Long-Awaited Answers to Your Most Burning Questions

October 3, 2019

by Elizabeth McGuire, Executive Director

Each and every one of our patrons is important to us, so we conducted surveys to ask for your thoughts, needs, and preferences for the Colorado Music Festival during and after the 2019 season. 

You may have seen our survey staff at a concert, received a follow-up email after attending a concert, or even received an inquiry about your Festival attendance habits.

Thank you for taking the time to respond and share your thoughts with us. We have since complied and reviewed all of the results. And since we believe that healthy conversation is two-sided, what follows are answers to seven of your most-popular questions/comments.

#1: Getting to the auditorium is a challenge. I’m confused about where to park and how to get to the auditorium. Where can I find clear parking information and instructions?

Across the nation, venue access and parking challenges are statistically the number one reason why patrons do not attend performing arts programs. It’s a serious issue, and Colorado Music Festival and Chautauqua leadership continue to explore ways to alleviate our own transportation challenges.

Chautauqua Auditorium is unique in that it is both a historic venue and lies within a residential neighborhood. Those who present concerts must find solutions that balance the challenges of a venue built before the advent of the automobile, the impact we have on the neighbors’ quality of life, and the footprint we leave on the venue itself.

Both Colorado Music Festival and Chautauqua work with the City of Boulder and Via Mobility Services to provide The HOP 2 Chautauqua Service for every concert. Due to neighborhood complaints of excessive noise and exhaust generated by multiple bus drop-offs prior to each concert, we are unable to provide large bus transportation directly to the Auditorium doors for inbound passengers.

We recognize the drop off point at the base of Chautauqua (Baseline Road between 10th and Lincoln Place) requires a walk of some distance, uphill to the Auditorium that is not possible for many of our patrons.

Therefore in 2018, we added a MV1 accessible van to pick up inbound guests at New Vista High School for transportation directly to the Auditorium, a smaller vehicle that does not produce excessive noise or exhaust.

We have taken to heart your concerns about transportation and will soon be analyzing the HOP 2 Chautauqua usage statistics from the most-recent season in the coming months to determine how we can continue to improve this situation as well as better communicate transportation options to the public in the 2020 season and beyond.

Eager concertgoers making their way to the auditorium.

#2: Why don’t you list all of the Chautauqua concerts on your website?
Why do I receive emails from Colorado Music Festival and Chautauqua? Aren’t you the same?

Colorado Music Festival and Colorado Chautauqua Association are two distinct organizations, though we have a partnership that began when the Festival was created in the 1970s. Here are a few facts about who does what at Chautauqua:

– Colorado Chautauqua Association is the organization that manages the Chautauqua grounds and facilities including the Auditorium, Community House, Dining Hall, and Cabins.

– The Ranger Cottage and the Chautauqua hiking trails are managed by the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks division.

– We, the Colorado Music Festival, are tenants at Chautauqua Auditorium for six weeks each summer. We have been doing just that since 1978, where our presence was a major factor in galvanizing forces in the community to renovate and preserve the Auditorium for public enjoyment.

– Chautauqua Auditorium has its own series of performances during the summertime with distinctive programming that complements the Festival’s classical focus. 

– Our tenant agreement with Chautauqua requires us to sell our tickets through the Chautauqua Box Office. This means all elements of ticketing such as the ticketing software system, online and in-person sales as well as the box office staff is managed and provided by Chautauqua for the Colorado Music Festival as well as Chautauqua’s own programming.

We are indebted to Chautauqua for the long-term partnership that has allowed both the Colorado Music Festival and Chautauqua to thrive. In both their commitment to keeping our costs low to assuring the Festival’s home for six weeks each summer, we couldn’t do what we do without them.

A panoramic shot of the acoustically sound, all-wood auditorium.

#3: Why would you mic the orchestra in such a small venue?

We are very lucky to have one of the few all-wood venues in the country as our performance space.

The resonance and warmth of the Auditorium heightens the live, orchestral experience in ways our audiences and musicians deeply cherish.

The Colorado Chautauqua Association leadership is also dedicated to maintaining this acoustical gem, and even consults Colorado Music Festival about Auditorium renovations and enhancements in order to preserve the quality of the musical experience. 

We do not amplify our concerts or individual musicians as a standard course of action. The acoustics in the hall simply do not require us to do so. We rarely have a reason to amplify a performer; when we do, it is usually because the score calls for an electronic instrument or the composer suggests it. One recent example is Robert McDuffie performing the Glass Violin Concerto on August 1, 2019. Glass’ notes to the performers in the score give the option to amplify the solo violin as a way to add an electronic edge to the violin sound that both Robert McDuffie and Peter Oundjian wanted to achieve.

Have you noticed the microphones above the stage and the audio engineer at every concert? These are in place for recording, not amplification; we employ a professional audio engineer to record every concert for archival purposes. In fact, we have over 40 years of reel-to-reel tape and CD audio recordings in storage in our offices at the Center for Musical Arts!

Concertgoers enjoying quintessential Boulder summer weather as they wait for doors to open.

#4: Why did ticket prices increase?

We want as many people as possible to experience the magic and emotion of live classical music. We take very seriously the balance necessary between being a fiscally responsible organization and being a place where new and longstanding fans of classical music can enjoy the experience of the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra at the beautiful and historic Chautauqua Auditorium.

We conducted research in 2018 which concluded our prices were considerably lower than other regional options. As a result, we did increase prices in most sections, but created a new mid-level price point to ensure individuals who attended in the past could continue to attend as well as allow patrons a greater variety of price options within each concert.

Even though we did exceed our budgeted ticket sales numbers in the 2019 season, pricing and seating structure is an ongoing conversation and we are currently working with a renowned national consulting agency to help us determine new ways to best achieve our goals of public accessibility and organizational sustainability.

#5: Why don’t you open the doors on the side and back of the auditorium?

Many of you commented about the lack of air circulation in the auditorium. We have communicated these concerns to Chautauqua management, and they have assured us that we will be able to open the rear and side doors in the coming season, barring inclement weather.

#6: We liked the option of enjoying food and beverages at Chautauqua before the concerts, but seating at the Dining Hall is frequently unavailable. What on-site options are there?

It’s true, the Dining Hall is a very popular option and without a reservation it is unlikely you will find a table on a concert night. And while the Chautauqua General Store often stocks small snacks, sandwiches and salads, our patrons may be looking for something a little more substantial and upscale. We are currently looking into onsite, pre-concert food and drink options with the Dining Hall administration so that more concertgoers can enjoy a picnic on-site with ease.

Peter Oundjian leads cellist Kian Soltani and the Festival Orchestra through an open rehearsal.

#7: Why have you reduced the number of open rehearsals? How can I find out when they occur?

The climate of the industry has changed quite a bit over the past several years, and as the Festival draws top-tier guest artists, we are contractually obligated to meet the increased safety and privacy requirements outlined by artist’s management. For these reasons, we have reduced the number of open rehearsals to a minimum of two rehearsals per week and employ staff these events with additional house and production crew to monitor the auditorium.

We encourage everyone to visit our website to find open rehearsal schedules once the season is announced. The box office staff is also available to assist with distributing this information.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to take our survey. Your feedback is critical to our continued success. See you next season!