Apollo’s Fire: Can 55 Year-Olds Be Younger Audiences?

Apollo’s Fire is a period instrument ensemble that recreates the experience of Baroque-era music in intimate concerts. The music was originally performed “in the presence of royalty,” says Board President Kemp Smith and tends to attract an older audience. “There are a lot of gray hairs,” Kemp reports.

The ensemble is popular with audiences and regularly sells out mid-sized church venues, which are ideal for creating the Apollo’s Fire experience. But selling out can also make growth a challenge. Adding to the challenge is that the ensemble’s musicians fly in from around the country for each performance, making it difficult to cultivate new audiences through an education program.

As a result, Paul Jarrett, Managing Director, says he’s looking for innovative new ways to grow. “Historically we’ve thought of ourselves as a Northeast-Ohio-based organization,” Jarret says, “and it’s really only been recently that we have begun to explore the potential for geographic expansion.”

According to Jarrett, Apollo’s Fire is at a crossroads. “We are trying some new venues this year that we have not been in before. And it’s not just a new venue but then it’s a different community. “ And every venue they visit, Jarret says, is another opportunity to establish “a more permanent presence in another geographical location.”

Unlike some of the other groups participating in the Engaging the Future program, their new strategies are not focused on a typical young and diverse audience. “The demographics we have currently are what we would expect for what we do,” says Jarret. “I think there’s a stereotypical image of what a younger audience looks like, but for Apollo’s Fire that might be building our 35-55-year-old demographic.”

In terms of cultural diversity, their outlook is practical. Kemp Smith, Board President, says “I’m not sure that any of these initiatives lead to a younger audience. Performing dead white composers is going to appeal, almost necessarily to the same kind of an audience.”

Their goal is world-class performance and an authentic period music experience. The difference, according to Smith, “is that [today] you don’t have to be royalty” to enjoy it.



Karina Mangu-Ward is the Director of Activating Innovation at EmcArts, where she leads the development of ArtsFwd.org, an interactive online platform for arts leaders to learn and share stories about adaptive change and the power of effective innovation.