Flash version here.
The Concert contre le Cancer (Concert
Against Cancer), the primary source of funding for the Institut du cancer
de Montréal, celebrates its fifth anniversary this February. In five
years, the dedication of its volunteers and its director-general, Maral
Tersakian, as well as its shock advertising campaign showing composers
with bald heads, has made it a success.
The last two editions have raised
between $550,000 and $570,000 each.
“We found a winning formula,”
says Maral Tersakian. “It draws as many business heads and classical
music lovers as it does members of the general public who have never
gone to a symphonic concert, and may never otherwise have, but are motivated
by the fight against cancer.”
This is one charity event that is
accessible to all budgets; ticket prices run from $35 . . . up to $2,500!
“We didn’t want to make it an
elitist soirée,” says Mrs. Tersakian. “To thank our diamond and
silver partners for their more generous donations, we organize a VIP
cocktail before the concert.”
This annual event has also helped
bring the Institute to the greater public. “I often speak to people
who call to purchase tickets, and many of them have been intimately
affected by the disease,” explains the director. “ Four sisters
and their spouses bought tickets because their sister had died of cancer
the year before. This was their way of commemorating a tragic anniversary.”
How it all got started
Walks, balls, bike rallies – there is already a host of activities
and events dedicated to raising funds to fight cancer. Those at the
Institute asked themselves what they could do to raise money that would
stand out. Why not a classical music concert? It was also an excellent
way to celebrate the organization’s 60th anniversary
“Looking at a profile of our donors,
we found that they are educated, well established, and of a certain
age,” says Mrs. Tersakian. “We thought a symphony concert corresponded
well to this profile.”
Ambitious from the start, the first
concert was held in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. “We had the chance to
pair Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Louis Lortie, who played together for
the first time. It was a success,” she recalls.
It wasn’t until the second year
that the event took its current name of “Concert contre le cancer”.
Marketing firm kbs+p had the ingenious idea of putting Mozart with a
bald head on the ads. “It had an extraordinary media impact,” adds
the director. Since then, Verdi and Strauss (and for the next campaign,
Bizet) have had their heads shaved to support the cause.
The Institut du cancer de Montréal
was founded in 1947, making it the first francophone cancer research
institute in North America. But with the creation of the CHUM (the University
of Montreal Hospital Centre), its mission changed and the foundation’s
aim changed to supporting the CHUM research centre.
“It’s a relatively small foundation,”
says Maral Tersakian. “We addressed the need to target our efforts,
and we decided to create the program Rapatriement de cerveaux
(Repatriating Brains). As a society, we lose a lot of scientists trained
in our universities. They go elsewhere to do postdoctoral studies and
never come back to Quebec because there isn’t as much funding and
start-up capital for research here as in other countries.”
The program has made good on its
promise; in the last four years, five top-level researchers have come
back to settle here.
The concept of bringing scientists
back into the fold has been very well received in the business community.
The Institute easily recruited prestigious members of the business community
to be part of the campaign’s office and donate, sign letters, and
“The businesspeople who get involved
with or donate money to a cause want to know what is done with the money
to ensure that it’s used effectively,” explains Mrs. Tersakian.
“A researcher who settles here becomes like an SME over time. He or
she receives funding and hires staff. This means in addition to advancing
scientific research, we’re stimulating economic activity as well.
By adding a classical music concert to finance the program, we find
ourselves with many ingredients that contribute to success. When you
have an interesting and well-organized project, people want to participate.”
Furthermore, the organization reduced
its operating costs to a minimum by soliciting sponsorships for the
material necessary to the ad campaign. “Everything that we’ve gotten
for free from the media and from suppliers is a key to success,” she
adds. “I spend six months of the year negotiating all that.”
[Translation: Rebecca Anne
The upcoming Concert Against Cancer
will take place February 3, 2012, at 8 p.m. and will be held for the
first time at Montreal’s Maison Symphonique. The audience will hear
the Metropolitan Orchestra, under the baton of Stéphane Laforest, soprano
Marie-Josée Lord, and violinist Marie-Ève Poupart playing a program
of works by Bizet, Puccini, Gershwin, Gilles Vigneault, and Starmania’s
Le monde est stone.