Artown takes a big, but calculated, risk in bringing Perlman |

Artown takes a big, but calculated, risk in bringing Perlman

John Seelmeyer

Beth Macmillan sleeps slightly better at night in the knowledge that consumers in Reno and Sparks are notorious for buying tickets to concerts and other events at the last-possible minute.

And she was taking some comfort last week as the attention of the community began to shift from Colin Kaepernick to Itzhak Perlman the sort of shift of attention that could happen only in Reno.

Still, Macmillan, the executive director of Artown, was keeping close tabs on ticket sales for Thursday’s recital by the world-famed violinist.

On the surface, the event appears to be a high-risk, high-reward event for Artown.

Perlman, one of the few acknowledged superstars of classical music, commands a performance fee to match.

Then fold in the costs of providing a private jet to bring Perlman from Las Vegas to Reno, the costs of the Pioneer Center Performing Arts where he will present the Valentine’s Day recital, and some additional cash to market the performance.

Artown, Macmillan says, has worked hard to hedge the risks.

“It’s a very big investment for us,” she says. “But it’s not a random guess. It’s a calculated risk.”

The biggest hedge: Artown’s history with Perlman.

Two years ago, the nonprofit sold out a concert by the violinist, and probably could have sold out a second show as well.

The second hedge comes through sponsorship agreements that help underwrite Perlman’s performance as well as the entire Encore series that expands Artown’s offerings outside of its core July festival.

John Farahi, chief executive officer of the parent company of Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, committed the Reno property to the all-important event sponsorship of the Perlman’s performance.

IGT, Fox 11 and Steinway Piano Gallery, meanwhile, provide sponsorship that helps underwrite the basic costs of the Encore series.

Reno’s location provides yet another small hedge to promoters of big events, Macmillan notes.

Perlman’s appearance with pianist Rohan de Silva in Reno is scheduled between shows in Las Vegas and Sacramento a not uncommon sort of schedule for touring audiences.

That, Macmillan says, helps reduce transportation costs.

(The 67-year-old Perlman requires either first-class seating on an aircraft or a private jet because the polio he suffered in early childhood requires him to use crutches or an electric scooter.)

But for all the hedges, ticket sales remain the key to a successful concert event for Artown. Early last week, more than half the seats in the 1,500-capacity Pioneer Center had been sold for this week’s concert. Tickets are priced at $115, $75 and $45.

Among the tickets sold were more than 100 purchased by Sundance Books and Music in Reno. The Washoe County School District music department will distribute the tickets to orchestra students who will see one of the greatest musicians of their era.

A financially successful concert, whether it’s Perlman or any of the other artists scheduled during the year-long Encore series, provides additional financial support for the summertime Artown festival.

Plus, Macmillan says, the Encore series which also will feature artists ranging from jazz singer Bobby McFerrin to author David Sedaris in coming weeks further widens the cultural offerings of Reno.

“Artistically, it’s a no-brainer,” Macmillan says. “The challenge is making it work financially.”