Chamber Music in a microbrewery, it goes together like….peas and carrots? Peanut butter and jelly? Rodgers and Hammerstein? Like a ramma lamma lamma ….ok, I’m done, I promise. At the Midland Center for the Arts, we absolutely feel that Stouts and Strings, our new chamber music series in a bar, is the next in this list of noteworthy pairs! As you already know, a primary obstacle to attendance at a classical music concert is the intimidating concert hall itself. Patrons are afraid of what they don’t know, and fear a stuffy, conservative atmosphere. Stouts and Strings is one of two new adult education initiatives launched this fall designed to shatter this barrier and create a better overall experience for first-time ticket buyers, aiming to alleviate the retention issue for symphony orchestras, which research shows is actually a larger issue than getting people in the door.
On the last Tuesday of the month, a quartet of players from the Midland Symphony Orchestra, our in-house professional ensemble, presents a 60 minute concert at Midland Brewing Company. The players, who have traded their concert blacks for jeans and flannel shirts, take their spot in the corner of the bar and play....what exactly? They play Brahms and Beethoven, of course, but they also play Sinatra, The Beatles, and Coldplay, among others. Our players have had a blast, as has the crowd, and we’ve found this is especially effective in engaging young families. It’s the perfect combination: mom and dad get a night out and the kids get a chance to run around in an open space, but they also get to see a viola and touch a bow, while hearing great music, some of which may already be familiar to them.
In conjunction with Stouts and Strings, we’ve started another series called Orchestra 101. This is exactly what it sounds like - a beginner's introduction to the orchestral experience. It’s an incredibly basic, no questions are too dumb to ask - type look at the symphony orchestra. We address where to sit, what to wear, and most importantly, when to clap. We also have a light touch on some of the repertoire being performed. Our hope is to alleviate clapping-at-the-wrong-time-phobia, while providing a glimpse at the repertoire and players in the ensemble. It’s worth noting that this takes place not in the classroom, but in our lounge where folks can enjoy light nibbles and their drink of choice. We want to invite interested folks to Midland Symphony concerts by reminding them that a concert needn’t be a Halloween horror experience, but that the water is warm for wading in.
Want to learn more as these efforts progress? Contact Matt directly at the Midland Center for the Arts and happy audience-building!