A 3-Year Program Evaluation for a Major Symphony Orchestra
Today’s symphony orchestras, both in the U.S. and abroad, are seeking new ways to combine traditional forms of musical excellence with new models of outward facing community engagement.  As these institutions try to extend their reach, they are experimenting with novel ways to bring their music together with new audiences and foster an appreciation of their art form. 

In Chicago, the Negaunee Music Institute, a division of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA), was formed to make a focus on such work possible. Given the importance of serving its community as broadly as possible, it has been vital that the Institute’s own programs exemplify the intersection of excellence and engagement and provide wide access to engaging with and performing great music.  At the same time, internally, the Institute and the parent organization have looked for ways to operate more synergistically to accomplish their joint goals.

With these aims in mind, the Negaunee Music Institute engaged WolfBrown in a three-year project to evaluate its programs and suggest ways in which it can be even more effective in realizing its mission.  Over the course of the project, WolfBrown consultants developed program evaluation tools and trained Institute staff on implementation of these tools. These tools included internal assessment metrics, focus group protocols, and audience and participant surveys. Working with Board and staff of the Institute, as well as CSO staff from various departments, existing programs were assessed and strengthened, otherwise modified, or eliminated in order to better accomplish the goals of the Institute and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. With the training provided by WolfBrown consultants, evaluation of Institute programs will be an annual process, allowing for continual program improvements.

During the first year of the project, WolfBrown conducted a portfolio review of all Institute programs making recommendations for which should remain in the portfolio, which might be dropped, and which should be reconfigured.  It also recommended a new structure to the programs including two pathways of opportunity for constituents – one with an emphasis on learning and appreciation, the other emphasizing training and hands-on music-making.

During the second year, WolfBrown designed and conducted many surveys and focus groups in order to take a deeper look at specific programs and assess their impact. At the same time, the consultants led a planning process that developed guiding language for the Institute and its programs and included five year activity and budget projections.

The final year emphasized staff training in use of evaluation tools, further refinement of the five-year program plan, and major recommendations about retooling and redesign of specific programs.

Completed: September 2015
Consultants: Dennis Palmer Wolf, Thomas Wolf, Alan Brown, Jane Culbert
Category: Program Design & Evaluation