After the final note: Seraphic Fire’s push to build a brand in the off-season

arts / Article

Seraphic Fire performs at the Pérez Art Museum Miami.

Rhett Del Campo is executive director of Seraphic Fire, a Knight Arts Challenge winner. 

This post is dedicated to the memory of Ruth Sackner, who came to the first Seraphic Fire concert 13 years ago. Ruth was a devoted fan, supporter, and loving friend. Her radiant presence will always be felt in everything we do.

Outside of Seraphic Fire’s 10 performance weeks, we are just six people occupying a small, overly air-conditioned office suite in an otherwise nondescript Miami building. The challenge for organizations such as ours (besides choosing between space heaters and sweaters) is to continue engaging with our audience, telling our story, and building our identity throughout the other 42 weeks of the year.

We may be experts at producing concerts, but producing content should sometimes be left to other experts (I say this realizing the irony of sitting here producing blog content). By tapping into the bright young talent that surrounds us here in Miami, and utilizing partners such as the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center (a partnership made possible by Knight Foundation), we are becoming better at conveying who we are through reimagined and revitalized messaging.

Being able to project our product into the community after the final note of each concert, when the stage lights are turned off, is almost as important as the performances themselves. Doing this well makes a noticeable difference as we work to maintain our momentum over the long, Miami summer.

Making connections

Nu Deco Ensemble co-founder Sam Hyken and I reconnected at his Knight Arts Challenge awards presentation last December. Both former New World Symphony fellows whose paths crossed briefly in 2005, we had an appreciation for our remarkably similar paths. After leaving New World, we both found performance jobs abroad. During our overseas adventures, we also felt a tug – something pulling us in a different direction. We recognized different creative paths available to artists outside of performance, as well as the opportunities waiting to be seized in Miami’s unique cultural landscape.

Sam is tackling one of the toughest challenges I can imagine, and one that Seraphic Fire’s founder and artistic director, Patrick Dupré Quigley, also accomplished with extraordinary success: creating a unique ensemble that breaks from the mold so many other arts organizations try to follow.

Sam and I caught up shortly after meeting last December. I noticed Nu Deco’s promotional video and asked who created it. He introduced me to Victor Villañe of Southern Land Films. We met almost immediately to discuss a new idea for Seraphic Fire’s first-ever season announcement gala.

After sending Victor an embarrassing amount of images and content, and a brief discussion of what we envisioned, Victor and his team pieced together a stunning season announcement video in just three short weeks. Immediately, our public relations consultant asked if we could go one step further and turn this into an electronic press kit – something evergreen that would help the uninitiated answer the question, “Who is Seraphic Fire?” The video is below.

Since our small office space with its noisy air conditioning is less-than-ideal for filming interviews – let alone a choir of 13 – we needed an appealing space, both acoustically and visually, to film a mock performance, conduct artist interviews, and shoot new ensemble photos.

Visual storytelling

Enter South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center Managing Director Eric Fliss, who welcomed us without hesitation. For just three short hours, the ensemble sang Jake Runestad’s “I Will Lift Mine Eyes” nearly 20 times to get just the right shots, we took new group photographs, and we filmed interviews with Patrick and our artists. It was a typical “Seraphic Fire Storm” – an onslaught of singers, equipment and support staff that descends onto the scene and vanishes before the final echo of our voices dissipates.

Seraphic Fire.

As Victor and I put the finishing touches on the electronic press kit this summer, I was introduced to his wife, Bonnie, who runs her own graphic design company, Someone & Somebody. Keeping with our goal of capturing the essence of our product to share with our constituents while partnering with more local talent, we asked Bonnie if she could try her hand at creating our first annual report for donors.

Another massive document and image dump later, and Bonnie was off to work her magic. A couple months later, we were able to provide our supporters with an all-encompassing review of our 2014-2015 season.

Greater results through relationships

Knight Foundation allowed us to begin a partnership with the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center to develop a presence in South Miami, which in turn allowed us to capture beautiful imagery of a truly dynamic space for our materials. We’ve gotten to know other leaders in this community, who in turn have introduced us to expert content creators. Through relationship-building, we tap into a vast pool of talent in Miami that buoys our efforts to convey what we do, and who we are, between every Seraphic Fire performance.

Seraphic Fire performs a program in Miami that includes Handel’s “Coronation Anthems” and the Florida premiere of Charpentier’s “Te Deum” Nov. 6-8, and on tour in Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia Nov. 10-12. Visit seraphicfire.org for details and tickets. 

Seraphic Fire’s performance at Trinity Wall Street (New York) on Wednesday, Nov. 11, will be webcast live at 7:30 pm ET. Experience the performance by visiting the Trinity website and clicking “Watch Live Now.”

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