A Monthly Profile of Orchestra Fans and Family
“We are the first voice you hear.”
That’s how Linda Forlini, vice president of Ticket Philadelphia, describes how her organization interacts with the public, on behalf of the resident companies under the Kimmel Center umbrella (The Philadelphia Orchestra, Philly Pops, Pennsylvania Ballet, PHILADANCO, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and the Curtis Institute of Music).
“When you call to buy a ticket or subscription, make an exchange, or just have a question involving any of those organizations, you’re talking to us. It’s a valuable service for them, otherwise they’d each have to run their own ticketing and customer relations departments. We do all that for them.”
So how did this child of Southwest Philadelphia (Good Shepherd Parish) get to this vital cultural position in the City of Brotherly Love? “When I turned 18, the first thing I did was move to Southern California, because the Beach Boys sang about it! I began working on a degree in technical theater at El Camino College. Things were going well until I broke my arm severely in a bad stage accident. It wasn’t safe for me to work backstage anymore, with flying ropes and heavy equipment. Fortunately, the school needed a box office manager and they gave me the job. Up until then I was focused on the actors and the crew. Now I had to focus on the audience.”
Forlini also had to learn the nuts and bolts of running a performance space, from installing a brand-new computer system to managing an all-student staff at two different theaters. “Thanks to my early work in stage management, I already had this huge understanding of what happens behind the proscenium; now I was immersed in box office operations and customer care as well.”
It was perfect training for a series of challenging jobs, including helping to open the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark and serving for 14 years as director of customer relations and sales for the New York Philharmonic, before joining Ticket Philadelphia in 2016.
Despite growing up in Philadelphia, Forlini didn’t go to Orchestra concerts as a child. “We went to the Franklin Institute and other museums on school trips. But I get the sense my family just didn’t feel the Orchestra was accessible to us. Plus, I’m a punk rock girl! When I was living in LA in the ’80s, I was totally into the bands, the mosh pits, everything about that scene. But I certainly enjoy classical music now. I see the Orchestra at least a couple of times a month. I saw Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet in April with Brian Sanders’ JUNK. It was brilliant and the audience loved it.”
She says the most satisfying aspect of her job now is mentoring her young staff. “I’d say 75% of the team I have now is in their first job. In a sense, they are my customers. When I come to work every day, I need to make sure my customers are happy and fulfilled and have everything they need to do their job. If they are fulfilled they’ll project happiness to their customers, the public.
“We have team-building things we do every month. We’ll have a themed lunch or breakfast. We alternate between movie nights and game nights. I try to make sure both the Kimmel Center and the Orchestra [equal partners in Ticket Philadelphia] feel welcome. This year over 175 people have signed up for our Phillies outings.”
When she’s not inspiring her staff or taking in a performance, Forlini loves to travel. “It really opens your eyes to everything: food, culture, ideas. I try to take some kind of trip every month.”
She is planning to retire next year and she’s going out on a high note. In January she was awarded the prestigious Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award, bestowed by the International Ticketing Association in recognition of her major contributions to the ticketing industry.
“My husband and I are planning to move to Italy. We’re really looking forward to being jet setters!”