by Beth Beckwith —
A new concert series, Music Without Borders, will be spreading live music throughout the metropolitan area from now until February. The Louisville Orchestra is breaking out of their normal routine by bringing music home. In the past, patrons of this art form would venture into the heart of downtown to attend orchestral performances. Now, with the help of sponsors such as LG&E, the Orchestra is able to bring music closer to the people. The series will be held at various churches, synagogues and congregations around Louisville.
The series started in October and has been successful in terms of attendance and reception so far.
Cantor David Lipp of Congregation Adath Jeshurun shed some light on the community perspective regarding the concert series.
“The first concert was close to full,” Lipp said. “Technically, it was sold out. We had to bring out more chairs than we had anticipated.”
Cantor Lipp expressed his congregation’s enthusiasm towards the collaboration, noting that there were approximately as many community members in attendance as there were congregation members.
“Locals from the surrounding neighborhoods came–people who just love music,” Lipp added.
As a result of the recent recession, attendance at orchestral performances declined. The Orchestra went into bankruptcy four years ago and teetered on significant financial difficulties. In response, the Orchestra took measure to increase patron attendance. This new concert series is one of the steps the Orchestra is taking to get out of their primary performance venue and into the hearts and lives of the local community.
Michelle Winters, Director of Marketing for Louisville Orchestra, said, “I think that’s in part why the Orchestra feels such an obligation or such a passion to go into the community that declared it believed in the Orchestra and wanted the organization to continue. So, in a way, this series is a response to the problems that the Orchestra had financially. It’s now really committed to reaching out to the community and its neighborhoods.”
The organization has been reorganizing itself, focusing on a primary goal of being more present everywhere in the community. Conductor Teddy Abrams is at the heart of this operation. He also has aspirations of connecting local communities through music and new experiences. In part, this is why he was selected as Music Director for the series.
“This particular series is part of a restructuring of the Orchestra’s programming,” said Abrams. “I’m offering a way of presenting music that matches the entirety of the population here so that every person in the community, in Louisville, feels connected to the Orchestra. It’s a major change for the Orchestra to add on this series. Going into these neighborhoods and connecting with people who may not have considered the Orchestra to be a part of their daily lives, who hadn’t ventured downtown, were unable, didn’t think to, or couldn’t afford to. This series is all over the place. Every part of the metropolitan area is covered geographically. This is more than an orchestra. It’s a group of people trying to bring people together.”
Abrams’ goal is to shake hands with every person in Louisville. He sees the outreach to local neighborhoods as a chance to communicate person to person with everyone who seeks out music. He has opened up his own home in what he calls The Louisville Music Haven, located on Market Street in NuLu. Abrams considers himself to be one of the vendors on the street there and hosts open houses every time a public event occurs in that neighborhood. At these open houses, he encourages musicians to play in his home and invites people in to have a seat and share the musical experience.
Abrams’ welcoming attitude is shared by the entire orchestral organization. Their common goal is to create a new community that links music lovers from all around town.
“Teddy is an ambassador of all music, not just orchestral or classic music,” Winters said, “It happened organically both ways when this organization decided to find ways to get more up close and personal with Louisvillians. It kind of serendipitously manifested itself that it was this young man’s mission in life and the fact that we found each other is pretty tremendous. The synergy between this mission and the individual within has propelled our organization to brand new places.”
The Orchestra will be featuring solo artists from the Orchestra as well as the local community. The incorporation of local talent into the program provides the Orchestra with an opportunity to reciprocate support and encouragement that the community has given them. These local artists are being given the opportunity to showcase their talent and promote themselves as serious musicians.
The next concert series this week features a young violinist, Spencer Sharp, who won the 2014 Young Artist Competition. Teddy Abrams who also judged the competition said, “Spencer was amazing. He had a real maturity and command to the piece that he was playing, so I think people will be very impressed.”
Sharp will be playing the first movement of the violin concerto in A minor by Antonin Dvorak. By featuring Sharp in Music Without Borders, the Orchestra is providing this young artist with his debut performance in hopes of launching a successful music career for.
All tickets to Music Without Borders are one general admission rate, which is $20. The Orchestra offers $10 rush tickets to students who wish to attend future classical or pop performances at Whitney Hall. An anonymous donor has provided them with funding for University of Louisville’s Music School students to attend such performances at no cost.
Music Without Borders is the beginning of a new era for the Louisville Orchestra. They hope to create a bond with the local community, prompted by their efforts to fill each concert with inspirational music.