One of the biggest challenges facing every orchestra, including the Jacksonville Symphony, is how to attract more young people to our concerts? Although studies have shown that people tend to move towards classical music later in life, I’m always surprised that many people my age who wouldn’t dream of missing the latest exhibition at a major gallery never even consider coming to a concert.
I don’t remember the first orchestral concert I attended, but I do remember several in my childhood that not only turned me on to classical music, but convinced me I needed to spend my life understanding it. The white heat excitement of an orchestra recreating a masterpiece only feet away from your seat is one the most exhilarating experiences live performance can offer.
I know that the music isn’t the problem. It’s the concert experience. We haven’t really changed the way we present classical music in the last hundred and fifty years. We expect newcomers to sit through ninety minutes of music with no explanation of what’s going on. We assume everyone can come to hear us at the same time every week, and worst of all, we see the lack of young people as a problem rather than an opportunity. Of course most people come to a concert to hear great music, but seeing friends, meeting new people, and having fun are just as important.
At the Jacksonville Symphony, we are dreaming up ways of making our concerts the place to be for young adults. We’re starting a young professionals group. Next season we will launch a new concert series that presents masterpieces in a shorter, more informal format with audio and visual presentations, scheduled earlier in the evening so people who work downtown can hear us before they go home.
The Jacksonville Symphony offers a wonderful experience that is a value for all, and we increase this value opportunity for our young attendees. Our Sound Check Card, priced at $25, allows students up to the age of twenty-five access to every Masterworks and Coffee Series concert and other selected concerts for an entire season. Parents can join in the fun by purchasing a special $10 admission when joining a child at a concert. (For more information call 904-354-5547 or visit jaxsymphony.org for details and limits.)
There is also the Family Series to delight young children. The Symphony is presenting The Polar Express on Sunday, Dec. 7 at 3 p.m., our Jacksonville Youth Symphony Orchestra is performing a free holiday concert on Monday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m., and what would the holidays be without the First Coast Nutcracker, Friday, Dec. 19 at 8 p.m., Sat., Dec. 20 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sun., Dec. 21 at 2 p.m.
As we continue to reach out to all members of our community, I hope that you will join me. Please follow me on Twitter @CourtneyConduct, follow the Symphony @jaxsymphony, like us on Facebook at Facebook.com/JaxSymphony and visit our website JaxSymphony.org. Lots of exciting things will be coming your way.
Article written by By Courtney Lewis, music director, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra