NONPROFIT, CITIES PRODUCE SWEET MUSIC The News Herald: January 29, 2009
By working in perfect harmony with two Lake County communities, one area
nonprofit has found success at a time when many others are struggling.
In what could be described as a win-win situation, CityMusic Cleveland,
a professional chamber orchestra, has been performing free classical
music concerts throughout Northeast Ohio for the past five years. In
return for a program they may not be able to host otherwise, city
officials — including those in Willoughby and Willoughby Hills — offer
money-saving support to CityMusic Cleveland.
"It's been a wonderful relationship between a nonprofit and governmental
organization," said Willoughby Hills City Council President Kevin
Malacek, referring to his city. "It shows they can work together very
Building working relationships with city leaders has been a successful
strategy for CityMusic Cleveland since Day One, Executive Director
Eugenia Strauss said.
"It started to be a centerpiece of our thinking when we started this
orchestra because it occurred to us that probably 80 percent of the
people in Northeast Ohio were not attending live performances of
classical music," said Strauss.
The group found that people often were either unfamiliar with classical
music or the city in which the music was performed, or that the price of
admission was prohibitive. "People don't want to invest in something
they don't know anything about," he said.
With those factors in mind, Strauss started meeting with officials
across the region — including Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Elyria,
Rocky River and Strongsville — to discuss how they and CityMusic
Cleveland might build mutually beneficial relationships.
"We offer advertising on our Web site and on Channel 12, we list them in
our programs, and we distribute and post their fliers," explained
Willoughby Hills City Councilman David Reichelt, adding that the city's
recreation commission has contributed funds to CityMusic Cleveland in
the past and that officials have written letters on the nonprofit's
behalf to help it secure additional funds.
"In (Lake County), Lake Hospital (System) is a very big supporter of
us," Strauss said. "But that came about because the mayors introduced me
and helped me make a pitch that conveyed that this is a very big asset
to the community."
Concerts in Willoughby and Willoughby Hills generally attract 500 to 600
people, Reichelt said. An added benefit for the cities is that the shows
attract people from throughout the region — people who tend to also eat
out or shop before the concert.
"(The concerts) give people another reason to come to downtown
Willoughby," Mayor David Anderson said. "Those people discover our
restaurants, and they bring their friends. It's been great."
In fact, the nonprofit's Web site lists some local restaurants and
attractions to help those visiting a city for the first time. In western
Lake County, there seems to be no shortage of such visitors.
"Every concert we give in Willoughby and Willoughby Hills is 'sold out.'
You couldn't fit a mouse into that room because those places are
bursting at the seams with people," Strauss said. "We do surveys, and
people come from within a 60-mile radius. We have people coming from as
far away as Hiram."
Its approach has been so successful, CityMusic Cleveland has emerged as
a model for other organizations in these tough economic times.
"I know that (foundations) have informed a number of nonprofits to come
and ask us how we build relationships with each community," Strauss
said. "At the moment, you're seeing a lot of nonprofits going under,
closing their doors, laying off people and doing all kinds of things to
preserve their status. Everyone has to become much smarter in what
Reichelt agreed that CityMusic Cleveland's unique approach is one other
organizations should mimic.
"We don't have any relationship with an organization like this," he
said. "This is a program that isn't replicated on a local basis anywhere
that I know of."
Likewise, Strauss has found working with Willoughby and Willoughby Hills
to be equally beneficial.
"I wish I could clone each mayor and each city council. They've been
really terrific and so enthusiastic," she said. "They've also been very
demanding that we do our very best, and I think that we have proven that
by having to move every two years into a bigger (venue)."