DPAA Program Reaches Out To New Audiences

EDGE performers Thomas Sobieski (violin), Kim Trout (viola), Christina Coletta (cello), and Leslie Stratton (harp—not pictured) perform in Yellow Springs

By Tim Smith

The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance continually strives to introduce their various organizations to a wider audience. One of their newest programs is called EDGE, and it features members of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra doing unconventional performances in unconventional places.

Jessica Hung is the DPO’s Concertmaster, and also the Associate Artistic Director for Chamber Music. She was one of the committee members responsible for organizing this new series.

“The aspirational goal of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance is to matter to Dayton, to become a household name synonymous with artistic excellence,” she says. “The objective of the EDGE chamber ensembles is thus twofold – to expose new eyes and ears to the highest caliber of music, dance, and opera that Dayton has to offer at a more casual and intimate level, and to build new audiences and provide them with an entryway into our core offerings of Philharmonic, Ballet and Opera performances.”

The EDGE series grew out of the development of the DPAA’s current Strategic Plan, and was designed to provide community outreach and service by introducing more people to what the various organizations have to offer.

“Offering chamber music performances, featuring small groups of 2-8 artists, at various locations throughout the greater Dayton area from restaurants and breweries to churches and hospitals, seemed to be a powerful way to get out there and make an impact on the lives of more people than only those who attend our performances at the Schuster Center or the Victoria Theatre,” Hung says. “The project was designed and spearheaded by a few members of the senior staff as well as a mixed ‘Experiments!’ committee made up of staff, artists, board members, and volunteers.”

“EDGE does not actually stand for anything,” she continues. “It’s just a stylization of the name in all capital letters. The word itself to me symbolizes breaking down the invisible fourth wall at the edge of the stage that traditionally separates performer and audience. This was beautifully demonstrated in our Holiday program at the Dayton Metro Library, when a string quartet performed ‘Sleigh Ride’ with participation from audience members to play two percussion instruments, the bells and a clapper. But the real kicker came at the end when, since we lacked a trumpet to deliver the final horse’s neigh, many of the audience members spontaneously neighed in unison to help the group complete the song, ending in laughter all around. We hope to recreate the magic of that moment of pure joy and engagement many times over throughout the EDGE program’s first season.”

In addition to traditional chamber music, EDGE has planned some unique theme programs, such as Classic Rock and 500 Years of Dance Music.

“Some programs have been well-received when performed by our ensembles in schools, and we decided to take them out to a broader adult audience,” Hung says. “The more traditional classical programs are chosen by the artists themselves with assistance from me in researching repertoire for the group’s particular instrument combination. We had a unique combination in January in Yellow Springs: harp, violin, viola, and cello. That group adapted a Mozart Quartet played by harp instead of the original piano. The classic rock group in February featured one of our trombonists, Rich Begel, performing with the band Reload in preparation for the Philharmonic’s Rockin’ Orchestra concert featuring the music of Led Zeppelin. Rich and his colleagues provided live music at Warped Wing Brewery coinciding with their beer release party. So a few of the EDGE chamber programs have tie-ins to our bigger programs as well.”

Planning performances in unconventional venues has proven to be a challenge, but Hung feels that the group’s efforts are paying off.

“One challenge we have found with non-traditional venues so far is tailoring the type of group to the venue’s expected noise levels, and working with the venues’ sound systems to find the right balance,” she says. “A string quartet may work well in a formal restaurant while a brass ensemble may be more effective at projecting throughout a crowded bar. The response has been building among the performances we have held thus far. I’m proud to report that we had a packed house at our December library concert. We also streamed the entire concert via Facebook Live, and plan to continue using that platform for select performances in the future.”

The members of EDGE hope that their experiment continues to attract new audiences to all of the DPAA’s components.

“We would like the audience to feel that great live music and art can be enjoyed in a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere, and that the musicians, dancers, and singers are approachable human beings who are happy to engage in dialogue about how they can be of more meaningful service to the community,” Hung says. “For an audience member who has not previously been exposed to the DPAA, we would love for these performances to pique their curiosity about the depth and breadth of our other work, as well.”

EDGE has a full slate of appearances scheduled over the next several months. For more information and a complete schedule of upcoming events, visit daytonperformingarts.org or call 937-224-3521. These performances are free and open to the public.

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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