Often, the artists performing at the Norton Center have an amazing Norton Center experience and are excited to come back. That is not always the case for these artists in other venues. It takes a lot for a touring artist to remember a performance as a stand out. They travel around the world and go from city to city often performing the same or similar sets over and over again. So, it takes a special place, like the Norton Center, to make an impression on an artist.
And, like I said in Part I, it is NOT entirely about the building. It is about who is in the building and the experience itself. Do you remember the last time Dolly Parton performed at the Norton Center? Our Newlin Hall was the smallest venue on her tour, by at least 3,000 seats. Her desire to return was a major part of the reason she accepted our invitation to be included on her tour schedule. What I hear most from artists after a Norton Center show is how amazing our audience was.
You, our loyal patrons, not only bring yourselves to performances, you bring your energy. And that energy is what feeds an artist on stage. The energy of the artist combined with the energy of you, in the audience, changes and becomes synergy. The combined energies of artist and audience collide, feeding on each other, into something special. Something beautiful. Something truly alive that can be felt and experienced. And that synergy can not be experienced on a movie screen, a television monitor, or a live-streamed concert. Ever. That synergy means that your energy and the artists’ energy are lifting everyone in the venue to new levels of emotion and spirit. Now, that is profound. It’s what makes an artist remember the Norton Center and you, its collective audiences.
Were you at the Lee Ann Womack concert in Weisiger Theatre? When she walked on stage, she could already feel the energy of the sold out audience. First thing out of her mouth was, “it’s like you are all in my living room with me.” That kind of intimacy is a result of the size of the venue, how people are seated in the venue, and more importantly, how the audience was simply filled with this energy that could instantly be felt from the stage.
If you were one of the fortunate people who saw classical-meets-pop artist Hahn-Bin in 2011, you know that you can also be very surprised while attending a show. After his sold out Weisiger Theatre performance, Hahn-Bin told me, “if only every concert venue was like this.” He didn’t mean the color of the seats or the size of the stage. He meant the warmth that came from the audience. He meant the intimacy of sharing that profound synergy. Did you have the same feeling as an audience member attending the Hahn-Bin performance? That synergy is what has made Yo-Yo Ma, who has been here three times, return to the Norton Center.
Which shows have you felt or experienced synergy with the artist or what was happening on stage? Was it when you sailed away with Styx? Or did a church-revival-type call and response with Martha Redbone? How about when there was a moment of silence following that uncomfortable gun shot in the musical, Memphis? Let me know when you felt Norton Center synergy!
Steve Hoffman has curated, produced and presented cross-genre multi-disciplinary programs, events and seasons for nearly 30 years. Since 2010, he has served as Executive Director of Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts, in Danville, Kentucky, where he is responsible for its oversight, management and programming. Previously, Steve served as President and CEO of the National Steinbeck Center, in Monterey County, California – an international cultural institution and museum with a mission focused on the life, works and philosophies of John Steinbeck. Before that, he spent eleven years as the founding CEO of the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Steve is on the faculty of the University of Kentucky Department of Arts Administration graduate program and has taught courses at the University of Michigan and Centre College. Since living in Kentucky, Steve has served on boards and committees for The Gladys Project, the Heart of Danville, Leadership Boyle County, The Danville Community Arts Center, Heart of Kentucky United Way, Clayton Center for the Arts at Maryville College (Maryville, TN), and the Association of Performing Arts Professionals.