

The orchestra will play 126 concerts this year said Gremillet he expects Blossom to continue being instrumental in the orchestra’s success.

“In 21 concerts, so a sixth of our total concerts,  we get half our audience.  And that, in a nutshell, tells you about the importance of Blossom. This is not a second venue - this is first among two equal venues. “  

While he isn’t giving specific suggestions, Gremillet wondered about marketing Blossom as a year-round venue.

“How can we make the most of this venue in terms of attracting out of state tourists?   Blossom remains, outside of Ohio or at least the Midwest, remains unknown from people who know Tanglewood or who know other great venues. There’s no reason for this. This is as good if not better.”  

In a twist this year the orchestra will perform the entire rock opera "Tommy" from The Who.   The rock band's singer Roger Daltry will perform with the orchrestra. Gremillet says 10,000 tickets have already been sold. 

Gremillet, who is from Quebec, says he’s been all around the U-S and finds Northeast Ohio has “one of the richest and most interesting cultural scenes in the country.”

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