Tessitura: More Than Your Average Software Conference

by:  Lisa McColgan, Annual Fund Coordinator at 09/05/2012

Lisa McColgan, Annual Fund Coordinator

I recently got back from a software conference where — in addition to making a presentation in which the red sheep from Candide were prominently featured - I ate meals in a giant ballroom with around 1,200 arts administrators, pocketed several teeny-weeny bottles of Tabasco from the buffet line, and performed in a rock band on the flight deck of the storied USS Midway.

One generally doesn't equate "software conference" with "a real good time." That is, unless one works with Tessitura.

Tessitura is "the leading enterprise-wide, fully integrated software system for arts and cultural organizations." It was originally developed by, and for,The Metropolitan Opera. Once they realized what a good thing they had, they decided it would be silly not to share it. The Huntington has been using Tessitura since 2004. How popular is it becoming? Well, at the first Tessitura conference I attended (here in Boston in 2005), there were 550 attendees representing about 90 organizations. This year, in San Diego, there were over 1,200 folks from over 350 organizations in 6 different countries. Chances are, if you've bought a ticket, made a donation, or asked to be sent information about an upcoming performance, you've indirectly dealt with Tessitura.

Derrick Martin, Assistant Audience Services Manager, in a jet!

What's so great about Tessitura? For one, it can (and does) handle just about all aspects of our work here at the Huntington, from ticketing, to managing volunteer ushers, to how donors are recognized in the programs. All user organizations have a say in how Tessitura continues to develop; I've sometimes likened it to a "sheep shearing commune," which is a little crazy, but the point is that it's a company that truly listens to the needs of its users.

This year, seven of us from the Huntington (representing Marketing, Development, IT, External Relations, and the Box Office) went to San Diego to continue to learn how to best use this very powerful system for maximum benefit to our patrons. It was five days of breakout sessions, presentations, peer-to-peer conversations, and a whole lot of networking with other arts organizations.

Which sounds sort of dull, but isn't. 1,200 people from theatre companies, symphonies, museums, and concert halls = a lot of people who are very passionate about the arts. I've been to five of these now, and I always come away inspired. It's more than just talking about what reports you can

run to get this information, or how to customize an already-existing function, or what kind of new/awesome/flashy thing you can expect in the next upgrade. It's reinforcing why we all do what we do. We love the arts, we love people who love the arts, and we love making it easier for those people to share that love with us.

And, as I mentioned at the beginning, it's a good time. I've had dinner at the Kennedy Center, watched a performance at the Grand Ole Opry, and - for the second year in a row - been a member of The Tessiturians, a rock band made up of folks from the U.K., Australia, and here in the U.S. We rewrite popular songs so that the lyrics reflect working in arts administration (and on Tessitura), and it's always good, dumb fun (see below for the ones I sang).

This year we got to perform on the USS Midway, and honestly, I don't know how we're going to top that next year (in San Francisco) unless we get to play at Alcatraz or something.

Tessitura-themed lyrics by Lisa McColgan, performed to the tune of No Doubt's "Spiderwebs"

All these ways to connect
Have we left any unchecked?
Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook -
We hope our patrons take a look.
But now I'm stuck in the
The web we're spinning.
I'm lost in cyberspace...
I can't take your call right now
I'm working on the internet
So leave a message
And I'll call you back
A likely story, but leave a message
And I'll call you back

I'm searching for ways to thwart
those abandoned shopping carts.
'Cause I know there has to be
a way to select your own seats.
Print at home tickets, check the google analytics
I'm planning my escape...


Please leave a comment
on our streaming content
The e-blast's been sent
with our streaming content.
Now it's gone too deep (Now, it's gone too deep)
I'm coding in my sleep (Coding in my sleep)
My dreams they play in Flash (Dreams play in Flash)
Hope my server doesn't crash


Oooh, the internet
Leave a message and I'll call you back
I'm working on the internet
So, leave a message and I'll call you back
I'm working on the internet
Leave a comment, our streaming content
The eblast's been sent
streaming content, streaming content
Leave a comment, leave a comment

I'm working on the internet so,
Leave a message and I'll call you back

I'm working on the internet
Leave a message and I'll call you back
Ooh, leave a comment
on our streaming content
The e-blast has been sent

Leave a comment
the e-blast e-blast e-blast's been sent
with our streaming content
I'm working on the internet
Leave a message and I'll call you back


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