September 26, 2016

Series Spotlight: RPO Around the Town

Serving the Rochester community is a top priority for the RPO. The RPO’s free semi-annual Around the Town Concert Series serves as a way to reach communities who might not otherwise attend concerts at the Eastman Theatre. The RPO's next Around the Town series will be held in three different locations October 6 through 8 under the baton of guest conductor Steven Byess. Orchestral and symphonic music may not be readily available to everyone who’s interested in it, so it’s important to bring it out of the concert halls and into new neighborhoods. Finding specific spaces in these neighborhoods to host concerts can be quite a challenge, but RPO Director of Education Barbara Brown is more than up for the task.

“I have worked with churches, schools, recreation centers, and hospitals, so the types of venues we perform in can vary quite a bit,” Brown said. “I act as the RPO’s liaison to the venue—the venues we have worked with have been incredible and want to get every detail just right. If it is a venue we are going to for the first time, there can be a lot of questions to answer.”

For Brown, bringing the RPO to new areas and communities around Rochester has been an inspiring experience.

“One of my favorite Around the Town experiences was when we played a concert at Monroe Community Hospital,” Brown continued. “The auditorium was packed with patients and their families. For those patients in more serious condition not able to leave their rooms, we were able to send a live feed of the concert directly to the TVs in their hospital room. I believe we were able to bring a sense of peace and normalcy to the patients and families who were going through a tough time.”

Beyond the task of organizing the concerts and finding spaces to host them in, creating a program for the Around the Town series is its own separate challenge. Around the Town concert programs must be simultaneously accessible enough for new audiences while still representative of what the RPO has to offer across the board. This is something that RPO Vice President of Artistic Administration Richard Decker recognizes, and this year the Around the Town program he helped put together is truly one-of-a-kind.

“The program was selected to serve as a kind of preview concert to the upcoming American Music Festival that RPO Music Director Ward Stare programmed, with the additional hope that the program would be experienced positively as both an educational and entertaining event,” said Decker. All of the works featured on the Around the Town program are by American composers, as is the repertoire that will be performed in Stare's American Music Festival later that month as part of the RPO's 2016-17 season. The Around the Town programming includes familiar tunes from West Side Story (composer Leonard Bernstein) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (composer John Williams) juxtaposed with Howard Hanson's "Romantic" Symphony No. 2 and Aaron Copland's "Hoedown" from Rodeo.

“We work very hard to create concert experiences where the audience will always walk away with the sentiment that they have not only heard a well-played concert, but that they heard engaging music that hopefully resonated with them in some personal way.”

Despite the organization and time commitment that goes into the Around the Town series, it’s still largely a grassroots effort. Beyond that, it’s truly a labor of love for those involved.

“We do what we can by advertising on our website, social media, sending out a press release, and creating fliers for the use of each venue to promote the concert,” said Brown. “When we have the chance to play a concert that is free to the public, we want everyone to take advantage of the opportunity and see those seats full of people!”

If you go:
What: Around the Town community concert series
When: Thursday-Saturday, October 6-8
Where: See below
Time: All concerts at 7:30 p.m.
$$$: Free

Thursday, October 6
Eastridge High School
2350 East Ridge Rd., Rochester, NY 14622

, October 7
Fairport High School
1 Dave Paddock Way, Rochester, NY 14450

Saturday, October 8

Churchville-Chili High School
5786 Buffalo Rd., Churchville, NY 14428

Written by Alexander Jones, a graduate of RIT's journalism program and recent marketing and communications intern at the RPO.

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