A Monthly Profile of Orchestra Fans and Family
If you’re enjoying this issue of Playbill, thank Darrin Britting. As director of publications and content development for The Philadelphia Orchestra, his various responsibilities include the venerable program booklet passed out at every concert.
“I write some of the copy, but I coordinate the whole thing, the editorial pages (of which there are usually seven issues) and the concert-specific pages (which are changed weekly but can be more frequent depending on any special concerts we may have). I supply all the necessary information to Playbill (or whoever the publisher is) and proof/edit the pages once they come back to me in galley form. This includes not only the majority of our concerts at home but also tours, run-outs, and most residencies. I can produce anywhere from 70 to 90 programs in any given year.
“My other hats include overseeing our institutional photography. And as keeper of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s in-house style and resident proofreader, I see most everything that gets produced, including brochures, e-mails, and website copy. Oh, and I’m also the de factoarchivist!”
Darrin has been with the Orchestra for 25 years. What’s kept him going so long? For one thing, all the glorious music. “Classical music, actually music in general, can serve many purposes. It can serve to heal or refresh one’s soul. Maybe you’re in a funk, and it takes you out of yourself for a short time. Not all music is happy of course, but you can still come out of it feeling energized and invigorated. Plato said, ‘Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything’ and I believe that with all my heart. Hearing it played by The Philadelphia Orchestra is the cherry on top.
“Being surrounded by all of that beauty has been a huge perk for me. The excellence on stage is a constant for the Orchestra. I try to match that in the work I do. It makes me strive to do better, so that the entire experience for anyone coming to a concert is top notch. I know I don’t match the musicians’ excellence … but I try very hard!”
In retrospect, Darrin’s education and work experiences were ideal preparation for the job. But there were a lot of variations on the musical theme.
“I grew up in Milford, CT, about 75 miles from New York City. My mother was in the first graduating class of the dance department at the Juilliard School, and I took dance lessons with her. I then studied at the Connecticut Ballet on full scholarship into my mid-teens. I took piano lessons beginning at a very early age, and dabbled on the harpsichord and organ. I was also really into theater; I even got to be in four productions at the Yale School of Drama when I was a kid, including Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Joyce’s Exiles. I thought I was headed for musical theater, until I started studying voice with a former opera singer. I had sung in our church choir since I was small, but studying classical vocal music so intently changed my focus. I did my undergrad work at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, as a vocal performance major.
“When I graduated, I realized I didn’t have the drive, or in all honesty the talent, to make it as a performer, plus I knew I had to work full-time to support myself. So I moved to New York and was lucky to get a job in music administration with the New York Philharmonic. But I must have had opera on the brain still, because after a couple of years I moved to Italy for three months to study Italian.”
After that it was back to New York, for another stint at the Philharmonic, then on to an artists management company, where his duties included promoting musicians including Elly Ameling and Ravi Shankar; dance companies like Pilobolus and Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo; and even a circus. “I’m not a born salesman, so I found that very difficult. I decided it was perhaps time to leave New York so I moved to Philly without a job and quickly landed some temp work with the Orchestra before being hired as assistant director of public relations. That wasn’t a great fit for me, so when a position opened up as program book editor, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make the most use of my musical knowledge and background. Over time, the job has morphed into what it is today. And here I am!”
Darrin is known as a stickler for accuracy and style, but he does remember one major slip up.
“I called Itzhak Perlman a cellist once in a program book at the Mann Center. I must have been distracted while editing and then didn’t catch it in the galley. Luckily, he had a sense of humor about it. I think he even made a joke about it to the audience.”
Overall, Darrin thinks he’s been lucky in his career. “Counting some work I did in college with the Boston Symphony, you could say I’m working my way down the Eastern Seaboard of great orchestras. But I think I’ve hit the pinnacle!”