Club Blume, Bigger and Better Than Ever: What’s Behind the Young Professional Group’s New Growth Explosion?
Something big has happened to Club Blume. Now in its 12th season, Blumenthal’s young professionals group for theater fans in their 20s and 30s is experiencing unprecedented growth. “We have a crazy increase in numbers,” says Blumenthal’s Marketing and Publicity Manager Joy West, who oversees the program. In the last few years, membership has gone up by more than 75%.
Club Blume is unique because unlike many other groups for young professionals, joining is free. Members receive invitations for seven “Informances” throughout the season where they can learn more from a local expert about an upcoming production, enjoy complimentary food and drinks, and mingle with other theater fans. Informance attendees also have access to discounted tickets (subject to availability) to the subsequent Club Blume night of that particular show.
(Club Blume members taking a private tour of Belk Theater at a recent Informance.)
In addition, Blumenthal offers a limited number of Club Blume subscriptions to all seven of the designated Club Blume Season productions. “Our goal is to bring young people in and show that theater isn’t just for their grandparents,” says West. “...[and] put them in cool settings where they’ll learn more about theater.”
OUTREACH AND EXPANSION
Last season, with HAMILTON headlining, Club Blume subscriptions sold out in a record one day. Due to the uptick in subscribers across the board, Blumenthal was unable to make any additional single tickets available for Club Blume members. So instead of hosting Informances, West organized a series of free mixers across uptown at hip locales to build momentum for the group for future seasons and reach more recent transplants to Charlotte. Blumenthal also expanded its social media efforts to connect with more young professionals with an interest in the arts.
“The focus on bringing in new people really did pay off for us,” says West, who adds that attendance at Informances had dropped to around 20 people per event. This season, Informances are drawing crowds of 250+ and overall membership has topped 2,600.
So, why are people signing up? The reasons for joining Club Blume are as diverse as the program’s members and their interests.
Longtime participants Jen and Rob Gorczyca love having access to a wide variety of shows as well as discovering new area restaurants through Club Blume’s catered events. “It’s the one thing we look forward to because it’s like our date night out,” says Jen Gorczyca. The couple has a Club Blume subscription to guarantee their seats for all seven shows, but they still enjoy attending Informances when their schedule permits.
MEETING NEW PEOPLE
For young professionals who are new to Charlotte, Club Blume offers a way to expand their social network through a shared common interest. “I’ve had a hard time getting involved in Charlotte,” says Alison Young, who relocated from Atlanta two years ago. Active in the theater as a child, she describes the arts scene in Charlotte as more approachable than what she experienced as a young adult in Atlanta.
Kristen Chung, a 2017 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, attended a recent Informance with a college friend who is also a fan of musical theater. “It’s nice that there are a lot of other young adults at the event,” says Chung. “When you’re in Charlotte, sometimes you just interact with your co-workers.”
(College friends (L to R) Kristen Chung and Deepthi Gowrishankar are both musical theater fans hoping to connect with other young professionals.)
For Hunter Davis, who grew up in Gastonia then moved out of state for college and career opportunities, Club Blume is helping him connect with other young professionals in a city that has experienced phenomenal growth in recent years.“It’s almost like being completely new to the area,” says Davis, who relocated to Charlotte this past December. “[It’s] good to meet some fellow young people who are interested in the arts.”
ACCESS AND AFFORDABILITY
When Charlotte native Thomas Wilson heard about the low price of Club Blume tickets and the opportunity to tour Belk theater at a recent Informance, it caught his attention. “This is all stuff that’s interested me all through college but I just couldn’t afford it,” says Wilson. “It’s always nice to find a good deal.”
Blumenthal helps subsidize the price of Club Blume tickets so more young people can have the opportunity to discover live performing arts events.
“The idea of Club Blume is to make theater accessible and affordable to a younger and more diverse audience, while showing them that theater isn’t just for older generations,” says West. “We hope that Club Blume is the beginning of a life-long support of Blumenthal and other arts organizations here in Charlotte, and would love to see members eventually graduate to a PNC Broadway Lights season subscription and perhaps even become donors when they are ready.”
LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE ARTS
For Nathan Honea, who grew up a fan of classical music (his dad’s a professional violinist) but not of Broadway shows, Club Blume has helped him gain a new appreciation for musical theater. He and his significant other Roketa Dumas have been attending Club Blume events together for about a year and a half. Dumas, a lifestyle blogger, had already been attending many local arts events when she discovered Club Blume online. They both enjoy learning about the history and backstory of shows through Informances. “They do such a deep dive into the story,” says Honea.
((From L to R.) Nathan Honea, Hunter Davis, and Roketa Dumas at a recent Informance.)
When the arts seem accessible and relatable, it draws one in, he explains. “Everybody loves talent. Everybody loves a good story. You can’t go wrong with that,” says Honea. “You have a good experience and it makes you want to [try] more things.”
A NEW WAY TO BOND WITH FRIENDS OR FAMILY
You don’t have to be all about the arts either to enjoy a Club Blume event. Aimee Wagner came to a recent Informance with a group of friends she met playing kickball. “We’re all so sports-minded,” she says. “I’ve learned so much tonight. This is an awesome opportunity to expand our interests… we’re always like, ‘let’s go out for the game.’ Now we’ve got to say, ‘Let’s go see a show!”
(A group of friends who play kickball together check out Belk Theater during their first Club Blume Informance.)