Crashing on a Brazilian Blue Carpet Affair

Last night's Symphony Ball and Crash the Ball returned to downtown Minneapolis on a high note. After a 2014 cancelation of the event previously held annually in September since 1956, The Minnesota Orchestra's June 20, 2015, event was a grand entrance to a new era of talented musicians, direction and community support.

As a new member of the Crash the Ball planning committee this year, I had a bit of the inside scoop on what it takes to pull of  an event of this scale. The event's longevity and reputation as one of the top social events of the season in the Twin Cities, is due to a wide-reaching network of orchestra hall patrons, donors and businesses and artists in the community coming together to celebrate and raise upwards of $1M.

For some, the structure of the event may have caused pause. To clarify: the main event is the Symphony Ball and the ancilary, overlapping event is Crash the Ball. If you're new to these events, it takes awhile to wrap your head around the schedule for the evening. However, I believe this is part of what makes the evening such a unique experience.

The Symphony Ball started at 5:00 with ticket price of $250+ for a seated, more formal dinner. Crash the Ball kicked off at 7:30 with ticket price of $125 (of $99 if you bought your tickets before June 1) and went into the early am with a dj and dancing. The intersection of events occurred around 8:30-10:00 when both groups came together in the hall for a chance to bid on seven live auction items and hear five pieces performed by the orchestra.

The format, while somewhat structured, is also fluid. If you had a symphony ticket, you certainly wouldn't have been ousted from the dance floor at 11:00p.m. If you had a Crash the Ball ticket, you might have arrived early to socialize and preview the silent auction items. By design, Crash the Ball, targeted to the 30-some and aspiring demographic, allows an affordable, attainable glimpse into the people and financial contributions it takes to support a world-class orchestra in Minnesota. It's a model for sustaining diversity in performance attendance and creating a life-long interest in the music performed here.It doesn't hurt that the space is phenomenal for entertaining.

Bungalow 6, the decor and design coordinator, played it up to the max with bold and daring moves like a complete staircase of glass, teal luminaries and bold ribbons of fuschia, teal and orange draped among the spaces. It was stunning. With live entertainers from Heart of the Beast Theater, a step and repeat wall, live auction and SnapYourself photo booth (pics live on 6.23), the energy remained upbeat all night.

I would be very remiss not to note that the music was diverse and spot on for my every mode throughout the eve. There was a drum serenade from the hall along the blue carpet into the marvelously fuschia-infused tented space on Peavey Plaza for the formal dinner. On the heals of the the Cuban infusion making news lately, the tone was vibrant, soulful and latin from Charanga Tropical. It all mixed well with the Brazilian-theme selected for the event in November 2014, Bravo! Brava! Brazil!. 

Then there was the concert. Minnesota Orchestra Hall conductor Osmo Vanska was an animated performer himself with some lively moves. He even turned to the audience and led us through a swelling crescendo of our voices to accompany the orchestra. The five music selections ended on this type of crescendo with Tico Tico that had everyone spilling out of the hall ready to peruse the silent auction items and generously bid after such a moving experience.

The evening's goal, to raise 200,000 to bring all St. Paul third-graders and all Minneapolis fourth-graders (a group that happens to be inclusive of my 10-year-old son) to Orchestra Hall during their 2015-2016 school year, was on its way to succeeding at the end of the evening. There were opportunities for avid supporters ($25,000) to starting supporters (I walked away with a package deal for Third Bird).

As committee members, we were all charged with securing silent auction items. As a newbie to the event, I brought in JazzMN and The WOW Bar. The list was quite impressive and there was something for everyone's palette.A fellow committee member, Lindsey Day, shared a story with me about a last minute silent auction item add from a co-worker she just learned to be an aspiring artist. That artist sold her painting to the tune of $900 to none other than the orchestra's lead, Vanska. Brava! to all the musicians, patrons, donors and art supporters -- it truly was a vibrant night to experience the sound of music in our community.