Despite pandemic and wildfires, the 2021 Britt Season comes to a successful close
Published: October 13, 2021
Overcoming multiple challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic and several weeks of wildfire smoke in the region, the Britt Music & Arts Festival has completed an outstanding season filled with amazing music and artists. Britt thanks its patrons, members, business partners, media partners, artists, and fans for a successful season.
This year, the Britt Festival Orchestra (BFO) kicked off the season with an onstage reading of classic pieces, followed by six performances of Brush: Music in the Woodlands, a work specially commissioned and composed by Caroline Shaw that was performed on the Jacksonville Woodlands Trail system. In addition, the BFO offered an online explorational experience: the BFO edition of Ellen Reid’s SOUNDWALK, an installation art piece that is still available through October 15th. All of the BFO offerings this season were free to the public. Also, in a post-season accolade, BFO Music Director Teddy Abrams was recently named the 2022 Musical America Conductor of the Year.
Ticket sales for the Britt Presents series began briskly with strong membership enrollment and the first sold-out show came soon after general public sales began. Wildfire smoke slowed ticket sales in August and early September then sales rebounded toward the end of the season. Four of the 15 Britt Presents concerts sold out (Trampled by Turtles, ZZ Top, Rebelution, and Lee Brice). During the shortened season, Britt presented 15 popular Britt Presents concerts, seven Britt Festival Orchestra concerts, and nine online BrittKids Koncert videos.
“2021 will long be remembered as one of the most rewarding seasons Britt has ever had,” says Britt President & CEO Donna Briggs. “Our outstanding board, staff, and volunteers stepped up to the challenge and created opportunities for new Britt Experiences for our patrons in spite of everything that was thrown at us. Our patrons responded with solid attendance and enthusiastic support for live music at Britt.”
Overall attendance for the 15 Britt Presents concerts was 26,859, with an average attendance of 1,790 patrons per concert. Attendance numbers per concert were up compared to 2019 while ticket prices remained flat. The BFO’s Brush series drew 2,129 patrons, and approximately 500 people attended the free BFO concert that opened the season.
Ticket sales cover just 60% of Britt’s operating expenses on average for the Britt Presents season and 33% for the Britt Festival Orchestra season. As a non-profit organization, Britt relies on contributed income to cover the gap. Membership numbers were 3% higher than in 2019, with a total of 1,280 members. Business Partner contributions saw a decrease over 2019, totaling $256,200, primarily due to offering half the number of concerts held in a typical year. Grant funding through foundations continues to grow and support our operations and education programs. General operating and program grants are up 28% to a total of $250,177.
Although only presenting half of the number of Britt Presents concerts compared to other years, the 2021 Britt Presentsseries provided a wide variety of musical styles for patrons. The season kicked off with the wonderful “Queen of Soul” Gladys Knight, a fitting return after being shuttered for a season. The season also highlighted several classic rock artists, including a sold-out performance by ZZ Top. Additionally, Keb’ Mo’ brought blues back to the Britt main stage and Lee Brice brought smiles to the faces of a sold-out venue of country fans. Highlights also include The Beach Boys, 38 Special, Michael Franti, Pink Martini, Chicago, Trampled By Turtles, and finished with Shakey Graves.
During the abbreviated 2021 Britt Festival Orchestra (BFO) season, Music Director and Conductor Teddy Abrams led members of Britt’s world-class orchestra in seven performances plus a virtual online experience. Abrams enthusiastically welcomed BFO patrons back to the Britt hill at the beginning of the orchestra season and led a BFO chamber ensemble in a reading of popular orchestral works ranging from Wagner to Copland and Mozart in the first performance of any kind on the Britt main stage in almost two years. The main event of the BFO season was a commissioned work that was not performed on the stage, but was performed by musicians along the Jacksonville Woodlands trail system that winds its way through the hills above the venue. The BFO co-commissioned and performed Brush: Music in the Woodlands written by Pulitzer Prize-winner and 2019 Composer/Conductor Fellow, Caroline Shaw. Musicians and patrons were impressed and awed by the successful production of an experimental piece performed in nature instead of in a traditional stage setting. In addition to these performances, the BFO also co-commissioned another experimental piece that has been available through a smartphone app since July 1st and continues through October 15th: Ellen Reid’s SOUNDWALK. Using location technologies that are built into smartphones, the SOUNDWALK allowed patrons to download a BFO-specific version of the composition that was specifically designed for Jacksonville and surrounding hiking trails. Once installed and started, the phone app plays different elements from Elen Reid’s composition as the listener walks and explores different areas on the guiding map. Composed by Pulitzer Prize winner and artist Ellen Reid, the SOUNDWALK experience provided a memorable way to explore music and Jacksonville during a time when people were distancing. It completed a unique and memorable BFO season.
Britt Education and Engagement is wrapping up a successful season of virtual offerings and has two Residency programs scheduled for local school visits in October. Since the pandemic prevented Britt Education from producing live education programs, they used the opportunity to create virtual programs and expand social media presence. Through the Britt Bridge Series, Britt continued to offer music education through connections with professional musicians.
A few examples of those artists include:
The Oregon Wind Quintet of University of Oregon
BFO Concertmaster, Ignace Jang
Mill City String Quartet, featuring BFO cellist Ruth Marshall
BFO Principal Trumpet, Conrad Jones
BFO Principal Clarinet, Andrea Levine
Kevin Carr, folk multi-instrumentalist
Britt Education also launched a new series: BFO Fellows – Where Are They Now? Many of our past Fellows performed a favorite piece, talked about what they were up to this year, and shared their favorite memories of their time at Britt.
The free BrittKids Koncerts Video Series was presented online again this year from June 16th to August 11th. Hosted by the amazing Nanny Nikki, the series brought such entertaining artists as Magnetic West Music, Red Yarn, the Pegasus Puppet Theater, Aaron Nigel Smith, and Nanny Nikki herself.
Fall residencies began this week with the acclaimed jazz flugelhorn player Dmitri Matheny (October 13-15). The Residency program brings teaching artists to schools in Jackson and Josephine counties, working with pre-school through graduate-level students. Our free education programs occur throughout the year, and the community will continue to see a variety of offerings every month. For more information about upcoming education events, visit the Education pages on the Britt website and join the BrittKids Klub for monthly emails about Britt Education & Engagement programs and schedules.
The Britt Membership drive for 2022 began October 8th. The public can learn more about supporting Britt at http://www.brittfest.org/supportbritt.
In addition to the programs that were presented by Britt this season, it was also a leader in the live venue industry in Oregon. When the policy requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test was implemented, Britt brought a testing facility to the venue, supplying 15-minute rapid antigen tests for patrons on the days prior to and days of concerts. Britt continues to collaborate with Curative Inc. on offering rapid COVID-19 tests at the Britt venue in Jacksonville. Open to the public now through Saturday, October 16, 1:00 – 6:00pm and Monday – Friday, October 18 – 29, 8:00am – 3:00pm. No out-of-pocket expense. Registration can be set up at https://curative.com/sites/31769.