MA 30 The Influencers: Jon Limbacher
Managing Director and President
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
Less is more when it comes to ticket pricing. That’s the philosophy of Jon Limbacher, who is returning to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, where he first began implementing a policy of dramatically lowering ticket prices in order to spur attendance and expand the pool of orchestra supporters and potential donors.
In October, the SPCO announced that Limbacher, who has been with the Cleveland Orchestra as chief development officer since 2012, was to succeed its retiring Managing Director and President Bruce Coppock, in January. The new SPCO leadership team also includes Kyu-Young Kim, principal second violin in the chamber orchestra, as artistic director.
During his first time around in St. Paul, Limbacher, who held the title of vice president and COO, helped to initiate a strategy to make concerts as accessible as possible by lowering ticket prices. Ultimately, more than 80 percent of the ticket inventory was available for $25 or less. “When you have across-the-board lower prices, the message you send is that this is a community asset and it’s here for everyone,” he says. “Attendance increased by more than 40 percent and we found that full halls are part of the case for support for contributed revenue.” Under his leadership, individual giving to the annual fund more than doubled, board giving more than quadrupled, and the endowment more than doubled in size.
Other orchestras followed suit in adopting “the St. Paul model” and restructured their pricing with good results, such as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Florida Orchestra, and the Evansville Philharmonic in Indiana. In Cleveland, Limbacher’s efforts included the Center for Future Audiences, a program to create one of the youngest audiences of any symphony orchestra in the country through free and reduced-price tickets for students.