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The Californian

The 2013-14 season of the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra opens Saturday.

Lower ticket prices, an earlier start time, a social media presence and an updated look will signal that something new is going on at the Bakersfield Symphony, but president and CEO Bryan Burrow admits many of the things he hopes to do aren't new at all.

"When you have an organization that's already good, there are many things you can do to make it great," Burrow said. "But I'm not interested in reinventing the wheel; there are many things we've done in the past that have worked well."

Burrow said one of the things he hopes to do is rebuild the BSO's season, especially by restoring some of the concerts that were eliminated to cut costs.

"I'd like to do pops concerts, something that we've done before but not consistently," Burrow said.

In the past, themed pops concerts -- movies, baseball, patriotic -- have not only done well, but also brought in an audience that might be more skeptical of a classical music program. Burrow said he would also like to restore concerts given in smaller Kern County communities such as Taft and Delano, also discontinued because of budget cuts.

Laying the groundwork for rebuilding has included revamping the business operations of the BSO, including streamlining processes, updating files and procedures, cutting costs and other measures to help the orchestra run more smoothly.

"It was just sitting down, maybe with a fresh pair of eyes and just making it better," said business operations manager Kari Heilman, who was hired along with Burrow last spring.

With those improvements in place, Burrow said his priorities are to increase marketing and advertising and to "enhance the experience" of the concerts, with the intent of getting people excited about the orchestra and increasing their support through ticket sales and donations.

"What a great jewel we have that is not as well known as it needs to be," Burrow said.

Adding concerts to the schedule will add costs, which can include music rentals, venue costs, additional advertising, guest artists and other expenses, in addition to orchestra members' pay. Ticket sales cover a third of the orchestra's expenses, Burrow said, with donations and sponsorships accounting for another third. Fundraisers shore up the rest of the budget.

While building today's audience, Burrow said the BSO also wants to increase its education efforts to build the audience of tomorrow. In addition to increasing the number of the semi-annual Young People's Concerts, the BSO is using a $5,000 grant from The Bakersfield Californian Foundation to send musicians into the classroom to perform for children and answer their questions about music.

"I want that 'wow' factor," Burrow said.