A Monthly Profile of Orchestra Fans and Family
When Philadelphia Orchestra Board of Directors member Adrienne Simpson says, “My life has been inundated by classical music,” she means it.
Her father, Eugene Thamon Simpson, started out a concert pianist and bass vocalist. While she was growing up in Glassboro, NJ, he was a chorale director and vocal instructor. “He married his favorite soprano!” says Adrienne, laughing.
Her mother, Ingres Simpson, in addition to singing, was very involved with The Philadelphia Orchestra. “She had friends who worked there; she was part of the Orchestra’s cultural diversity initiative; she presented pre-concert lectures with [long-time Orchestra program annotator] Paul Horsley. I was at the Orchestra a lot in my teens and early 20s. I was often my mother’s ‘plus one’ for her subscription seats. She would say, ‘Look around, everyone here at the Academy of Music isn’t your age.’”
After college at Seton Hall University, Adrienne returned to the Delaware Valley and launched her communications career, with stops at WHYY, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, NFL Films (“lots of classically inspired background music on their features!”), and her current position as marketing manager for Comcast.
Now that she’s on the Orchestra’s Board, Adrienne sees one of her key goals as defining what it means to be a 21st-century orchestra.
“I raised that when the Orchestra first talked to me. It’s important that we understand our role in modern society, not just for Philadelphia but also for the cachet we enjoy around the world. Yannick [Nézet-Séguin] is definitely a 21st-century conductor. With the energy he brings, his in-depth grasp of music, his understanding of what it means to be a music impresario and entertainer; he’s just fantastic!”
Of course, being a 21st-century orchestra means cultivating a 21st-century audience. Adrienne likes to say she was a member of the Young Friends of The Philadelphia Orchestra (a membership program for classical music lovers aged 21-40) before it even existed, thanks to those early concerts at the Academy of Music with her mother.
“These days, I see more people my age, or even younger than me, who come from diverse backgrounds and are invested in classical music.”
Her challenge now as a Board member is “how do we tap into that next wave of concertgoers and Orchestra patrons? We need to work on priming the pump, to be sure there’s a new generation. It’s also important for long-time patrons to know that this institution they love so much will be sustained.”
She does her part by urging friends to come along and listen. “I tell people it’s absolutely worth the trip to see The Philadelphia Orchestra. I look for certain concerts that newcomers might like for their first experience.
“There’s something I feel some locals don’t understand about going to a concert. I’ll have this moment sometimes in Verizon Hall where I can’t believe I’m having this experience in Philadelphia, 15 minutes away from my home. It’s mind-blowing, incredible! There are so many times throughout the season when I get the chills. It’s astonishing to me that this is our orchestra. During Tosca last season, my mother and I sat there with our mouths open. It was unbelievable. There’s never been a time when I haven’t been impressed. I’d say to anybody who’s younger or might not go to concerts very often, if they like entertainment of any kind, there’s something for them at The Philadelphia Orchestra!”