If you hear a pack of wolves howling at a Florida Orchestra performance, don't be alarmed.
It's just members of the orchestra's new networking group for young professionals called the Wolf Gang.
The orchestra formed the group a few months ago to expose a younger audience to their concerts and, hopefully, expand their aging supporter base. Members receive discounted tickets ($15 for regular $30 seats) and invitations to pre-show evens.
"We were trying to make the orchestra more accessible,'' said William Abbey, the orchestra's group services manager who coordinates the Wolf Gang. "The idea was to offer a good price on tickets but to also create social opportunities.''
While new for the orchestra, the concept isn't unique. Ruth Eckerd Hall, the Tampa Theatre and Opera Tampa, for example, each have clubs and programs to spark the interest of the next generation of fans and donors. On average, orchestra patrons are in their 60s.
The Wolf Gang met for the first time last month for Cornelia Herrmann's performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto 21. Philanthropic Young Tampa Bay hosted the party at the Tampa Museum of Art's Sono Cafe and gave away about 200 tickets to the show as part of its fall fundraiser.
The next event is Saturday for Pictures at an Exhibition, a concert of musical impressions inspired by great art. The Wolf Gang will gather at the Hangar in St. Petersburg at 6 p.m., then head to the show at the Mahaffey Theater at 8.
Ann-Eliza Musoke Taylor, co-founder of Philanthropic Young Tampa Bay, said the Wolf Gang helps demystify the orchestra as a special occasion-only outing for well-heeled, older people. Live symphonic music for $15 is a bargain.
"People are looking for something new and when you can make it more accessible and affordable, there's no reason not to go,'' she said.
She was surprised so many people at the Mozart event had never seen the orchestra before. Most liked what they heard and appreciated seeing some young faces among the musicians. A few even howled when the Wolf Gang was acknowledged at the start of the performance.
The orchestra chose the name Wolf Gang as a play off Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the famous 18th century composer. Vicky Newcomb, a bass clarinetist for the orchestra, designed the logo. It shows a big-nosed Mozart wearing sunglasses and listening to an iPod.
The group targets business professionals under 40 but is open to anyone interested in the arts and networking. A lot of support for the Wolf Gang has grown organically through word of mouth, Facebook and other social media.
Marketing director Sherry Powell said live orchestra music gives people something different to think about and talk about, outside the usual bar chatter. If it makes people howl, even better.