Strings woos young listeners |
Karina Serkin Spitzley

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Strings woos young listeners

Classical music is a tough sale these days. Ever popular among the 65 and older set, classical music has yet to be fully embraced by younger people. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but that’s another topic for another time. But the question is this: How can arts organizations peak interest and sustain that interest in classical music so that there are audiences for the many years to come?

Orchestras and symphonies finally have begun to explore the problem. From the Boston Symphony Orchestra to the National Symphony Orchestra, arts groups are struggling but succeeding in reeling in the young people. Often, orchestras present their concerts at less ostentatious places than a concert hall, say a bookstore or even a pub. Other groups encourage their audiences to pay a fee, become a member of the “Forte” club and socialize with other “culturally minded persons.”

For instance, the Austin Symphony Orchestra, invites young professionals in their mid-20s to early 40s to join “Be At The Symphony!” Membership provides premier seating to select shows, post-performance parties, and e-vites to “Happ’nin’ Happy Hours” around town.

The Colorado Symphony targets bars as a place to capture the younger set’s attention. The Young Patrons Group recently held a chamber concert in a local Denver pub and presented a “Culture Crawl” combining wine tasting with chamber music and art viewing.

Such efforts are paying off. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, who offers $100 tickets for $10 to 15- to 29-year-olds, has seen a rise in membership with members usually accounting for 200 to 300 tickets at every show — seats that in the past would have been empty.

“The TSO noticed that we were missing youth from our audience,” program director Rob Piilonen said. “We went forward with the idea that price was a major reason why these people weren’t attending.”

Here in Steamboat, Strings in the Mountains is encouraging the younger generation to get out and listen.

Offered for the first time this summer are discounted tickets to select performances for people ages 21 to 39. “Contempo Concerts” will be held Wednesday and Aug. 10 for chamber music performances that are easy on the ear. “Basically Beethoven,” at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Music Festival Park, is a great performance to understand the different types and sizes of chamber music ensembles, as there is a duet, a trio, and a quintet. Then, on Aug. 10, Dominique Moralez of the Emerald City Opera joins the festival for an evening of “Mostly Mozart.” This will be a special engagement, in that vocal pieces rarely are heard on the Strings stage.

“We realized that classical music may be intimidating to some people” said Kay Clagett, president and CEO of Strings in the Mountains. “We wanted to make it accessible, understandable, refreshing. If lowering our ticket price helps get new faces in the tent, great. We simply want people to be able to share in such a wonderful experience.”

In addition, Strings’ new catering partner, Moving Mountains, will offer a special happy hour at both of these events. They hope this will not only entice people to the concerts, but also show that concerts don’t have to be stuffy affairs.

Classical music may be old, but it is never outdated. The complexities, the colors, and the compositions are always revealing themselves with every new listening. Once the musical interest is there, it is a hard habit to break. Strings hopes this new program will illustrate just that.