Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts


Arts Administration

First Advisor

Rachel Shane, Ph.D.


The symphony orchestra industry in the United States was founded with the goal of serving the elite, but these orchestras are organized as not-for-profit organizations and are currently mandated to benefit the community more broadly. Professional symphony orchestras in the United States are beginning to address this disconnect between their elite-oriented origins and the more modern federal mandate of community-oriented service in a variety of ways, including through community engagement programming. There are a number of items that remain unknown, including the impact that environmental factors have on orchestras’ community-oriented work, and what “community engagement” means to orchestras.

The purpose of this convergent mixed methods study is to make progress toward understanding the efforts of professional orchestras in the United States to become more relevant to the communities they serve. To do so, the study examines the environmental factors (communities served, labor environment, and financial environment) that impact orchestra community engagement programming, and professional orchestras' description and assessment of their community engagement programming.

Open systems theory is the central theory of this study’s theoretical framework, and institutional isomorphism and resource dependence theory serve as secondary theories. Central to the study is a case study of Symphoria – The Orchestra of Central New York. The multiple methods and sources of evidence collected in this study include document analysis, interviews, direct observations, and two survey instruments. The dependent variable being investigated in this study is the community engagement programming of orchestras. This study (specifically, the literature review) has led to the identification of three dimensions of community engagement, and evidence of the presence or absence of these three dimensions (ongoing relationship, responsive collaboration, and mutual benefit) were utilized to analyze orchestras’ community engagement programming. This study brings these three dimensions together to create a New Cycle of Community Engagement.

Through analysis of qualitative and quantitative data, results of this study reveal that communities being served by professional symphony orchestras in the United States do not have a large impact on the orchestras’ community engagement programming. Additionally, to a lesser extent, the budget size and unionization status of professional symphony orchestras also have an impact on the ways that orchestras organize and develop their community engagement programming.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)