Chamber music crescendo
Madison Chamber Music Festival brings dollars into community
by Jessica Blomquist
photos by Angelina Bellebuono
For local businesses in Madison, it pays to support the arts.
The Madison Chamber Music Festival attracts people from out of town and locals from within the community who, in addition to attending the performance of their choice, will spend money in restaurants, hotels, shops, gas stations and other businesses in Madison.
“It’s built a track record and a reputation,” said Marguerite Copelan, president of the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce. “By this time, being the sixth annual, it’s bringing a regional crowd.” That regional crowd includes visitors from most of the southeastern states, including Florida, Tennessee and Alabama.
“Last year we noticed in the visitor’s book that people came from other states for the music festival,” Copelan said.
Marketing for the Madison Chamber Music Festival helps to bring in tourists from other states and areas in Georgia. The event is listed in the state travel guide and the state calendar of events, as well as being marketed on the City of Madison Web site and a new billboard located in Bishop on Highway 441 between Athens and Madison.
“I think that will serve them well,” said Copelan. “I think they will pull more from Athens this year.”
The Madison Chamber Music Festival has grown exponentially in the last six years. The first festival was held in 2003 and included four concerts all held in the auditorium of the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center. The budget for that first event was $30,000.
Now for the sixth annual music festival, the budget is five times larger, at $150,000. The size of the event has also increased, with 13 concerts in 10 different locations, including three sites at the Cultural Center – the auditorium, The Hall, and the front lawn – and seven locations off-site. Those locations include the Steffen Thomas Museum, Madison Baptist Church, Perk Avenue Cafe, Sandy Creek Barn and three private homes. Beginning with a performance by soprano Alison Buchanan at Madison Baptist Church on June 14, the festival will run for almost three weeks, through July 3. All of the money spent on the festival has to be raised from corporate sponsors, foundations and private donations. Private donations come from Festival Friends, people in the community who support the arts.
“They make up the largest segment of our fund-raising support,” said Ruth Bracewell, Chamber Music Festival director at the Cultural Center.
The National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C, also granted the Cultural Center $10,000. Festival organizers applied for the competitive grant and were proud to earn the grant, meant to support and promote art in rural areas.
The final source of revenue comes from ticket sales.
“I’m expecting that our smaller venues will sell out,” said Bracewell, referring to the concerts at Perk Avenue, Madison Baptist Church and the private homes.
Most people come to two or three events, said Bracewell. Currently, 15 people have purchased the “I Want It All” package, which includes tickets to every event and costs $265.
“You have to be pretty devoted to want to go to all of those,” said Bracewell.
Christopher Rex, Festival artistic director and principal cellist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, helps to bring acclaimed musicians from around the world to Madison.
“Christopher Rex has connections that come in very handy,” said Bracewell. “We benefit from his connections and expertise.”
The majority of the budget is spent on the almost 50 performers who were recruited for the event.
“That’s the way it should be,” said Bracewell. “The bulk should be spent on getting the performers here.”
The Cultural Center pays each of the musicians and singers, as well as providing a travel allowance, including airfare, rental cars and gas and housing.
Bracewell estimates that the Cultural Center spends about $89,000 on those fees alone. They spend $7,000 renting concert grand pianos for concerts and $6,000 on receptions for the separate events. An estimated total of $15,000 was spent marketing the Chamber Music Festival.
Any surplus in the budget will go into the operating budget for the Cultural Center, though much of that can then be spent on costs that aren’t included in the festival’s budget, like the salaries of staff other than Bracewell and Rex.
“Our goal every year is to cover our expenses so we at least break even,” said Bracewell. “The festival is not a fund-raiser. It’s just paying for itself.”
The Chamber Music Festival supports local businesses by using them for much of the festival’s needs. For concerts that include meals, they use local caterers and restaurants, like Hallie Jane’s Catering, Stagecoach Catering and Annette Eaton.
Hallie Jane’s Catering, owned by Hallie Jane Duan, is partnered with the Cultural Center to cater the "American in Paris Dinner Concert" on June 17 at 7 p.m., which features the American String Quartet and the ensemble Trio RPM.
Duan is an avid supporter of the arts and believes that such support will help businesses in Madison.
“I believe just by setting Madison up as a cultural art center, it would help everybody economically,” she said.
She also thinks that patrons of the festival who attend the dinner will consider using her catering services in the future, for destination weddings and other events.
“It helps my business in that way,” she said.
Other refreshments, beverages and ice cream are also bought locally. Event organizers use local printers, designers and newspapers to market the event. And finally, they rent supplies like tents, tables, and technical equipment from local suppliers as well.
The performers are also being housed in local hotels and bed and breakfasts, like the James Madison Inn, Madison Oaks and the Hampton Inn.
Mary Diletto of the James Madison Inn said she has several people booked for the festival weeks, including some of the musicians, and will be offering a special rate for anyone who is a ticket holder.
“We are participating with the Cultural Center as the accommodation sponsor,” she said. “I think the Chamber Music Festival and the Madison are a really good fit. But we’ll see how many come and stay.”
Window paintings promoting the music festival constitute another partnership between local businesses and the Cultural Center. Downtown Madison businesses like Petals Salon, Baldwin Realty, Perk Avenue Cafe, Prudential Realty, Turkey Creek Gallery and others, allowed the Cultural Center to paint their windows with a cello design logo and festival information, which Bracewell says calls attention to the stores as well.
The festival attracts around 2,000 audience members, tourists and locals who then spend money in Madison.
“Madison is already special,” said Bracewell. “And we do already enjoy the benefit of tourism. This gives them not only the opportunity to enjoy music by world class musicians, but we hope our tourists and locals will do lots of things while they’re here.”
According to a 2005 study by Americans for the Arts, audience members who attend non-profit arts and culture events spend an average of $27.79 per person, per event on meals, transportation, lodging and souvenirs. This data was collected from 6,080 non-profit arts organizations and 94,486 attendees from 156 study regions across the country. Of course, non-local audiences spend more money in the community than local audiences.
“Restaurants are a market segment that really benefit from the festival,” said Copelan.
In fact, concerts were intentionally planned at either 5 p.m. or 8 p.m. to encourage eating out at local restaurants before or after the performances.
“I did hear that after the concert at the Presbyterian Church last year on Wednesday, restaurants were just slammed,” said Bracewell.
Marco Gonzalez, manager of Madison restaurant Town 220 Bistro, said that during last year’s festival he saw an increase in patrons of about 10 percent to 20 percent and also had the opportunity to cater to the musicians. He expects that many attendees of the festival will return this year.
“Last year they left with a good impression and I hope they will return this year,” he said.
“I feel like the Cultural Center is an economic boon for the community,” said Bracewell, describing the impact the festival has when partnering with local businesses. “It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”