Choir and orchestra members are contract workers, eliminating the cost of a full-time roster of musicians. The organization spends 50 percent of its budget on its concert programs and 6 percent on the Miami Choral Academy, Burgess says.
Seraphic Fire also manages its costs by keeping its staff to five members, including the artistic director and one part-time employee. The Miami Choral Academy has two full-time employees and five part-timers.
Everyone involved with Seraphic Fire “has a personal stake in seeing this succeed,” says Quigley. “Every member of our team works tirelessly and believes in what we do and believes that what we do is the best of what we can do.”
From it first season, the group has strived to forge a personal connection with its audience. The boyishly charming Quigley prefaces each performance with remarks that put the music in context and listeners in the loop. After each concert, director and performers linger at the exit to chat up and thank their fans.
“Seraphic Fire has charismatic and well-regarded artistic leadership,” says Brett Egan, director of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center. “And when you develop a persona around the director of a musical institution, it helps. It’s much easier to fall for an individual than it is to fall for an ensemble, if we’re thinking strategically.”
Egan also credits “the Fonz factor,” named for the hipster character Henry Winkler played on the TV sitcom Happy Days (1974–1984).
“It’s an act of creating a sense that ‘I need to belong to the family of that organization,’ ” he said. “In our work, that is really the most challenging concept to convey and it’s difficult to execute. …The Fonz was always where the party was. He had the bike, the leather jacket; everyone wanted to be around him. That’s what we try to do with cultural organizations.”