A Monthly Profile of Orchestra Fans and Family
Everyone profiled on this page has a great “first time at the Orchestra” story, but Dan Ahearn, Jr.—who’s been managing the Box Office since the Kimmel Center opened in 2001—has an especially good one. He was about nine or 10 years old, attending one of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Family Concerts with two of his younger brothers, when they got in a bit of trouble.
“I guess we were being a little too loud—because we were ‘unattended,’” Ahearn recalls. “One of the ushers came up to reprimand us and my brother responded: ‘You can’t say anything to us. My father owns this place!’ So that was the first time I was at the Academy,” he laughs.
It’s easy to understand a little boy’s mistake. Dan Ahearn, Sr., was the manager of the Academy’s Box Office for more than 25 years. His oldest son grew up with those men and women behind the glass. Ahearn Jr. learned the ropes from the experts, but he also had another star on his resume: During a college work-study program at Drexel in the ’80s, he worked with a revolutionary new computerized ticketing system in a football league that ended up being the first electronic ticketing system at the Academy of Music.
“That’s how I got a full-time job here—besides my father being the Box Office manager!” says Ahearn. The computer knowledge gave him “a little bit of a heads up” as the Academy transitioned from hard to electronic tickets. When Dan Sr. retired in 2000, Dan Jr. was a natural to succeed him.
It’s no accident the same friendly faces greet you at the ticket window season after season. There’s a lot of loyalty back there—and Ahearn has high praise for his crew. “They work hard and they’re wonderful and they tend to make my job easier,” he says. “All of us who work here love it.”
And they enjoy seeing familiar faces in the audience. “It’s great seeing the same people over and over again,” says Ahearn. “We’re thankful that they’re patrons of the arts.”
As Box Office manager, Ahearn doesn’t often get to attend performances. For him, the big show is just before concert time.
“The rush at show time is always the best. It’s like an adrenaline kick,” he says. “That’s what makes the job so exciting: the 45 minutes before show times where the line is crazy and you’re just trying to get people into the show on time.”
Some of his busiest, most memorable times? When the Kimmel Center opened in 2001, and when tickets for The Lion King went on sale in December 2005 for performances the following summer. A temporary box office was set up in the lobby of the Academy of Music to accommodate the line that was around the block. “The Disney people were amazed,” Ahearn says.
But for the Southwest Philadelphia native, it’s the regular day-to-day operations that are the most rewarding, interacting with the musicians (“They get to know our faces and we get to know theirs.”), the patrons (who sometimes ask questions like “What time’s the 8 o’clock show?” “They realize what they’re saying afterwards,” he laughs.), and above all, his team.
“They work hard and they’re wonderful and they tend to make my job easier. I make it a point to thank them every day,” Ahearn says, adding, “I try to!”