When I was a young girl, my father had an unusual hobby. He ran a chamber music series in northern New Jersey. This was the early and mid 1960’s. Super stars of the times included the Julliard String Quartet and The Budapest String quartet. I didn’t care about classical music any more than the average ten year old—which is to say, very little. But my father always brought me along as a helper, which I loved.
My dad did something that apparently most organizers did not—he brought a big wicker hamper full of snacks and coffee for the musicians. There were cookies from a Jewish bakery in Manhattan. World famous violinists and cellists fell on this modest repast with the wild enthusiasm of actually starving artists. They heaped thanks on my father. And they shook my hand and praised the fact of my mere appearance at the concert. Their manners were charming and European.
I loved everything until the music started, and then I just got sleepy and drifted along in my seat. My dad was so happy and excited afterwards, and I woke up in the chill night air as I helped pack up and he drove us home.
I learned an enormous amount about entrepreneurship and the arts—all of it unconsciously—from my dad Eli.
1. If what you love and support doesn’t exist—create it. My dad loved modern atonal compositions. His audience—not so much. He always programed the more controversial pieces second out of three, so the audience couldn’t leave before it.
2. Throw everything you have at art. My dad had money, taste, opinions, connections, and personal charisma. He was also wildly appreciative. He didn’t hesitate to put all this into his series.
3. Give it away. My dad did not take tickets, although most of the audience members were subscribers. He used to say, “if someone wants to sneak into a chamber music concert, let them.”
4. Bring the kids.My dad could have left me home with my younger siblings. He didn’t really need me there, although he appreciated my loading and unloading. Somehow he had a program—if a vague one—to expose me to the arts in an intimate way.
4. Serve snacks.