Rex Albright drew the short straw for the Symphony Presentation this morning, as two others had prior commitments. It was good to hear Rex though, from the perspective of a new employee (maybe 5 weeks) and trying to figure out the organization and the culture he works for that is so different than before in some ways. The Phoenix Symphony is starting it’s 70th season in Phoenix with performances that run from September through May. The symphony is comprised of 66 world-class musicians and the conductor is Tito Munoz who came to Phoenix from the well acclaimed Cleveland Symphony and has been on the job now for 4 years. His acumen has boosted the level of professionalism among the musicians under his leadership. Outside of the regular season, the musicians do over 200 individual and ensemble performances and events. The symphony’s home is Symphony Hall in downtown Phoenix, a building leased from the City of Phoenix and shared between the symphony, the ballet and the opera. The organization has a combined revenue of over $12 million. The conductor is paid through the Virginia Piper Trust, Earned revenue approaches $5 million with the goal to increase to $9 million over the next 5 years. (With Rex there, they will reach that goal no doubt.) The orchestra doesn’t just perform classics, but also add a pops influence with several programs with special guest conductors. Additionally, they take their show on the road, performing in Mesa at the Amphitheater and Arts Center and also in the Scottsdale Arts Center and the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM).
What was the hook that led Rex to take this position? Community Outreach, The Phoenix Symphony is involved in 3 specific programs that resonated with him. The first is Mind Over Music, bringing music to valley school districts as an adjunct to STEAM education – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. “This program partners musicians with educators to incorporate both live and digital music within a curriculum that is academically rigorous, developmentally appropriate and rich in opportunities for students to create, perform and respond in and through music. Mind Over Music provides research-driven results of the influence music has on overall academic achievement. Over the past three years, this program in Title 1 schools students have scored 13% higher, and demonstrated higher retention rates and an improved daily attendance.
The second program is a program with students in the Salt River, Pima Maricopa Tribe, called One Nation. “One Nation engages at-risk youth in a program of private and group music lessons, performances and other activities designed to complement their existing music curriculum. In addition to cultivating cross-cultural awareness, it provides access to the Symphony’s performances and programs for an under-served population. The Arizona Department of Education has praised the program for its success in improving music education, providing a continuous learning opportunity and contributing to overall student achievement and retention.”
It is probably the third program that was the hook that brought Rex to the organization – The B Sharp Music Wellness Program, a health and wellness program for Alzheimer’s patient. This program marries music with medicine in reaching patients in amazing ways. This program also touches Rex’s passion for health, wellness and service to bring resources for healing. The B Sharp Music Wellness Program promotes “physical, mental and social wellness through the healing power of music. Music wellness has been shown to be particularly effective in reducing stress, improving brain function and promoting a healthy well-being at any stage in life. It’s an outlet for older adult patients to express themselves and recall memories that music sparks and stimulates.”
“The Alzheimer’s connection is a partnership fostered between the Symphony, the College of Heath Solutions Research at ASU, the College of Nursing and Health Innovations at ASU, ASU Herberger Institute of Music and Music Therapy, Huger Mercy Living Center, part of Dignity Health and Barrow Neurological Institute, that evaluates the impact of weekly music based programs on long-term care facilities residents. Caregivers, Facility Staff and Symphony musicians measure stress levels through the use of quantitative bio marker protocols.” A paper detailing this research is forthcoming. Rex related that they measure the patients when they awaken, when they get dressed and when they eat meals and has shown that patients are still exhibiting positive effect from the music program in the days after. He will be growing this program and bringing it to the East Valley as well.
So, making a major job change is stressful and filled with anxiety. Rex is good at raising money no doubt and his passion is service and outreach and he is seeing this position as an exciting opportunity to continue serving people and the reward of being able to see a huge benefit. He loves his job. He loves touching it, feeling it, seeing it, bringing it each and every day. Thanks Rex for an awesome program and all the best as you add your magic touch.