The Virginia Beach Symphony Orchestra has announced that they’re changing their name . (Article via ArtsJournal.) The new name, created in consultation with HCD Advertising and Public Relations, is “Symphonicity.” Yes, that’s the whole thing. Symphonicity.

“It’s a $50 word, that’s for sure,” said Dan Downing, executive vice president at HCD. “But it’s something that you see it, you don’t forget it.”

Kind of like a car crash, I suppose. Fifty bucks, eh? One wonders what the going rate is for “Orchestrexcellent” or “Philharmarvelous.”

Now, I really shouldn’t make fun of efforts by smaller, regional orchestras to expand their name recognition or media presence—they’re feeling the economic squeeze far more than their big-city counterparts. I’m going to make fun of this, though, because that might just be the stupidest name I’ve ever heard.

HCD’s relationship with the English language does seem to be more that of a distant cousin than a beloved sibling. From their website:

If marketing is not relevant, it has no purpose. If it is not original, it will attract no attention. If it is not impactful, it will make no lasting impression.

If it is not a double negative, it will be no harder to read. And there’s a circle of hell reserved for non-facetious users of words like “impactful.”

The orchestra announced the change on April 1st. I hope they take the implied out, and say the whole thing was a joke.


  1. In other news, the New York Philharmonic is renaming itself Philharmongous, and the Cleveland Orchestra will become Orchestrazzmatazz.

  2. It appears from Google that the word “symphonicity” appeared in an article by Theodor W. Adorno, at least as rendered by one translator. So the name becomes a negative dialectical critique of the falsity of the whole. A surprising move from the ordinarily conservative symphony orchestra establishment!

  3. Hell, it’s the Virginia Beach Symphony Orchestra. This is like the Atlantic City Philharmonia calling itself “The Philharmonotones” or something.I think that the Nieuw Ensemble should be renamed “NIEUW!”.

  4. Alex’s point about Adorno might just make this whole thing worthwhile for me. (It also seems to be a somewhat obscure theological term, for what that’s worth—maybe their target audience is the Pope.)Hey, I thought up another one: The Amsterdam “Concerto-go-round”!

  5. FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT: I work for the agency that helped “the group formally known as the Virginia Beach Symphony Orchestra” come up with their new name and logo. The word does have ties to “Synchronicity” (which the Police didn’t create). The definition of Synchronicity is a “coincidence of events that seem to be meaningfully related.”Symphonicity (nee VBSO) is a entirely volunteer ensemble of musicians. They come from all walks of life. They vary in age, culture, race, professions, etc. And, most notably, they also don’t get paid for performing – they do it for the love of the art. We thought that the word fit, as one could view them as a “coincidence of events” (Seeing as they come from literally all over the world, happen to live here and play for this organization) that are “meaningfully related” in music.You also mention the struggle smaller market orchestras face vs. their larger counterparts. We (their agency and Symphonicity) are reaching out to younger demos in an attempt to catch their attention. Folks are talking about the name (some good, some bad), but it’s a start to building awareness where there was little previously (in the younger demo).

  6. Oh, dear, well, your comment could certainly explain a few things. Do you mean “the group formally known as the Virginia Beach Symphony Orchestra” or “the group FORMERLY known as…”?

  7. I should be clear in my levity: had “Symphonicity” been a new advertising slogan, or a new tag line, or somehow a season theme, I would have no problem with it. (As derivative as it is, it beats anything the BSO has come up with lately.) As the new <>name<>, however, I just see nothing but trouble. It’s going to be a fair outlay on marketing, brand-building, etc., just to get the name registered in people’s consciousness, and then the ensemble is stuck with it—and I have a feeling they may regret that six or seven seasons down the line. It just seems analogous to a cute, punning tattoo that you get in a moment of drunken revelry, and then realize in the bleary light of morning that it’s not so easy to erase.

  8. As a member of the orchestra in question (even I can’t bring myself to say the name), I would just like to say that I understand the dilemma the orchestra committee was trying to solve. Here in the Tidewater Virginia area, there were two orchestras within twenty miles of each other whose names sounded a lot like “Virginia Symphony Orchestra”. One of them is the Virginia Symphony Orchestra (used to be the Norfolk Symphony), and they’re pros — they are not going to change their name to make the people who run the Virginia Beach Symphony Orchestra, an amateur group, happy. You’d be amazed at the turnout we have for concerts, I think, given our limitations. We want an even bigger audience because we now have a bigger concert hall to fill, thanks to the Virginia Beach taxpayers. I don’t know if changing the name to Symphonicity helps ticket sales, but at least no one will confuse us anymore with the guys at the other end of I-264.The orchestra exists because middle-aged wannabes like myself think playing pieces such as Harold in Italy and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony is too important to be left to the professionals — and conductor Dave Kunkel is willing to organized it all. As Shostakovich once said, “Amateurs would make the best musicians, if only they could play.”Bottom line, what’s in a name? I don’t care if they call it Uncle Kunkel’s Kapellmeisters, as long as I get to play Khachaturians’ Second Symphony.

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