Roanoke Symphony Counters National Audience Trends

For Immediate Release

┬áRoanoke, Virginia — The Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, David Stewart Wiley, music director, is enjoying increases in sales and attendance recently despite reports of dwindling audience sizes nationally. The new information, released in full today by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), combined with an earlier report conducted by the League of American Orchestras (LAO), outlines declines in participation rates for orchestras, other performing arts, cinema, as well as live sporting events and other activities during the period of 2002 to 2008. According to previous national studies, classical music audience sizes grew over 20 years, from 21.8 million in 1982, up to 24.6 million in 2002. In the past 6 years, the size dropped down to 21.3 million. For the RSO, the past few years have yielded an upturn in sales, with its sights already set on study recommendations – thinking creatively about its role in a culture of changing expectations.

During the past few years, the RSO has anticipated and focused on practices that show promise in countering these trends. Exploring ticket pricing, venues, programming, touring, education, new media and social networking services, are all part of the RSO’s strategic plan. The RSO’s progress indicators now include an astounding 316% increase in subscribers between 2004 and 2008 for it’s Picnic at the Pops Series, presenting renowned pops artists and symphony orchestra in concert together, and a 37% increase in the number of Symphony-to-the-Max subscribers [all subscription concerts] during the same period. The RSO has further broadened its programming to provide more “entry points” for diverse audiences to find and enjoy quality performances of classical music – at the heart of its mission. This includes new and unique programs in collaboration with rock musicians and visual performers, as well as corporate leadership training events created and led by music director David Stewart Wiley.

Today’s NEA study, Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, along with the LAO’s Audience Demographic Research Review also reveal some encouraging news to the RSO and orchestras across the country. There is a high level of interest in classical music online and through electronic media, pointing to the enduring strength and vitality of symphony orchestras. The RSO recently launched the web page it calls “RSO 2.0” – a reference to “Web 2.0” interactive and networking technology – to promote its use of such services. A link to the page can be found at the RSO’s web site at Last fall, the RSO introduced an online audio podcast series called Inside the Music in which maestro Wiley explores the classical repertoire from the RSO’s Masterworks Series of concerts. With these online services and features, the RSO feels it is on the right track with a hot trail to follow, especially in continuing to develop new relationships with younger listeners. The reports also indicate a significant increase in the percentage of people playing classical music, supporting an increasing sense of the importance in the art and education of classical music. For more information about the NEA study, visit

Final program of 2009

The Roanoke Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with David Stewart Wiley conductor present their final concert of 2009 on Friday, December 11th at 7 p.m. at the Salem Civic Center. Part of the Picnic at the Pops Series, Friday evening’s Holiday Pops Spectacular is a collaboration of over 250 musicians from the RSO and Chorus, Salem Choral Society, Mill Mountain (handbell) Ringers, Roanoke College Children’s Choir, and tenor soloist George Dyer. A great event for the whole family, tickets for the concert start at $20 each with discount tickets available for groups and children 12 and under. Information is available from the RSO box office at (540) 343-9127 and online at, as well as the Salem Civic Center box office.

Touring performances

Special versions of the Holiday Pops program will be presented in 3 neighboring communities. The New River Valley Friends of the RSO will present Holiday Pops on December 12th at the Covington Center at Radford University – information at The Piedmont Arts Association will present Holiday Pops on December 13th at Martinsville High School – information at The Alleghany Arts Council will present Holiday Pops at Covington High School on December 14th – information at These touring performances involve the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra with David Stewart Wiley, conductor, and tenor soloist George Dyer.

The Roanoke Symphony Orchestra celebrates its mission to enrich lives, to educate, and to entertain diverse audiences in western Virginia with the highest quality instrumental and choral music.


Date: 10 December, 2009

Contact: Rodney Overstreet,

Marketing Director, Roanoke Symphony Orchestra

540.343.6221 ext.227 or