WhyWeWork BrianVee
WhyWeWork BrianVee

Episode 63 · 1 year ago

#63 Aubrey Bergauer - CEO of Changing the Narrative - BrianVee WhyWeWork

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Aubrey Bergauer is Changing the Narrative of classical music and with her company Aubrey is changing the way businesses see themselves and propel companies to reach a broader audience.

Contact Info

Aubrey’s Profile
linkedin.com/in/aubreybergauer

Website
aubreybergauer.com/ (Company Website)

Twitter
AubreyBergauer

About

"Credited by Southwest Magazine with “redefining the classical concert experience as we know it,” Aubrey Bergauer defies trends and then makes her own. Her focus on not just engaging — but retaining — new audiences grew Seattle Opera’s BRAVO! Club to the largest group for young patrons in the nation, led the Bumbershoot Festival to achieve an unprecedented 43% increase in revenue, and propelled the California Symphony to nearly double the size of its audience and quadruple its donor base.

Praised by Wall Street Journal for leadership which “points the way to a new style of audience outreach,” Bergauer’s ability to strategically and holistically advance every facet of an organization, instilling and achieving common goals and vision across typically siloed marketing, development, and artistic departments, is creating a transformational change in the audience, in the office, on the stage, and in the community.

A graduate of Rice University with degrees in Music Performance and Business, Bergauer shares these ideas via her consulting work and speaking engagements across North America, including conferences for Adobe’s Magento, TEDx, Capacity Interactive, Opera America, Orchestras Canada, and the League of American Orchestras.


"[Bergauer] points the way to a new style of audience outreach—one that’s not for millennials only." —Wall Street Journal

"A millennial who believes in both Mozart and metrics...redefining the classical concert experience as we know it.” —Southwest Airlines Magazine

"[Bergauer] bristles with statistics, ideas and sharp new perspectives on the challenges facing symphony orchestras in the 21st century.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“These days in the Bay Area, the California Symphony may be the most forward-looking music organization around.” —San Jose Mercury News" (LinkedIn, 2020)

...welcome to why we work with your host Brian V. As he speaks to people like you from all over the world as we together dive deeper into our motivations, struggles, joys, seemingly missteps, hopes, warnings and advice, which would be an encouragement to us all to get up, get going on, keep on working. Working is tough, but working is good. Now here's your host to why we work. Brian V on Brian V. And this is why we work today. Have the great pleasure Speaking with Aubrey Berg, our she is the CEO of changing the narrative. In her experience, she has been working with classical music, and our hope was to change the narrative change the way people used to do things into a more updated version where they can reach a broader audience. I know she's a speaker and a consultant to I'd like to find out today how she's able to expand her expertise into other fields to help other companies reach a broader audience and do better in business. Join me in my conversation with Aubrey Berg, our I'm Brian V, and this is why we work today, have the great pleasure of speaking with Aubrey Berg. Our good Good evening, young lady. Good to be here. I am. I'm very happy toe, have you here? We were just chatting a moment ago. Tryingto get to know each other. So obviously we do not know each other very well. And I'll do introduction to you at the beginning. Or they would have heard it by now. But can you fill us in a little bit better than I'm able to? Sure. My background is in classical music and I have made my whole career about changing the paradigms within classical music. So for anybody listening to this, a soon as I said, classical music, you probably had some stereotypes which are not wrong and jump into your head about what that means. What that music is like, what the concert experiences like, who the audience is on DSanders Lee. Ah, lot of that is very true. And my whole career has been about how do we break that down? How do we re bright what this music genre is and who were serving and what we're all about? So in a nutshell, that's what I've done on Guy worked in all kinds of different arts organizations really defying the trends of the industry. Aubrey and I'd really like to get into this because I think it's gonna be interesting in your career path that has led you up to this point. But what would have been your very first job? The very first, even as a teenager, something maybe it could have been related to classical music, but something that may have been totally unrelated, like selling lemonade or doing puppet shows or something for your friend. I definitely was eliminated. Stand kid. I feel like all like that question prompts, like my earliest memories of working are something very sales oriented. So totally was the kid on the block like anybody having a garage sale, I would be like, Yeah, let's get already together. We're doing the lemonade stand. And I was the delegator. You know, you bring the cooler of lemonade, you get the cups, I'll bring some change so we can make change for people who don't have coins like that kind of thing. So definitely early on one of those types of kids, Um, how old How old would you have been around that age? Starting something? Gosh, elementary school so maybe likely. I don't know. Second grade, through fifth grade. Maybe. I don't know that you're one of the youngest so far. I mean, a couple of people, but that's really good. I mean it, Z what I'd like to show. And you're asking me a moment ago about the audience. It's It's to show people the drive that people had. You know, some...

...people didn't have that drive as a young kid, and it was until later, maybe they realized, realized some responsibilities in life. But it's pretty amazing. Great. I mean, I have a son who will be in great to next year, but like to imagine him like Papa. I need I'm gonna go do this, you know, I'm gonna organize people making money, and I mean, that's that's a great thing. What? What was the drive? Where did that maybe come from? Even like great. 2345 Where is that starting toe? Yeah, I've always I've always been one that wants to like, like, rally people around an idea. And so somehow it is young age that manifested itself with, like Okay, if the garage sales happening down the street, then let's get all those people channeled through this thing we've made called a lemonade stand so but I think that's what it's about. It's always always like every memory I think about in terms of work, and what's driving me has always been about moving a group of people forward in some way. So besides these things that are more part time and maybe more seasonal, what was your first official job? Maybe, Obviously, you're probably in your teens to gosh, let's see, yeah, in my teens, What did I do? I work for the school district. One year that was you were a teenager working for the school district. You e totally no, not make fun. It's great. Like I probably I don't want to say I hated school, but the idea is you weren't gonna find me working in school, you know, especially outside of the hours, a regular school hours. But that's what I remember that was in high school, and I remember knowing I wanted to pursue some sort of business opportunity. E think I wanted it to be in classical music, but I wasn't really sure of that point, and I got credit hours for doing it So I got paid, but also got some course. Credit was like a mix of that. And so I was odd for me. I got to kill two birds with one stone, make some money and get some credit. You really had your ducks lined up? Oh, yeah. You're a to a fault. You're getting paid in high school at school. When did I guess if you were thinking of classical school or classical education later on, even in high school, where did the bug of music start for you? When did you start getting into maybe even playing music? Yeah, So I played an instrument all growing up, and I grew up in Houston, Texas. I played in the Houston Youth Symphony and I loved it. I loved playing, but the that moment for me, where it really opened things up was when the youth orchestra went through an executive director change. And so, you know, the music director is normally the person waving the baton. But the executive director is most often behind the scenes doing the business side of things. And they didn't say a lot to us kids in the orchestra about that, that I just remember there was a change in this position and they introduced this new person to us before rehearsal one day. And that was enough for me to realize, Oh, there's a job that's offstage. It's managing this entire operation and that sounds like the lemonade stand kid in me. It was like that sounds like what I want to dio. And so music could be a really important part of my life. But I'm not performing for the rest of my life. What instrument were you playing? I played the tuba. Believe it or not, I don't look like a tuba player for anybody listening. But I loved it that now Who was that? Your first instrument? The Too bad? Yeah, when I was little, I had to sit on phone books just so I could reach the mouthpiece. What made you decide to to I mean, we have a daughter as well, and our son is playing. The both of them are playing violin and piano, but I think it was probably mawr of us. The push. Where did the push come for just e mean literally picking up the tuba I was talked into. It is the honest answer. I remember going Thio our middle school...

...like in fifth grade before sixth grade. You get to go, like, sign up for what instrument you're gonna play if you're going to join the band. And I wanted to play the saxophone. I thought that was, like, the coolest instrument in the universe. I thought jazz was awesome. I know. I just sort of super cool. And I went up the saxophone in in grade six and I lasted two weeks. And then my mom was not impressed. No, no. Two weeks. I last it. That was it. Oh, gosh. So I go to sign up for this, and the band director says your mouth isn't right. Which translation means too many kids signed up for this already pick something else. And so I started crying on the spot Light must be a difficult position. That must be a very difficult position for a music teacher. I mean, they're managing as you're, like, intertwining and along. All they're saying is Okay, there's this group this number of people that want this instrument and you had a dream or desire or passion it like No. Can you do this? That must be a higher position for a music teacher or anyone in those types of positions. Yeah, I'm sure. I think looking at it now, in hindsight, I see that in the moment I just was devastated. But But I remember the band teacher saying, you know, you look like a brass player. This look like you can play Something is just so bogus, but like a Yeah, Exactly. Here you go. And I remember them saying, like, are you responsible? Can you handle a school owned instrument? I was just, like, wiping here through my eyes, like whatever I'm sure. And that's how it started. So it started. Maybe not the best day of my life, but very quickly. I realized on this is true to my personality to like, Oh, I'm the the girl to the player among all the guys And then the competitive person and me really came out and I was like a player of all the guys you're Yeah, sitting on my phone books, trying very hard and practicing quite a lot. And then and then from there, I really enjoyed it. And it became this seriousness threat in my life. So for with the tuba were. You're learning classical music right away. I mean, not right away, but you're learning scales and all of that. But the bent that you took right away Yeah, I remember. I mean, I loved the middle school band that would like and you just playing any kind of music you at that age, it's like cover songs and pop songs and maybe some more like sort of traditional band music. And then, by high school, is when things really started becoming more clear. First of all, I hated marching band, like, Did not wanna walk around carrying you do it. I did it my freshman year and then decided This'll is not not happening. So marching band is tough. I mean, for the easiest, even if even if you have, like a trumpet or something, I'm so I will even ah, saxophone or a snare drum something small, very hard. Yeah. Eso eso There was that piece just the physical aspect that I was like. That's what I like making music. I'm not here to, like march around carrying this big thing. And then simultaneously at that point I had one that audition for the Houston you symphony was being exposed to more music with the full orchestra and realizing, Oh, yeah, this is like being a part of a big ensemble sitting in a chair, not marching around. I just like that so much more. Was there anyone in your family that was musical is well or is this just your own thing and something new for your family? Not seriously musical. My parents both played instruments growing up, but never super seriously but some of my earliest memories or my dad's record collection. And he would play all kinds of music, everything from you know, Michael Jackson as a child of the eighties Thio, Stravinsky's Firebird and I remember like the dichotomy of...

...all that music being played and so classical music and all genres of music, where in my life from early on and that way so I know you went on to Rice University. So how did that how did you define? I mean, you had your ducks lined up, so you're probably thinking well in advance, you might have scouted out some schools. Maybe someone has scouted out you. How did how did that process work for you? I have decided at that point. I already had that moment of Wow, There's a job managing the orchestra, really inspired and captivated by that idea. And so for me, I wanted to go to a place where I could pursue business as well as pursue music, knowing that I wanted to put those two ideas together for a career. So a lot of times in the performing arts, especially in classical music, you goto a conservatory where you're just training for that instrument on Lee and for me, that's not what I wanted. I wanted this whole business training as well. So Rice is one of a handful of schools that has an excellent music program, but also really excellent, truly excellent academics. And I thought, Well, if I can do both of those things at a great school, Wow, that my mom and I like you know, 16, 17 year old mind As I was sorting out flying on, applying for college, I was like, Yeah, that's what I want to dio. And so I got in. I passed the audition on the music side. I was admitted academically, and for me that was a really, um, a really just banner milestone accomplishment. So as you were finishing university, did you start applying for jobs and something in particular? I know you're in California now. Is that something where a place where you wanted to be. Did you were you that forward looking into your career already? Yeah, California comes later, for sure. But out of school I was applying for entry level jobs at orchestras, and my first job ended up being in Seattle at the Seattle Symphony. And after graduating, I was really lucky. You got got a job at this great orchestra and that first job out of college. WAAS working with all the donors. So I did all of the donor events and what we call donors stewardship, like thanking them for their gift. And here's a cocktail party and those sorts of things, and it was a good job and that I learned a lot about fundraising. I learned a lot about working with donors. I learned a lot about all the different types of donors, from individuals to corporations, thio foundations. And so that was my first job was I was very lucky to be able to do what I had sought to do with my education Opry on a side note. Could you speak of the process of maybe even out of university or just before finishing, applying for jobs? I mean, how many jobs did you apply for? How nervous were you on the interviews? That's what their stuff thio Land start. And as you start to plot your career and definitely applied for a handful of jobs, I I knew I wanted to work for an orchestra. I didn't know where I did not have clarity is what? Within that I remember the Seattle Symphony asking you what You're fresh out of college. What do you want to dio? And I remember thinking, I want a job, you know? And so that's where I didn't have clarity. And where I think music schools could do a better job today, sort of helping students understand the spectrum of opportunity available. Um, so I too share that to say That's what I was lacking then, for sure. Um, you know, do you want to do marketing? Do you want to do fundraising? Do you want to do artistic planning, operations, production, finances? And I was just like anything. Whatever you have opened that that's what I want to dio. So I was able to leverage my teeny tiny...

...network at that time. And one of the teachers that I had at Rice, who who played in the Houston Symphony, knew somebody who had later gone on to work in Seattle. And so sure enough, even right out of college, like the network and who you knew really mattered for me and that was that was enough that with my lack of clarity on what I wanted to do, I was able to get my foot in the door for an interview and say, You know, I'm here to learn. This is what I want to do with my for my life's work. Whatever you have, I want to help with. And so that was that Nativity. Come on, network being was enough to help me get get that first job. Yeah, maybe, I don't know, naive. But you you had the wherewithal to know you were brave enough. You were courageous enough, even though you felt you lack some of the clarity necessary to define what it is you wanted to do. But you still put that forward. The foot forward. You put out a resume you're willing to put yourself out there for an interview and you're willing Thio, grab hold of a dream or a passion that you had despite and I think that's it's a good encouragement for people because not everyone has that clarity. And usually, I mean, you were pretty clear in growing up, but it wasn't truly defined. But a lot of people are similar to that, even if they don't have the same clarity you had as a teenager being business oriented, music oriented and you pursued that all the way to today. But I think it's a great encouragement for people to know that even if you're not quite sure, But you have a little idea of what it is you want to do, get out there and do it, and then you can leverage some of the networking opportunities you have. Or if you don't have any and you just stumble into a position, you can learn on the job. If they're so willing to give you that opportunity, Yeah, absolutely. I think you know, having clarity. It's a blessing and a curse in that way. Like I was so laser focused on what I thought my end goal what I wanted. But then to reverse engineer that Teoh, what do I do is my first step out of college. It was a little bit, I don't know, like applying to the right places. I wanna work on an orchestra. But then, as we said within that, what does that look like? And having to kind of figure that out. So, yeah, I love what you're saying. That that's okay. And there's so much opportunity. Thio, try and see how it goes. And that's a good way to learn, in my opinion, because a lot of people would sit back on their heels and say, Well, you know, I don't have the confidence. I don't have the knowledge. I don't have the education, I don't And some of those things can be attained mawr easily than others, but not toe lean back to press forward because in many respects a lot of people respect that. Even if you're lacking that clarity, you're willing to put yourself out there bringing yourself today to today and what you do What what? How did you get there specifically? And what is it that you do each day and maybe even with Cove. It might be changing some things up for you. So the next steps for me? After that job in Seattle Symphony Waas, I learned talking about learning. I learned pretty quickly. Fundraising isn't my favorite. I learned a lot. It's tough love hanging with the donors, but new like Okay, Aubrey and I really started thinking, Okay, What's next? Well, what? All right, Aubrey, what did you not like about the fundraising? Because it gives people some clarity cause it's not hard, right? No matter how like getting money, getting donors, getting support, going back like it's for people have never experienced it. It's a grind. It's a grind. I think that's maybe the best way to put it is that it really is. And I think also at the time there was definitely, um, there's a big age difference from somebody who had recently graduated from college to working with major donors and and, you know, later in life a lot of people have much more income. And so it tended to be the donors, and especially donors to an orchestra skewed much older. So that alone made just, um ah, I really I had to talk...

...about like work. It felt like such work. Thio converse with donors If I'm talking to somebody in their seventies or eighties and we shared an interest in classical music, so thank goodness I was well versed in how to talk about that, but that relationships are such an important part of fundraising that I think at the time that age difference was was really challenging. Um, so combine that with the grind of, you know, you secure a gift or, in my case, plan a successful event, and then it's like immediately onto the next. Okay, Where we going to get the next gift? Who is that coming from? Which donor are we cultivating right now? And so grind really is the perfect word because it just it's endless. And I don't hate it. It was enough to know that. Okay, if I'm gonna be a CEO of a major orchestra someday opera, you need fundraising chops. So I'm glad that that was the first experience, but I think those are the reasons why I thought Okay, what's next? What are the other tools? I needed my chest. If I'm going to advance to that big jobs fundraising reminds me. I did a resident manager job maintaining an apartment building, and everyone was perfectly fine with me. We had good relationships until someone fell behind in rent and then having to go and ask for money. I mean, there's that that money thing with people, too. It's like they okay, here comes Aubrey here comes out. She wants money in the back of the bike, right? And that's that's a hard, you know, mountain to get over. And not only that you had a passion for music and you had this business expertise growing inside you and just wanting, you know, and it's something you really believed in. But you're you're asking for something from these people, and that was probably, I mean for me. It changed the relationship with the people that I thought I had a pretty good relationship with, and it really crushed my soul toe. I mean, asking for rent that's overdue is a little different than asking for gifts for you know, the things that they share. A passionate, but there's still a different dynamic toe asking for something from someone, Um, and it's it's hard, and then you got to do it again and again, again and again. Yeah, exactly which eventually you grow very thick skin, which it was good training and learning for me. Um, but to the question of the path after that, Seattle Opera called and they said we want your event planning experience to run our young patrons club. Are you interested? So talk about everything I just mentioned with each different, like liking some of the parts of the events themselves were fine. And then being able Thio Channel that into an opportunity that was okay for operagoers in their twenties and thirties. All right, these are my people. Uh uh, planning events around the opera that help educate what's going to be on stage and whether that's a party or more of a traditional, like lecture or sort of type of event. I thought Yes. Okay. This is great. Three young patrons club had a junior board. So with my, you know, future looking hat on, I thought, Yes, I need experience with the board, even if it's a junior board. If ultimately I want to be working with the big board quote unquote. So all those things Oh, and it was run through the marketing department, and I thought, Okay, Now let's try some Try my hand at marketing so I can add those skills to my, uh, to my wheelhouse. So I went to Seattle Opera, ended up staying there for several years, uh, with increasing responsibilities. It was one of those jobs that really, uh, evolved as I was there, and I grew up more. And at the time, that's when digital marketing was sort of coming to the forefront and social media was coming to the forefront. And that's where my age benefited me because I was the kid in the office saying, We need a presence on social media. Let me start. Can I start that for us? And I've learned, How do we contract digital ads So we...

...can try this new vehicle for advertising so that maybe we're reaching different people than the people who are reading the newspaper every week? And I was there any grumblers? Do you remember e going to spend the money on that? That right there is, like, my whole career in the arts, Brian, like everybody, like I'm trying to push the envelope. I'm trying to do some new things and everybody saying woe for centuries. We've done it this other way. So So? Yes, totally that happened. And but But that's when I learned that being data driven is very helpful because then it's not just Aubrey squawks squawks. What I think we should dio it's no look. This is measurable and we contract the success from this. And that was true on both those mediums to deal advertising and social media. And so from there was able to get the buy in because I was able thio putting. Yeah, I have been in a room with you and you're like, Here's the numbers. Well, some people, they like the numbers they could be convinced by the numbers. Oh, absolutely. And that's something I used to this day I've become so data driven, and especially in the arts, where so much of it is subjective, like we evaluate our very subjectively, whether that's classical music or a painting on the wall of a museum like right artisan There, beauty's in the eye of the beholder. Except what except when it comes Thio doing the business. And I'm like, No, no, no, no, no. Here are the numbers. Here's what they say. Let's look at that, and that has been a real driving factor from that point on my in my career forward. So you were there for a few years, and then when did you hunker down where you are? Let's see. So, uh, from there I went on, there was a local music festival. The Bumbershoot Music Festival, outside of classical music I was brought on, is the marketing director. So some career advancement there and then eventually number two Overall revenue contributed revenue. They did a lot of corporate sponsorships as well as the marketing and ticket sales. And then finally, in 2014, I moved to California, and this was like personal, converging with work. And that was it was married. By that time, my husband's in tech. So with him and tech me in the arts, we'd always sort of had our eye on San Francisco. And in 2014, both of us thought, you know what's next for us. What's next after Seattle and we both just decided, Let's let's start looking and see how this goes. So sure enough, he landed at a tech company. I was looking at the big arts organizations in San Francisco's San Francisco Symphony, the opera applying for a sort of, at that point middle to senior ish management jobs. And then a Norquist ra, just outside the city about 20 miles east, called the Recruiter called me and they said, Where the California Symphony we're looking for a new executive director were smaller than those other organizations you're looking at. But we want your experience from those big organizations in Seattle to come here and help us. We need the help. You Sorry. Can you speak of your your confidence level at this point? Because now you have a number of years of experience. You know, you weren't the same girl coming at a university, right? You have a lot more clarity you received, and you did well in the roles that you were in. And then you and your husband are moving to California, and you're kind of picking what you want. Can you speak thio? How the experience and and you know, the courage or the determination The dedication to your work in your craft helped you get to that level of confidence. Yeah, thanks for articulating that. Because you're right. If there's a real shift at the point when a recruiter calls you and says, We want to talk to you And definitely at that point I was able to draw on confidence rooted in my prior...

...experience. And I remember saying to the recruiter and then eventually the board, as I was going through the interview process, talk about confidence. I remember saying, Look, a lot of ideas about classical music and what needs to change. So if you bring me here, you have got to buckle up and be ready for that. Are you ready for that? Do you want change? Because so many arts organizations say we need change. We want younger audiences, but you have truthfully are very reticent to do anything differently. And I remember the board's saying no, like they were in the midst of financial crisis. They were like things were so bad. We know we have to do it differently. Otherwise we will not survive. And I thought, All right, isn't that a nice feeling, though, of that confidence of I don't know if it was the explanation you used exclamation of look. But to be sitting people dread interviews, right? I don't dread interviews anymore, right? Maybe I used Thio at a university or something even younger. But when you when you have the experience, you have the knowledge. You know what you know, and you can look at them and actually be interviewing them and turn the table around. Isn't that a great feeling? It's a great feeling. And I feel like I remember receiving that advice early on. You know, you're interviewing them, Justus Muchas. They're interviewing you, and that's true. But I think when if I don't know, at some point mentally, something switched for me. Uh, no, Aubrey get serious about interviewing them. And what do they have to say? Like at some point, I realized, No, that makes a difference in my own happiness and fulfillment. So get with it, Aubrey. And how much you're interviewing them as well. So yeah, I love that you said that. Well, they always ask, you know, do you have any questions? And a lot of people don't have any questions, but you should turn it around and see really what they offer you and what value they could bring to your life. Because hopefully your plan is to stay with them for a number of years. which means a lot of investment. Time invested time. Exactly. And in this case, I knew it was gonna be a turnaround situation. And I thought, Opera, you gotta learn the dirt. You gotta learn it now because you will learn it later. And you don't want it to be surprised. You want to know it now? And you want that buy in from the board now so that you could do the things that you want to do. That. At that point, I had been, like, commentating in my mind for a decade prior thinking. Okay, this is this is what's broken about classical music, and this is what I want to do to try to address it. So are you able Thio? I mean, even at the young age when you saw some changes in high school. But were you when were you able to define the rial core problems with classical music? Mm. Some of the problems I think I observed all the way back going to high school, For example. I remember my first experiences in Houston, my hometown at the Houston Symphony at the Houston Grand Opera. And even if somebody who was a teenager seriously pursuing music because I did not come from a super serious musical family. I didn't know all of the unspoken expectations and rules out of performance, for example. So I didn't know my first time when I went, I think my first time using Symphony I was in elementary school and I didn't know when to applaud or not. Went to applaud eso things like that. And, um, I didn't know, even just like how long each piece of music was gonna be. Now I know there's a very standard format of, like, a 10 minute overture, a 20 minute concerto in a 45 minute symphonic work. No orchestra prints that anywhere on their programs. That California Symphony. So eso those kinds of things in those moments early on made me realize that those were just a few examples. But there's so many things that professional classical...

...music organizations really assume, the audience knows, and the reality is, very few people in life are music majors. Very few people in life have that sort of baseline education that the organization is assuming they have, and especially in America. With the decline in public music education, fewer and fewer people do have a baseline understanding of classical music. And so I had been putting all of that together, like since high school as you said, and then seeing that play out in my jobs at Cielo Symphony in Seattle Opera and then coming to the California Symphony, finally, as executive director, where I could make organization wide changed to say no, we will think about our customer in a way that we know most of them are new, and we know like the loyal people, they're going to stay there all they're loyal, they're end. But the new people that come those are the people that we really want. Thio. Make sure they have a welcoming and inviting experience because otherwise they won't come back. And there's all kinds of statistics and classical music about that. And those are the types of trends we really started bucking. I my layman's perspective. I could just imagine half of the people in the audience are uneducated, unaware, ignorant. Too many things just because they were probably dragged there. E not always, but there's a lot of people that really have no idea about all the workings of classical music. We'll drag they're not. I think most people don't know. And I think what's interesting is you know, a lot of people who go to the symphony are very smart, culturally aware. People like they go to other live performances, Broadway or whatever musicals or that kind of thing. Or just like shows and clubs, or like they like music or smarter educated. Yet this one very niche genre is not familiar to them, and anyways, it just drives me nuts. When orchestras assume that everybody should know everything and I'm like, Why why are we assuming that that's talk about this? Why we get labeled as elitist everybody. So in your position now in the California Symphony from the last six years, I would take it. What is what is some? I mean, even in the interview, they said they were in a financial crisis or they're in a pretty bad situation. How have you helped bring them up to speed and maybe some highlights along the way? Yeah, so quick. Correction. I was there five years just last year or so ago to do consulting for other orchestras, but in those five years we doubled our audience. We nearly quadrupled the donor base. We diversified our audience. That's a huge problem in classical music, so we were able to achieve talk about being data driven. Achieve all these metrics that really defy the trends of the industry in terms of first time concertgoers than the national statistic for orchestras in the United States is that 90% of first time attendees never come back, and we were able Thio change that. So if 90% never come back, that's a horrifying number. In my opinion, that means 10% are the ones who do. We were able to get that retention rate from 10% to 30% so three x, the national average, and you start compounding that if every concert has a three X return rate that starts really building a virtuous cycle in terms of then, those repeat buyers become our top prospects for season ticket holders. So we were able to really grow our season ticket holder, base season ticket holders or the top prospects for donors. So that's how we were able to really significantly increase our donor base. So they, through line of all these different jobs and wow that fundraising experience that marketing experience that focus on the customer. And what are they experiencing? Their first time? They're putting that all together is really what led to the success of the organization. How...

...through that? You know, five year path and mission that you had for that company. What was I don't see the hardest part, but I'm just I was thinking of a horse. Like if you let a horse go, they're gonna run free like and not aligning you with being a horse. But I could imagine with all your skills in your talents that if they gave you the freedom Thio, do what you wanted, then you were able to accomplish thes things along with, you know, help of other people. How how easily were you able toe change the landscape of the company and allow those things toe happen versus what was a difficulty kind of slowing? Or was that the same curmudgeon in the background are we're not going toe? How did that transition for you? So much was covered in that interview process. So I'm glad we talked about that of just being sure that upfront I had to buy in. I needed because, like I said, a lot of orchestras do not want that kind of change, but I made sure in advance that this board was ready for it. So I always say now, the silver lining of crisis at an arts organization is that there is more of an appetite for change and to do things differently. So that was good. The second thing that helped is being so numbers driven, data driven because it was the same thing that I experienced that all those other jobs and like back to being that, like, mid 20 something at Seattle Opera, where I would go to board meetings. And it wasn't just Aubrey's idea is it was This is what the data showing this is the national no return rate. This is how we're moving the needle on our retention and these air good numbers. And then at the end of the day, it's okay. How much money did we bring in? And ticket sales and in donations and being able Thio show that Oh, yeah, it's working. That matters. And so then the board, you know, it's building that trust with the board and they're saying, Oh, yeah, the proof is in the pudding it's there and the money that we're making and we're balancing the budget. And then from there that cycle just really became more and more virtuous. And there's always somebody. There's always somebody who says, Well, what about, you know, X y Z? Or what about? We ended up telling people applaud whenever you like what you hear and there's always somebody even to this day I'm giving talks on this around the country, somebody saying, Well, what is the core audience think or what is that stodgy long term board member think? And yes, there is always that person for sure, and my response to that is always It's twofold, First of all, like I said this before, the loyal people, they're very loyal in classical music. Once somebody's in for several years there really, really in. So that's good to my entire time in California Symphony. I had only one person really threatened to leave, like if you tell people to clap when they like, what they hear him whenever they want one more time. I'm not renewing my subscription that I've had for the last 20 years. Well, guess what? You heard me say we doubled the audience. So I will take that trade of one person who doubling the audience any day of the week. And that's always my answer of it goes back to the numbers and I just want to come Teoh a one or two cranky naysayers. So you had so much success. But you also and you said the proof was in the pudding. But the proof was obviously in the pudding for you to leave, too. So with so much success, when did you start seeing It was maybe time for you to transition into I'm guessing changing the narrative. Is that what you change? Exactly? Exactly. So somewhere along the way and all of this, I started blogging about it. I think it's 2016 when I started been there two years when I started blogging about the successes and after three more years, really, I had seen Okay, I want to have an impact on the field. I wanna have an impact beyond one organization and had sort of developed organically the side hustle of being...

...called for advice. Somewhere along the way, I started charging for it and nobody blinked in. I was getting contacted for more. Speaking engagements do. I mean, you were successful at this point anyway, but when you first charged to speak, were you pleasantly surprised? A little shocked were like, Yeah, yeah, exactly. E thought well, okay. And the first time I did it was on a non opportunity that I felt comfortable. Take it or leave it. You know, maybe they'll get mad and say no. And so, you know, was going back to confidence trying to wait until an opportunity. I felt confident enough that either outcome was okay with me, but no, sure enough, they were like, Oh, okay. Okay. Yeah. Eso Exactly. So all of that started coming together. And so in 2019, I made the plan of Okay, I think I'm gonna make the leap to I think there's a market for this definitely a need and classical music to continue to change the narrative that that was the name of my block. It's now the name of my company and offering those consulting services for orchestras, opera companies, um, work with a few nonprofits outside the arts. That's always a pleasant surprise when somebody outside the art says, you know, this applies to us here, too. and I'm like, Cool, Let's talk about it. So that's what I'm doing now. If the last year or so I've been doing this on it on a bigger scale, could you? Yeah, you can help a lot of businesses. It's not right. It's not just classical music. So can you see or even comment on where you might be able to help listeners help listeners on their business models and things that they're doing? Gosh, yeah, let's see a how you see that. I mean, progressing is your only a year in. So how you're going to see that to be able to branch out into wherever you feel comfortable? Let's see, For example, I've gotten calls from a few media companies who are saying what we're experiencing with journalism and the consumption of media is not unlike what's happening in classical music. So that's been very interesting to work with. Those organizations and companies that have called NPR called one day same kind of thing. They said We need an audience journey the way you did at California Symphony for our listeners from listener or reader or what you know, there's a lot of different ways they produce content there. But how do we? What's that journey? Thio ultimately donor That's different than just like the fund drive in the car, because that's how they primarily raised a lot of money. So that was fascinating to be able to apply some of these things to that model. Um, yeah, I think media is the one I think most closely alliance. Every once in a while, let's see more schools and education system is called a lot of businesses any sort of business to transition from the old way. As you said at the beginning, the old way of doing things to a more data driven social media experience that millennials even older people are getting into, regardless of the business. You have to give, especially to talk a speech on how people can transition in this new way of doing business, like whether you're getting the calls. Yet they will be coming for a lot of other businesses as well. I love that. Thank you. I'm sure hopes so. Well, even what I was thinking is how great it's Cove. It is unfortunate, but I couldn't imagine the Symphony Symphony doing so well now in 2020 and this is giving you a great opportunity because another, if it's symphonies or if it's other businesses, they're gonna use this wise ones, I mean, or if they're not wise to do so, maybe you should call a couple and tell them, Hey, maybe you should take this time out. Thio revamp your whole way of doing business because it's kind of like everyone is given a Mulligan in 2020 to...

...some degree to start over and then using your expertise. But if I was you, I would think it quite a quite fortunate for you not to have been in that field now and starting you know, your own business or now being a year in and and gaining some traction in helping these camp companies who will definitely need your help in the future. Yeah, that's a great observation, I think, and I have said many times over the last several months of the pandemic. Wow, it would be really talked to be running an orchestra right now, but I also agree with what you said that this is an opportunity thio For somebody who talks about change a lot, it's an opportunity that the disruption that the pandemic has caused is an opportunity to really, it's I mean, it's completely disrupted and estimated the normal way of doing business. Therefore, how do we leverage that? And design processes and systems and a way forward that doesn't look like the past. So for me, somebody pride yourself on change. Yes, this has been very, um, it's provided opportunities that, of course, none of us wanted or self coming. But I believe the opportunity is there. Can you explain? Maybe. I'm just thinking of how you're changing the landscape of classical music and some sort of satisfaction that you're able to get out of it. I just think of I don't know. I don't wanna pigeonhole people, but some husband comes up to you and says, You know what? I never really enjoy classical music until I came here or something. Along those lines where you can see some of the fruits of your labor, there are those moments, for sure where you know you hear from an audience member, and it's just that story you said Wow, I didn't think this was for me, and I just got season tickets because I loved it so much or you know those kind of stories. I also think on a broader scale, comment, especially taking organization from crisis of, you know, half sold houses have full audiences and then, over time, selling everything out. So much so that we had to add more performances to accommodate the demand. That's a story almost no orchestra gets to tell. So talk about changing the narrative. It's a very different narrative, And so those kind of moments where I remember thinking how far we've come and we're serving more people than we ever did before. And e I think I know I think of those moments and are really filled with pride. And then also very gratifying is now when I'm getting the calls from others saying, Aubrey, I saw what you all did there, and I want that for my organization to Can you help us do that like that? It's so gratifying to know that yes, all of this absolutely is replicable. All of its scales. I've worked in organizations of all sizes, so I see how it scales up and down. So, yeah, I answer a question. I think those air, the different moments where I think this is really awesome. It's You're doing a great job of painting the picture of what people don't usually see. And that's why I appreciate people of all talents and all abilities. And I would hope more people would see the jobs that are not seen, the behind the scene type of things, So I could imagine you. I don't know if you do it or not. But if you're at a concert and this is a company you're working for, someone that you helped transform and this show is going on and there's, you know, double the capacity or double whatever was there before and you're not watching the concert, but you're sitting arms, you know, standing arms crossed, looking up, and you and some other person like, Yeah, we're doing it right because you're behind the scenes and your it's like you noticed when you were in high school. There's another job. There's something else behind going along the way that most people don't acknowledge. I think people, as you said, if the wise people they know it. But it's not something you think of all the behind stuff, the people that...

...are dedicated and working hard, obviously, and I think you're doing a really good job with painting that picture and letting people know and realize that maybe there's another career for them that they never even thought of. Yeah, that is definitely a goal of mine. I say all the time. I see a couple of things all the time. One is I say, we need our offstage talent to match our on stage talent. So often that's the path you're trained is a musician to play in an orchestra, And the reality is, as we've discovered through our conversation, there's so many other opportunities. So I want our offstage talent to mentor on stage talent. And I also say that the there is a full spectrum of opportunities in all of music, not even just classical music. And so I am on. A part of my personal mission is to help open that up. So I'm really happy that that came through. Speaking of your personal mission, what would you like people to understand about you and the work that you're trying to accomplish? And maybe it's a it's a goal, a lifelong goal of within musical within classical music or just something even a little bit broader. What is something you like people to know and appreciate about you a little bit more? I would say I mean my whole tagline. And now business is changing the narrative. But I think in terms of classical music, I believe that success is achievable and that in itself is sort of odd. Within classical music. We were in industry That sort of likes to tout our challenges and demise, to not to be too dark about it. But But I don't believe that narrative. I believe that there is a better way. I believe that growth. It's possible. I believe that the art form is not it all dead, that it is living and has so much more to give an offer and explore and that it can be fun. A lot of people do not use the word fun and a sentence with classical music that it could be entertainment. So I believe all of these things. I think I want people to to know that about me and Thio like roll all that up. I would say it's sort of a movement. It feels that way a little bit of like this is something we re alert to kind of get the ball rolling, a bandwagon going on and that kind of changed. I don't know if that will ever be achieved. That sort of broad? No, but it's a whole Yeah, no, it's And I think you're doing a good job in especially thinking from a young age you've been doing. It's kind of been a pretty straight mission for you, Andi. I think as more people hear about you and the work that you're doing, Onda listen to classical music that you have a hand in that it's pretty interesting. Aubrey, what is something that you use? Maybe a tool. I mean, I don't think it's your tuba nowadays, but a tool that you use that helps you stay efficient in the work that you dio. Oh gosh, things is very specific, but I'm in love with the to do app Microsoft to dio. And before that, it was a big wonder list fan. But like that, for me, is like keeps me so organized and like moving around, whether it's like daily priorities or like big idea of brainstorms. I just use it for a lot of things. I didn't hear that one yet a couple people mentioned trail. Oh, is it? Oh, yeah, some things like that. But I didn't hear, but the to do that I mean, it seemed like it was the obvious thing to make for someone to do but that to do at how do you make your life choices your balance and keep them in? Check your work Life choices of separating work. I mean, you're and very busy, lady you. And not only that, you are married and you have a life. How do you turn off work and then enjoy whatever else you may dio? This is a tough one. I am not gonna lie. I, my husband would probably make a joke that I do not turn off work. Eso that is that is true about me. But I think part of it, though, is I have found work that it's so core to who I am that it's so like it's so deeply personal that that's the...

...key, that it is personal. It's not separated, professional and personal. So So I am wired that way, and I've chosen that. But I do think I will say the caveat to that that I have definitely tried to be better about self care and getting enough sleep like those like healthy choices matter within me saying that that I love what I dio. So hopefully I don't know, something in there hopefully resonates. No, it's good thinking of my audience. Do you have a tip for people getting into work? I mean, thinking of the spirit that you had is a young girl with a lemonade stand and organizing people in your neighborhood and then working your way up, been through to where you are people getting into work at a young age or changing their career. Do you have some sort of tip or some advice for them? I think I mentioned before it was a blessing and a curse toe have great clarity. And what I realized now is that I had clarity on the what. But I did not have clarity on the why. And it wasn't until several years into my career that I really started poking at that and questioning that of Aubrey. Why does the title of CEO of an orchestra matter to you? And once I started unpacking that, um, that also is the difference between me liking my work so much, too, because it was before that it was very transactional. And once you start realizing what's driving me that, yes, those entrepreneurial moments of the lemonade standard that part of me and what is behind all that? So learning the why. This is very Simon cynic sounding answer, I guess, but, like find your why. But those things that are just so court of who we are that are driving us, getting it that makes every other choice so much easier value systems, the jobs I'm interested in or not interested in, the types of organizations I wanna work with or not. So for me that was a game changer that that I wish I would have pursued early on because I just didn't have clarity on it for several years. You mentioned the title and wondering why it's so important. Have that. Can you go through the temptation and maybe you don't have it of putting your title like this is who I am. So your career first over over your character, so making sure you're you're being a person of integrity all the way through, regardless of the title that you have or the career that you hold? Uh huh. Well, I'll give an example for that. As I was trying to figure out what was next after California Symphony, sort of the quote unquote traditional path would have been Go lead another orchestra at a zero to the budget and go lead another orchestra somewhere else. And I was getting called for those jobs and going through a lot of those interviews and and some of them very far, all the way. And every time I was thinking like E, I had more clarity on my Why then? And so it was more clear, like why that wasn't the right path. But that was part of the decision that led to me making this leap to consulting because I don't know high school Aubrey or college Aubrey would have said Aubrey, you could have been CEO of a bigger orchestra. Is that title exactly? There's the title, and it wasn't until now. Here I am in my late thirties, realizing Aubrey, the title is not what's driving you. The title is not what's fulfilling its making an impact, changing a paradigm like I'm talking about an industry Aubrey, and there's a better way to impact and effect change besides one organization. And so that was very key to me, making the leap to doing the work that I'm doing now. And I would have never gotten that if I would have been thinking about title on Lee. And so hopefully that example, that's that's great. Aubrey, can you speak of and not necessarily because you have it,...

...but education and the importance for my listeners. Regardless, if it comes in the form of formal training or on the job training of which you're getting a lot of now mhm, it is so important to want to better ourselves. Soto What you just said, Brian, whether that's formal training or some sort of pursued individually pursued training course growth, that mindset, I think it's what's important, and there are definitely jobs where they want to see a credential on the resume, undergrad degree or something like that. But I think so that matters depending on the type of job or type of field people want to go into. But I think aside from that type of requirement, this this idea of I want to grow myself, I want to better myself is that's what is so much more important because we just learned so much more when we are beyond school and and have that sort of mentality. And it's so important. Thio, um, getting the jobs we want, getting the advancement we want, but also when it's about bettering ourselves, there's a real internal reward for that, too. And maybe that sounds cheesy, but that no, it's good. I mean, it allows you to engage in conversation and allows you to experience what's going on in the world and maybe help other people in your community. All those aspects play a part in education. Aubrey Berg, Our How can people reach you? How can they get in touch with you? I'm on pretty much every social media channel at Aubrey Berg, Our instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. Come find me. I would love to connect with you there. I have a website Aubrey Berg, our dot com and all my block poster there as well. If you want to read more about some of the things I spoke about, two more questions. One. Can you offer some words of encouragement for people? I mean thinking of your career. If you've felt a little discouraged inadequate. You weren't clear at some point, people feeling like that or they've been trying to get a job and they're unable they lost a job. But in the idea of work, any words of encouragement to people who just need that little boost Mhm. Just keep swimming. I think they're definitely so many days where it was. It was hard and I mean, I tell us I come in here and I tell a story and you all hear my successes and I think they're definitely so many times where I thought, No, Aubrey, just keep swimming. And some it's possible. I guess that's the other thing is just to know that anything challenging or hard it will pass. Time does continue to pass, and we get to the other side of that, and we have a choice on how we how we will get to the other side of that do we continue growing and learning and in the midst of our challenges, using that as a moment of, um, I gonna wallow in this or am I going to dissect it and figure out what I could do differently or better, or handle it or manage it differently. I believe in that. Using our challenges, Thio turn them into opportunities in that way. So on the other side, which there will be another side, it will be better. And you will get there great. Every one final question And this is the why why do you work? I worked to change a paradigm. I think you're doing it. Thank you. I'm trying. It's hard work, I'm sure, and it gets discouraging sometimes. I mean, it's a big paradigm to change, right? That's that's, um, some heavy weight you're lifting there, but with tuba experience, you don't don't back down, Keep on swimming. Aubrey Berg, Our I appreciate it. CEO of changing the narrative. You've been a great guest, and I hope you all the...

...best in your endeavors with classical music in any other business that needs help changing. Well, thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure. Thank you for listening to this episode of why we work with Brian V. Be sure to subscribe, follow and share with others so they too, can be encouraged in their work. E I hope that you have yourself a productive be a joyful day in your work.

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