8 min

“I love connecting supporters to an art form they love, enriching their lives and together enhancing the cultural fabric of our city.”

No one day is the same as another for Melanie Esplin, Director of Development for Auckland Philharmonia. In our Q&A, she talks about the rewards of overseeing fundraising efforts for one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s premier arts organisations, what she loves about orchestras and how Tessitura supports her work. 

1. What's unique about orchestras?

Something special happens when artists collaborate. We see it constantly within the creative arts — in ensemble theatre, dance and music. When musicians combine talents on the stage, something magical happens. Unique musical colours, timbres and textures come alive. The collective sound can be so immense — yet, each individual musician is integral in the whole.

The concerts that we create feature over 70 professional artists performing. This level of professional artist involvement is rarely seen in other arts disciplines. When we refer to “the” orchestra, it can sometimes be forgotten that an orchestra is a team comprised of many individual artists, each an expert. Together on one stage, they collaborate to perform as a seamless collective.   

2. What are the best parts of your role?

I love my job. I love connecting supporters to an art form they love. It enriches their lives and together we enhance the cultural fabric of our city. I love meeting with people of all walks of life and introducing them to the orchestra. I love working every day with people passionate about music performance and education. Together, we are working to connect communities through the arts.

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

Can a day be “typical” in nonprofit performing arts? The variety is what makes the work interesting. I have plenty of internal and external meetings to nurture donor relationships. Attend performances and events. Help my team grow and succeed. But two things are always constant: coffee (a daily must) and administration, including Tessitura record updating. My team will tell you: I’m a little pedantic about filing and record keeping.

“Tessitura is the glue that binds our organisation together.”

4. How does Tessitura support the work you do? 

We are a large team working on over 70 performances a year. Tessitura is the glue that binds our organisation together. This is across ticketing, event attendance, donation records and communications. Having a CRM system that keeps everyone on the same page is integral to a seamless operation. We’re currently exploring what Tessitura Analytics can tell us about our supporters. This will enable us to better deliver our communications and events.

Tessitura’s additional resources are invaluable. There are many teaching tools available online. When we need help, we can speak to a real person. This individual, personal attention is indispensable. The responsiveness is impeccable. Tessitura goes above and beyond to make us feel part of their family.

5. How do you relax when you’re not working?

I’m an active relaxer. I run a lot, spend time in the garden, walk my dog and practice my own music. I’m a classically trained flutist and still play and teach when I am not at the Auckland Philharmonia. I love to get out and see other art in the city — plays, dance, art exhibitions. After being stuck in the house for several years, the privilege of being immersed in culture is a gift to be treasured and appreciated. I try to say “yes” as often as possible to each opportunity that arises. 

“If you believe wholeheartedly in the mission of your organisation, that passion is compelling, infectious and inspiring.”

6. What advice would you give someone starting out in fundraising?

Love the cause. If you believe wholeheartedly in the mission of your organisation, that passion is compelling, infectious and inspiring. Also, if you love a challenge, fundraise for the arts. 

7. What would you say to anyone new to orchestral music?

If you have not experienced an orchestral concert — go! Don’t let inferred protocol or unfamiliarity deter you. An orchestral experience is overwhelmingly emotional, ultimately joyous and cathartic. And if you are worried about when to clap, just follow the conductor’s lead, like the musicians do — they’ll be sure to let you know when it’s your turn. 

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