Sesame Street was right: Cooperation really does work.
That long-held lesson from the famous children's television show on PBS is being brought to life by the St. Louis Symphony and KETC-TV, the Gateway City's own PBS affiliate, as they join forces for Night at the Symphony. Launched on Channel 9 just days into the new year and continuing monthly, the series solidifies a partnership between two of St. Louis' cultural pillars and brings viewers a symphony experience unlike anything they'd seen on television previously.
"I think we're just at the beginning of a really exciting journey," says Patrick Murphy, executive vice president of production at KETC, also known as the Nine Network. "After all this time, I'm still amazed by the magic and potential of television."
For Night at the Symphony, KETC and the St. Louis Symphony combine resources, knowledge and best practices into a monthly, hour-long television program that not only showcases the symphony's world-class sound but also introduces viewers to key personalities that make our orchestra so beloved. Interviews with musicians are framed by multi-camera views of the symphony in action and the bustle of Grand Center as patrons fill Powell Hall. During the first installment on January 5, the program brought violinist Joo Kim and cellist James Czyzewski to the forefront -- two soloists during the all-Tchaikovsky concert who, as married performers, share quite a different kind of bond than the other musicians might.
"Our philosophy for this is 'Peek behind the curtain,'" says Erika Ebsworth-Goold, publicist for the St. Louis Symphony. "They [Kim and Czyzewski] are married. They're adorable. Why wouldn't we want to feature them during the Tchaikovsky program -- when they're both soloing -- and interview them together about what it's like to be married to a member of the orchestra that you're in and both have big solos on the same night?
"They're wicked-talented musicians, but they're also real people, real St. Louisans. They live here, they've got families and they're great to talk to," she continues. "It was just a great personality piece. When you pair up those stories with impeccable music, how can you go wrong with that?"
Watch a teaser for Night at the Symphony below, and then watch the full episode here:
Storytelling is an important element in Night at the Symphony, no matter if it's through interviews, production value or the classical music itself. The concept isn't new to the symphony or to the Nine Network -- they'd collaborated previously for Living St. Louis programs or one-off specials -- but the focus on a regular program with consistent themes and its own branding is what's driving this new experience. And it had been percolating for quite a while.
"Patrick and I started talking, and we both realized that Channel 9 hadn't been in Powell Hall for years. We wanted to jumpstart the relationship," says Adam Crane, vice president for external affairs at the St. Louis Symphony. "We had the ability to do that now. We could give them content now."
By all accounts, the first telecast and its rebroadcast a week later seems to have resonated with audiences.
"We reached over 10,000 households last week -- more than 20,000 people," marvels Murphy, who adds that the Nine Network is frequently the top-rated PBS affiliate in the country. "Now it's like we have the potential to bring the music of the St. Louis Symphony, which is one of the best symphony orchestras in the world, to every household in St. Louis. It kind of blows me away a little bit."
On page two, learn how St. Louis could lead the way for other symphonies and PBS affiliates.