Attending a CityMusic Cleveland concert is a treat, no matter where you are sitting, whether in the audience at the Fairmount Presbyterian Church, or at St. Vitus Church in Cleveland, or at the Elyria First United Methodist Church, or at a number of other church venues across northeast Ohio. Is it the repertoire, the high level of performance by professional musicians, the talented music director James Gaffigan that makes the concerts so special? Yes, but it is also the accessibility to the musicians, the informal atmosphere, and the free admission. The church architecture places the audience just two steps away from the orchestra members encouraging an open, interactive concert experience.
Rebecca Schweigert, an Oberlin Conservatory alum and a CSU faculty member, is principal oboist with CityMusic Cleveland. In talking about the 35-member group, her enthusiasm overflows. She was there at the beginning, over three years ago, playing at their first concert and has continued with them ever since. Driven by a volunteer board of trustees including Eugenia and Ronald Strauss, Sawsan Alhaddad, Clurie Bennis, David Krakowski, and Beverly Simmons, this group of friends and long time arts supporters joined together to make classical music more accessible in northeast Ohio. “They were determined to take away any barriers,” says Schweigert, “and build audiences.”
Eugenia Strauss, the executive director, forges connections in each community where we perform gaining the support of the mayors, city council members, and church clergy,” she adds.
Schweigert moved to Cleveland with her husband, Michael Mayhew, associate principal horn player with the Cleveland Orchestra, in 1997. He is from Texas, she is from Michigan, and they met at Oberlin. Now raising two small children, she feels especially aware of the positive impact CityMusic Cleveland will have on the future of live orchestral music. “This is a fun group to play in, outgoing and supportive of our audience-building mission.
And the audiences are diverse in every way, from the novice to the expert listeners. We have a sense this is the first time some people may have heard Beethoven creating an excitement for us to play our very best,” she explains. And how does CityMusic Cleveland survive financially without ticket revenue? The trustees are determined to operate in the black. Many help out cooking food for rehearsals, and contributing time and professional services for orchestra operations. Contributions from audience members, foundations and corporations help pay the musicians, soloists, conductors, and stage manager.
Communities where the musicians perform are now sharing in the orchestra’s costs. Apparently CityMusic Cleveland has a winning recipe for audience development. They have grown from eight concerts in 2004-05 to 24 concerts for the 2007-08 season, and from performing in five communities to seven. They are also looking for larger venues to hold larger audiences. Next season they project scheduling 30 concerts. Bravo to CityMusic Cleveland! For more information, visit www.citymusiccleveland.org.
From Cool Cleveland contributor Susan Schaul
CityMusic Cleveland is a professional chamber orchestra that performs free concerts throughout Northeast Ohio,often accompanied by exhibits of local artwork.
Since exploding onto the scene in 2004, CityMusic Cleveland has won cheering audiences with beautiful music, brilliantly performed in familiar neighborhood settings.
FREE concerts - make CityMusic concerts accessible to everyone!
CityMusic Cleveland strives for more as it approaches its 15th season Story and photography by Michael C. Butz On a sweltering and stormy evening in mid-May, the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus presented a special Saturday night service, of sorts. It was a program that typically takes place only four times a year at the […]