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Laurie Niles

December 17, 2003 at 6:30 AM

I couldn’t believe so many people were packed into one place for the concert I played Saturday.

Unfortunately, they were all packed on the stage. The performers seemed to outnumber the audience.

It’s not the first time I’ve encountered this phenomenon, and it seems worst at choral concerts. Saturday’s was a wonderful all-Beethoven chorale concert for a local college. The line-up in the orchestra amazed me: all solid musicians that I know from freelancing, back to the last desk. The chorale sang well, with the benefit of a committed leader who also did a decent job of conducting the orchestra. Altogether, it was a high quality show.

The last time I played for this group, it offered free tickets to everyone in the orchestra and choir, and they filled the house with what looked like more than a thousand people. This time, the audience was pathetically small, maybe a few hundred.

It just shouldn’t be!

Is getting people’s $20 more important than filling the house? I don’t think so, especially when so few people are willing to pay it. Better to fill the house and ask for optional donations for this kind of event. Students deserve to play for a full house.

But with or without comp tickets, musicians should remember what an important role they play as ambassadors for classical music and live performances.

Think about it: no comps=empty house. Flood the orchestra and choir with comps=standing room only. Musicians can play a huge role in filling the house. How many people did you personally invite to the last concert you played? Everyone has a fan club. Here are some ideas for who to invite: that one friend who takes a special interest in how your violin playing is going, the person who is always saying she wishes she’d kept playing the piano because she loves classical music so much, your entire dormitory, your entire church, your yoga teacher, your grandmother, your student, your parents, sister, brother, son, daughter, spouse, a fellow musician….

Don’t be shy.

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