The summer series celebrates a quarter-century of exceptional performances.
As summertime traditions go, few cities have anything to compete with Fort Worth’s Concerts in the Garden. For more than 20 years, the concert series has combined the lush magnificence of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden — one of the oldest botanical gardens in the country — with stirring musical performances. Without fail, the concerts draw huge numbers from all walks of life, and stand as celebrations of Fort Worth’s cultural identity.
The 2015 season is the 25th anniversary of this communion between nature and music. Brought to the gardens through a partnership with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, this season will have showcased 16 concerts between June 5th and July 5th. In honor of this landmark achievement, we spoke with Amy Adkins, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.
Concerts in the Garden has developed into one of the Metroplex’s premier event series. What was the original intent behind its foundation, and how has it changed over the years?
The Concerts in the Garden Summer Music Festival, presented by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, was established in 1991 with a series of three performances held at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. The original goals of the festival have remained the same from the beginning to today – to reach a larger and more diverse audience, to provide a comfortable and affordable opportunity for families to enjoy the FWSO, and to serve our community outside of our traditional concert hall. In the meantime, the festival has become one of the rituals of Cowtown, with people from all walks of life coming by the thousands to hear the orchestra and guest entertainers perform under the stars.
What goes into the selection of performers? Are there any perennial favorites? Surprise successes?
Diversity of programming is a hallmark of Concerts in the Garden. The FWSO artistic staff design a summer season to include something for all musical tastes, from Tchaikovsky to Led Zeppelin, and everything in between. Perennial favorites include the patriotic Old-Fashioned Family Fireworks Picnic shows on July 2-4; “The Music of the Eagles,” which we have presented to sold-out crowds for eight consecutive years; and the Laser Light Spectacular, during which the lawn fills with young Star Wars fans sporting their own lightsabers.
How did the partnership develop between the symphony and the botanic garden? In what ways do you see this partnership as mutually beneficial?
The FWSO initiated the partnership with the Botanic Garden because we identified it as an ideal outdoor venue to present music. We have enjoyed a collaborative relationship for the past 25 years: the symphony benefits through access to the most beautiful and accessible venue in the city, and the performances provide an essential source of revenue. We also enjoy the support of the skilled staff of the Botanic Garden, who facilitate the operation of the venue. More than 45,000 people attend these events, which attracts new visitors to the garden. The Botanical Society operates and receives all proceeds from food and novelty concessions, as well as a percentage of ticket sales.
Do you have any numbers that reflect the event’s growth over the years? Do you expect it to continue to grow?
Attendance for our inaugural Concerts in the Garden in 1991 (with only three concerts) totaled 4,426 with revenue of approximately $32,000. Now, we annually reach nearly 45,000 through 16 to 17 performances with annual revenue of nearly $1.5 million, which includes sponsorships. It is important to note that support from our major sponsors enables us to maintain the affordability of these performances. Two of our sponsors have supported Concerts in the Garden since its inception: BNSF Railway and the Crystelle Waggoner Charitable Trust, the latter of which underwrites free admission on the lawn for children 10 and under. Wells Fargo joined the Festival in 1997, XTO Energy in 2008, Frank Kent Motor Company in 2009, and Central Market in 2013.
If you haven’t had a chance to experience a garden concert this year, make sure to catch one of the two final events. July 2nd through 4th will see the return of one of Fort Worth’s favorite traditions: the Old-Fashioned Family Fireworks Picnic. Each evening at 8:15 p.m., guests at the garden can experience thrilling fireworks and patriotic music from the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. The 25th anniversary season wraps up on Sunday, July 5th, with a performance from the Texas Tenors. Bring your lawn chairs and refreshments, and enjoy the vocal stylings of the internationally-renowned trio known for its chart topping album,“You Should Dream.”