Ask the Expert from the MCOB Executive Advisory Council –What is the Value of a Symphony to a City?



Scott Speck, Music Director of the Mobile Symphony, says there is no great city without a great orchestra. They simply do not exist.  I agree.  Mobile is on the pathway to becoming a great city.  Your orchestra is already there. 

The CEO’s of major corporations (especially European ones) would never consider moving to any city or bringing their children up in a city, without a viable orchestra. Classical music and orchestras are exploding around the world especially in Asia and South America.  Bill Sisson, President and CEO of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, says that 8 of our top 10 employers are foreign based.  One of the questions a business asks when they explore a new location is does your city have a symphony orchestra.   We are fortunate to have a world class orchestra that helps attract businesses from around the world to our area.

The economic impact of the symphony is significant.  Think of the Mobile Symphony as a small business that just happens to be in the business of making music and teaching music to children.  We employ 10 full time people, 80 part time musicians and 6 part time teachers with a payroll of $1.3 million and a total budget of $1.8 million.  The National Endowment for the Arts estimates that each dollar invested in an orchestra returns $12 to the city.  In addition to providing professional jobs the MSO rents 800 hotel nights per concert season which is probably the equivalent economic impact of having a couple of small conventions in Mobile. We are also the anchor tenant for the city owned historic Saenger Theatre.  Annually MSO pays between $85,000 and $95,000 to the Saenger for rent and services. 

Approximately 35% of our concert attendees come from out of Mobile County and even from out of the state so the orchestra not only draws the local music lover but the cultural tourist. In fact a recent concert drew people from 24 different states! Americans for the Arts states that out of town attendees spend more than twice as much on dining and services than the local concert goer.

The message is clear that our orchestra is a dynamic business recruitment asset, has a powerful economic impact and is a source of tourism.  However the real value of the Mobile Symphony is in its service to the people who live here.   An orchestra represents the highest aspirations of humanity.  It binds together people of all ages, ethnicities, incomes and belief systems.  Orchestral music is one of the few art forms that can transcend language and culture.  Anyone can be fully changed by it.   The experience of 80 people passionately making music together is an overwhelming visceral experience like nothing else.  The surround sound of the 1812 Overture which we will perform here in a few weeks will take your breath away.  Join us and be transformed! 

Celia Mann Baehr


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