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Thakar's goal: Fill concert hall for every DSSO concert

With the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra's season just about ready to get under way, new music director Markand Thakar has a big goal in mind -- to sell out the house.

With the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra's season just about ready to get under way, new music director Markand Thakar has a big goal in mind -- to sell out the house.
It's an ambitious goal since the DECC auditorium seats nearly as many as the auditorium in which the New York Philharmonic plays.
"I want to fill the hall. I want to sell all the tickets," Thakar said. "That's a tall order because it's an enormous hall."
But Thakar has a plan. It's a two-pronged approach to lure people to the concerts.
The first is to provide the absolute best musical experience possible.
"A major focus of what I'm doing is maximizing the musical potential," Thakar said. "If we put out consistently profound, moving concerts, little by little more people will come. I want consistently that someone comes through the door and leaves thinking that was the best two hours I spent of my life. I want to leave thinking that. So that's a crucial component."
But Thakar, by his own admission, is impatient. He wants to see a noticeable increase in ticket sales sooner than what just providing top notch musical performances will accomplish.
So the symphony has launched a multi-faceted campaign that includes television advertising with a serious Thakar pointing at the camera with a message that says "We're playing for you."
"We wanted to make some noise. I think I was probably watching Regis Philbin that day," he laughed.
But the all-too-serious side of the issue is making people aware of the symphony orchestra in their community and the opportunity for music to make a difference in their lives.
"There are an awful lot of people who just don't know what a great time it is," Thakar said. "How moving, how meaningful, how life changing it is to come to the concerts. They just haven't had that experience. I think there are lot of people out there who think the symphony is for rich, old, white people. Music, what we do, is magical for everyone. I'm certain there are people out there, that, if they came, it would make a difference in their lives. Not a huge material difference, but I think we can enhance people's lives. One of my jobs is to let them know, 'Hey this is for you. This is not some stuffy, ivory tower, it's not difficult. It's easy, just open your ears and let us take you.'"
To understand the music a bit better, symphony-goers can attend a lecture prior to the concert.
Thakar will present background information about each piece beginning at 7 p.m. on the mezzanine level of the auditorium.
After each concert Thakar, the guest soloist and a few of the symphony members will remain on stage to field questions from the audience.
"People leaving often want to know personal things about us or the music-making process," Thakar said. "I want people to be able to connect as much as possible, on every level, with what we're doing. And so that's one initial wrinkle that we're offering. One of what I hope and expect will be many to get people more connected with what we're doing."
Besides the television campaign and the informational sessions, the symphony office is hoping to increase the ease of transportation to the concerts by offering shuttle bus rides that will stop at Pines I at 7 p.m., then Mt. Royal Manor, Westwood and St. Ann's.
Any senior may make a reservation for a shuttle bus ride to the symphony by calling 733-7575 or 722-4715 by the Friday prior to each concert. Tickets for the bus are $5.
"I'm very impressed with Âthe degree to which this orchestra is touching this community," Thakar said. "The percentage of the community that comes to our concerts and uses us in different ways is very impressive. But my guess is there are still people out there who would love to participate whom we haven't been able to reach yet. That's what my focus is going to be."

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