"I don't think the average person is tuned in to what we're doing as a symphony," said Angela Wheeler, senior development officer for the BSO, who was brought into a prayer circle after her pitch to one group of church leaders. "We need to do something to meet them where they are."
In its most extensive marketing to date using media outlets that target African-Americans, the BSO advertised in the Baltimore Afro-American and Baltimore Times newspapers, and ran radio commercials on 104.3 WSMJ and 95.9 WWIN.
The BSO also bought a 5,000-person subscriber list from Essence magazine, a lifestyle magazine for black women, and sent out personal invitations and brochures to everyone on the list.
Ticket prices to Soulful Symphony, which start at $15, are also more affordable than tickets to a typical symphony, which start at around $30.
Other orchestras have tried to attract minorities both onstage and off by offering fellowship programs for minority musicians and sponsoring educational programs in the schools.
But Dworkin of the Sphinx Organization said many of the efforts have been too meager to make a difference. For instance, most symphonies perform a black-oriented show on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in January, but that's it.
The Oakland East Bay Symphony in California is considered one of the most innovative in this area. It has a black conductor and its audience is 20 percent minority. The founders of the orchestra made a conscious decision to better reflect the community after its predecessor, the Oakland Symphony, declared bankruptcy in 1986. It nourished a more diverse audience through educational programs in schools, by reaching out to minority musicians and by working with community groups in the Bay area.
"We not only wanted to reflect the community, but be relevant and play an important role in the community," Executive Director Jennifer Duston said.
Diversity in symphonies isn't something that anyone expects to happen overnight - or easily.
"Unfortunately, the answer is not simple," Dworkin said. "That is in essence part of the problem. ... You can't just do an MLK concert. You can't just build diversity onstage. You have to work in the audience as well, and you can't expect it to happen instantly."