Building a season of entertainment: Behind the scenes

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Tryon Fine Arts Center’s 2016-2017 Main Stage season opens with The Hot Club of San Francisco on Oct. 1, but behind-the-scenes preparations have been going on for over a year.

“Creating a season can be a multi-year process,” said TFAC Executive Director Marianne Carruth.

From world-renowned pianist George Winston, to the quirky standup comedy and original songwriting of Jackie Tohn, TFAC is dedicated to offering a variety of styles and genres on the Main Stage.

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“It’s not often that you find a bluegrass and Americana star like Sierra Hull and a Broadway veteran like J. Mark McVey at the same venue in the same season, but we think the audience is there for both,” said Carruth.

Patrons often ask how the season is scheduled and how the artists enjoyed at Tryon Fine Arts Center are chosen. The executive director leads a volunteer program committee, that, along with input from technical and marketing staff, is responsible for choosing the artists. While there’s no set formula, many factors are at the heart of the selections. 

TFAC’s selection committee values audience requests and word of mouth, as well as industry events and networking with other venues to identify in-demand, high-quality performers. TFAC staff attend national and regional showcases sponsored by organizations like the North Carolina Presenters Consortium (NCPC) and South Arts.

“Showcases make it easy to discover artists that we might not have otherwise considered. Comedienne Jackie Tohn was such a surprise and a delight at the NCPC Conference in 2015, and we instantly knew she would be a welcome addition to our stage. We might have missed out if not for the showcase event,” said Carruth.

Of the utmost importance is the quality.  The artists must be excellent at their craft and bring a quality and professionalism that will uplift and inspire both the committee and the audience. Mastery of their genre is essential.

Also, the foothills area is an eclectic and sophisticated population, appreciative of performances which represent the national and international performing arts scene.  TFAC strives to present artists representing the diverse tastes of area patrons and to expand the experiences of the audience members. 

“Other considerations are more pragmatic,” continues Carruth. “My first question after identifying the artistry and genre is ‘what is the availability and fee range of the artist?’ These factors have to fit within the constraints of our calendar and budget. We are a community resource first, and many community groups have first choice of dates, which can often impact TFAC events.” 

The expenses, which include the artist fee, production costs (marketing, labor, equipment purchases and rentals), artist housing and hospitality, and income from ticket sales, grants and sponsorships must be balanced.

“With only 315 seats, the expense of presenting a show must be met with other support in addition to ticket sales. Sponsorships allow Tryon Fine Arts Center to bring world class artists to our community.

“We could not cover the costs of national acts without support from businesses, individuals and the media,” Carruth concluded.

– article submitted by Michelle Fleming