Nathan Newbrough, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, is entering his 10th year at the nonprofit organization.
Since being named CEO in 2008, Newbrough has pulled the philharmonic out of financial turmoil and significantly increased attendance, ticket sales and subscribers.
“There was the perception that the orchestra was just about one step from going under,” said Newbrough. “Whether that was true or not, that was the perception in the community, and it’s so important to me that what we say about ourselves … has got to be positive about the potential for what can be.”
Now the organization is bringing in 60 percent of its revenue in ticket sales and 40 percent in donations, which is the opposite of the U.S. standard in this industry, he said. Season and single-ticket sales in 2014-15 totaled $1.7 million.
The next year the Philharmonic brought in $1.9 million, and during the 2016-17 season, a total of $2.17 million in revenue was generated, said Catherine Creppon, the Philharmonic’s director of advancement.
So far the 2017-18 season has produced $1.3 million in revenue, and single tickets just went on sale Aug. 16. In the upcoming season, the Philharmonic will perform 48 shows in their 19-concert series.
Newbrough graduated from Appalachian State University, and after working for the League of American Orchestras, he volunteered as general manager for the Greenwich Village Orchestra in New York in 2000. He was then executive director for the Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes in 2001 and became executive director for the Amarillo Symphony in Texas in 2004. The Colorado Springs Philharmonic board of directors selected Newbrough as president and CEO in 2008.
Newbrough spoke with the Business Journal about the Philharmonic’s successes over the past decade.
What is the Philharmonic’s impact on the city?
It’s over $8 million a year in economic impact. The direct impact would be that we pay all of our musicians; we pay the Pikes Peak Center. Most of the expenses that we have are local or regional. When you come to a concert … you may do all these things that surround the concert, which tells us that the cost of your ticket is not the only expense you have that night, it’s also the businesses that you patronize as part of your experience.
I think businesses should know we are a way to reach out to a very select group of community members. People who appreciate quality; they’re extremely loyal and they’re the die-hard community members.
But beyond that, this is a cultural asset. It is a reason people move here. … When families are considering a move to Colorado Springs, when they’re considering a vacation here, they’re saying, ‘What kind of community is this?’ Simply put, [the Philharmonic] is a tremendous community culture asset. It is a source of community pride and it is such great music.
What would you attribute your success to as CEO?
It’s been important to be passionate about the music. It’s been important to be genuine about my relationships with people. It’s been important to trust them to do their best [whether they’re on the board, on staff or a musician], and it’s been important to have deep relationships with members of the audience. It’s a challenge, but it’s one I’m taking on to make some level of relationship with all of them, so they know they can trust what we offer next.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I think any successful leader of an organization is going to have a strong empathy for the people they work with and the ability to relate to them. It’s also based on a deep love for this music.
[Sometimes] you have to give yourself a locker room talk to say: ‘Never, never, never give up.’ There have been times during these 10 years, especially early on, when things were very dark. Behind the scenes for the orchestra, being relentlessly positive is something that’s needed all the time.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or anyone in the music industry?
It’s about people — it’s about the musicians on the stage; it’s about the composers that we honor; it’s about the members of the audience; it’s about the leadership behind the scenes. It’s about the community at large that benefits from having a world-class symphony orchestra. Keeping those things in mind while going through the daily grind is so important.