• Jen Huber

Missing the sounds of summer at Kroger Symphony on the Prairie

From left to right: Mallory Essig, Katie Angel, and Brandy Rodgers

It’s almost time to celebrate the Fourth of July, which would normally be a week of fantastic concerts at Kroger Symphony on the Prairie filled with great music, fun with friends, and fireworks to conclude the evening. Though many are feeling the disappointment of quieter summer, Associate Director of Artistic Coordination Mallory Essig is already looking ahead to the 2021 summer season and making concert plans.

In addition to working on the regular Printing Partners Pops Series and serving as the Company Manager and Associate Producer for IPL Yuletide Celebration, Mallory spends much of her year building the 13-week schedule for Kroger Symphony on the Prairie. She normally starts to plan the next season in August when summer concert tours are wrapping up. Most bands and performers start to confirm schedules in December, and March is when details come into sharper focus. “But before I book anything, I start with the schedule of the orchestra and our conductors, like Jack Everly,” she explains. “I program those weeks and choose music that is popular or genre-based and that will most highlight our musicians, such as music of the Beatles or the music of John Williams.”

Once those weeks are planned, she fills in the remaining schedule with bands or groups that have been popular in previous SOTP seasons—such as Fleetwood Mac Mania or Face 2 Face—tries out some new groups, and adds in a bigger name or two, such as The Temptations who were scheduled to perform in 2020. She also works to diversify the music of the weekends, making sure that two 90s groups aren’t on back to back nights, for example. In addition, she reads every comment received about prior concerts and talks to the box office about any comments they received in order to make the best scheduling decisions possible. “Of course I also look at the projected attendance and the cost to book the group to make sure it’s a good fit.”

A passion for programming

When Mallory was a senior at Indiana University in 2014, she took a summer internship with the Operations team of the ISO. It was during that summer that she met Ty Johnson and Brandy Rodgers of the Pops Department and a connection was made. “I always had a vision of my future job of management in an artistic element,” she said, “but I didn’t know what jobs were actually out there. I thought I would move to New York City after that internship ended and find a job on Broadway, but I ended up finding a place in the orchestral world right in Indianapolis.”

Mallory spent her first couple of years with the ISO learning all the ropes by attending any rehearsal, meeting, or performance that she could. Her degree in arts administration came into play as she learned more about her interests. “My passion is programming,” she says. “That’s what I love most about the Printing Partners Pops Series and IPL Yuletide Celebration and the Bank of America Film Series. I expressed interest in programming something on my own, and Kroger Symphony on the Prairie was most interesting to me because that’s where I got my start.”

Mallory hopes to bring an artistic vision and cohesive feel to the overall programming of Kroger Symphony on the Prairie. “I think the summer would have been a great season of concerts if the pandemic had not happened,” she says, and adds that many groups have already said they will reschedule for 2021. “I’m looking forward to seeing what next season brings!”

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