What Makes PCMS So Special?

By jacob on October 1, 2008

Living and Breathing Our Mission: Part One of a Series

PCMS was founded to fill a void in the cultural life of our city: for decades eminent recital and chamber music musicians visited New York, Boston, and Washington but had no performance outlet in Philadelphia.  When Anthony Checchia and his colleagues founded PCMS in 1986, it was in the spirit of giving something back to the City and to the field.  It also came out of the strong "family" spirit found at the famous Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, where many of the country's eminent chamber music groups were founded - and where Checchia and later Philip Maneval were administrators.

PCMS has grown from a small series started 1986 at the Port of History Museum (now the Independence Seaport Museum, where we will present about a dozen concerts this season) to one of the largest presenters of chamber and recital music in the country.  Each year PCMS presents some 60+ concerts, comprising the best of chamber music, string/vocal/piano recitals, mixed ensembles, jazz, wind virtuosos, and special event performances.  And it does so with an outstanding level of customer service that retains the tenets of its founding:

  • to make music broadly accessible through a policy of affordable ticket pricing
  • to present performers of outstanding quality, featuring compelling repertoire
  • to enrich the community through a varied education program
  • to support the future of chamber music through promotion of "rising stars" - the next generation of musical leaders

Obviously, these goals are reached through sound fiscal policy (PCMS has not had a deficit since its founding), steady leadership, and a committed staff - not to mention a wonderful audience and supporter base.  After serving the organization for nearly a year - I celebrate my first PCMS birthday this October - I think I've learned a few things about why PCMS has been successful in "living its mission" and believe it's important to share these thoughts with you:

Defining Its Mission
PCMS does a wonderful job of keeping it mission simple and straightforward - great music, convenient venues, affordable pricing.  It's so simple that it is often difficult, as Development Director, to fill up pages of an application explaining what we do: present great artists, make the concerts broadly accessible, and support these programs with education programs and outstanding customer service.

Sharing Its Mission Within the Organization
PCMS is a lean organization and information and values spread quickly.  However, it gets pretty hectic booking, funding, and presenting 110 events each year!  It's easy to get sucked into the general hum of a busy office and to let things slip a bit.  However, PCMS seems to have the capacity - from its staff and leadership, to board and funding partners - to view its challenges within the context of its mission.  Suffice it to say that this could fill an entire blog post, and will be featured more soon!

Living and Breathing Its Mission
Finally, its important to live and breathe your mission.  PCMS staff - Brad, Sonya, Miles, Phil, Sue, Brian, Gayle, and Tony - as well its volunteers (hi Gussie!) and ushers (led by Guy) truly embody the family atmosphere that pervades our office and events.

In summary, over the next few months I'll continue to give you my thoughts about what distinguishes PCMS (and where it could do better).  I hope you enjoy and look forward to your comments, especially as audience members!