As season-ticket sales decline, the Quad City Symphony Orchestra is looking for ways to reach new audiences. This year's season has emphasized collaboration with local arts organizations, and nowhere is this more apparent than in this weekend's performance with Ballet Quad Cities.

The organizations are pairing up for the first time, in a program celebrating dance. The symphony will perform Weber's Invitation to the Dance and Tchaikovsky's Suite from Swan Lake on the Adler Theatre stage, then move to the orchestra pit at intermission, making room for the dancers on stage for Bach's Suite No. 1 in C Major and Stravinsky's Danses Concertantes.

Performances are 8 p.m. Saturday, March 3, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 4.

This particular collaboration is just one concert from an entire season of "concerts that acknowledge and celebrate the richness of our sister arts organizations," said symphony Executive Director Lance Willett.

"We benefit from being in a community and an environment with so many high-quality arts organizations that we felt it was appropriate and timely for us to integrate those organizations to the extent we could into our actual programming," Willett said.

Other collaborations have been less direct. Instead of performing with the symphony, as Ballet Quad Cities is doing this weekend and Opera Quad Cities will do in April, other arts organizations were honored in the programming, Willett said.

The November concert celebrating theatre featured pieces with theatrical themes. And while none of the local theatre organizations performed on-stage, members of the Genesis Guild were there in Greek costume.

The collaborations "demonstrate in a very public way the strength of the arts community and the way in which the arts community here can enrich itself here by joining together," Willett said.

Another benefit to the collaborations is the opportunity to reach new audiences, especially when organizations are pairing up for the first time.

"This is definitely a way to get people in our audience who haven't experienced the ballet, and people in the ballet audience who haven't come to the symphony concerts, to see what they've been missing and bridge those gaps a little bit," said Jared Johnson, the symphony's director of marketing.

Joedy Cook, Ballet Quad Cities' executive director, also identified shared audiences as a major benefit to collaborations. "There are still many people in the region not familiar with Ballet Quad Cities," Cook said. "It's wonderful to be able to share other arts organizations' audiences, and we of course will help them bring in a new audience, so it's just a win-win."

The symphony is making a push to reach new, and often younger, audiences. "What you're really seeing is a shift from season-ticket sales to single-ticket sales," Johnson said, "and I think to a certain extent that's indicative of that shift of people not wanting to commit to going out that many times and people making decisions at the last minute."

Johnson said he doesn't consider this shift a problem, but it does require a different approach.

"When you sell a package, you sell a whole season in one swoop," he said. "But with single-ticket sales, you have to try and get the ticket sale every time. It's a different battle, and organizationally we're starting to get a grasp on what we'll have to do to make this work. It is a big shift and a challenge for us."

The symphony already has several successful adult-education programs that tend to attract season-ticket holders, who are usually over 55. "Concert Conversations" is held before each concert, while "Inside the Music" is several days before the concert, usually at St. Ambrose University. Each event is a discussion of the music on the program with Conductor Donald Schleicher and a guest.

One recent event aimed at younger, single-ticket buyers was "A Taste of Beethoven" at Borders Books Music Movies & Cafe. A string quartet performed works by the composer, and Kai Swanson gave a history lesson about him between the pieces. This event attracted, in particular, young families, Johnson said. "We had kids sitting in the front row next to the string quartet watching them play ... getting to see it and getting really close to the music," he said.

With these events, the symphony wants to remind people that they do enjoy classical music, Johnson said. "You know this music," he said. "You've heard it in 100 different places and you like it."

"Inside the Music" for this weekend's concerts is March 1 at 5:30 p.m. with Schleicher and choreographers Matthew Keefe and Deanna Carter at The Outing Club in Davenport. "Concert Conversations" with Schleicher, Keefe, Carter, and Swanson is an hour before each concert at the Adler Theatre.

Immediately following each concert will be a "sneak peak" at the repertoire and guest soloists for next season. The names of the five candidates for symphony conductor will also be revealed.


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