A Place to Perform - An Informal Open End Poll

November 28, 2022, 11:11 AM · While there are a lot of string players participating in Violinist.com I have the sense that there aren’t a lot of opportunities for individual or small group performance.

I’ve heard that there are some venues that allow string players to perform but some of them are genre specific based in “Fiddle Culture” where the term “Dot Reader” is a pejorative insult.

Children are often afforded the opportunity to play in teacher-based recitals. For older people there are some community orchestras. But they are few and far between.

As a very informal poll, I’m asking the question: Would you like to have an open forum where both individuals and small groups can meet, and the musicians can play for each other.

If so, what type of venues would you prefer – bars with “open mikes”, churches or other buildings where musicians can rent the space for a reasonable amount of money, or some other type of venue? How much would you spend to perform as part of the group? What days of the week and times of the day would work for you? Would you like to share the stage with children or only with other adults? Would you prefer and open platform or be more genre specific?

Replies (33)

November 28, 2022, 1:00 PM · There are many spaces where I live in the USA. Concert halls, churches, auditoriums at colleges, auditoriums at k-12 schools, libraries, museums, bars, restaurants, county buildings, nursing homes, hotels, large private homes, professional clubs, etc.

The most desired times seem to be Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon.

I would not want to pay for space. The audience can do that.

Edited: November 29, 2022, 7:03 AM · My life-long experience has been that if you have a group of musicians (whose sound quality does not drive people way) there are many opportunities to perform either as a soloist or as part of an ensemble. I have performed in the following:

solos and small ensembles in / audience size
peoples' homes / 10 - 20
churches & community centers / 40 - 150
senior community spaces / 10 - 50
local museum space / 25 - 50
school spaces / up to 300 to over 1,000**

** for special events for which the music was peripheral.

November 28, 2022, 1:28 PM · I will be holding a student recital soon, and I will perform a solo piece at the end. The audience will be 100-200 people, so it's a good chance to perform while also giving students a chance to hear me.
Edited: November 28, 2022, 3:43 PM · There is/was an informal chamber music club in my area that would organize people into ensembles to perform at house concerts twice a year. It was very loosely organized; mostly it just put people in groups and provided a list of coaches who were available for hire, and groups scheduled their own rehearsals and arranged for (typically) one or two coaching sessions. The audience was mostly other musicians and some family and friends. But it seemed to only advertise its existence by word of mouth; I played regularly in local orchestras for eight years before first hearing about it.

Unfortunately it does not appear to have resumed after stopping due to the pandemic in early 2020.

November 28, 2022, 4:05 PM · I suspect the answer to George's question is "All of the above". Players have a wide range of needs and desires, and organizations typically arise to address a spectrum of such wants.

Where I live (the broader DC/MD/VA area), there are an abundance of performing opportunities for adult amateurs. (I'm enumerating them here in detail for anyone who might be finding this post on search in the future.)

Our local chain of community music schools (Levine) has a substantial body of adult students. There are juried performance for adults each semester, from the beginner level on up. There are also a set of adult recitals, usually held in the homes of adult students, associated with the school. The school also offers a chamber music program, with a once-a-year Chamber Music Day that's open to the community where people come for coaching and performance.

There are a number of Meet-Up groups (such as the MCCMS and CM-MDC) which offer opportunities for get-togethers and concerts (typically held in churches). There's also the Adult Music Student Forum, which hosts recitals in the homes of members. Those groups generally target the intermediate level and up, and they are generally people playing for each other, and friends/family.

CM-MDC has a sister organization, DCCM, that offers performance opportunities on shared recitals in a variety of venues -- mostly churches and a few rental performance spaces. I'd consider its target to be the "serious" player, from intermediate to semi-pro, leaning more to the late-intermediate and advanced levels. Audience is going to be mostly friends and family, but performances are ticketed (and charged for) and draw the general public too.

Finally, DC has a great nonprofit with its roots in the 19th century, the Friday Morning Music Club which makes use of a generous endowment to put on free chamber music series featuring players who are not professional performers, but are often professional musicians (educators, etc.) or quite serious amateurs. These series draw the general public for an audience. Auditions are required, so the bar for acceptability is significantly higher.

November 28, 2022, 4:18 PM · To add to all this: If you have a group that is ready to perform you can organize a house concert in the house of the person who has the best suited room (or--if a piano is involved--where a decent piano is). Invite everybody's friends and have a little party afterwards.
November 28, 2022, 4:47 PM · I'd like to see an audience pay for a classical adult recital.
November 28, 2022, 5:36 PM · My kids' music school also has a very robust adult program, including adult-only ensembles (large and chamber music), workshops, recitals, etc.

But assuming that is not an option, I would highly suggest trying churches. This year, my kids' studio paired with a church that lets them use the facility for free twice a month if students will agree to perform occasionally as part of the church service. We aren't even Christian but don't have a problem with this; however, I could see it being problematic for some. The benefits of this are huge. Free performance space, free extra performance options, good acoustics, and (usually) a tuned piano.

My kids also do lots of nursing home performances, and these are always greatly received. They really don't care what you play or how good you are (unless it is one of the ritzy ones).

Our public libraries here in the city also offer free rehearsal and concert spaces quite frequently.

November 28, 2022, 9:19 PM · Cotton, audiences do that locally, where I live. (I assume you mean pay for a recital performed by adult nonprofessionals.) Generally it's nominal -- in the $10 to $15 range pr ticket.
November 28, 2022, 10:03 PM · It's helpful to ask why you want to do this -- for yourself or for your audience. I'm in a string ensemble club, and we get together a couple of times per month to read through mostly quartets (occasionally trios or quintets) but there's never any audience.

From time to time I've toyed with the idea of preparing a solo violin recital. Who would be the beneficiaries of this recital? Mostly me, if we're being honest. I would do it for the accomplishment, to notch a personal milestone, not because I think I'm bringing anything special to the pieces on my program. I could (and would) ask my friends to show up and hear me play and give me polite applause, but I can't imagine charging a cover.

I've been to performances like Lydia describes where you pay a small fee but then the "adult non-professionals" are highly skilled and one can easily see that the entry fee is only defraying expenses such as renting the space. Nobody makes any real money doing that.

Senior centers, the lobby at your local hospital, your driveway in good weather, churches, some bars (definitely not all), lobby of a hotel. All these places will, with some variability, accept free music.

November 29, 2022, 2:12 AM · Do musicians "play for each other"? I love to hear music played well, by accomplished performers who are well-rehearsed and offer an insightful interpretation. Generally speaking I don't enjoy concerts where the players are about my standard or somewhat better but professionally too busy to rehearse properly. Think Groucho Marx.
November 29, 2022, 5:41 AM · I might add that although I relish playing "with" I don't much enjoy playing "before" (never mind "for") musicians of my standard. Too judgemental by half! Non-players, on the other hand, are usually most appreciative and good players very kind.
November 29, 2022, 8:43 AM · As Artie Johnson might have said to the responses: "Very Interesting!"

it seems that few responders picked up on what I wrote in the sentence: "Would you like to have an open forum where both individuals and small groups can meet, and the musicians can play for each other."

What the responses tell me is that there isn't any interest in "open forums" for playing.

It seems that the members of this forum prefer structure and high quality performance. The very idea of a loosely structured gathering where performance quality will be variable (at best) as well as inconsistent.

Little wonder that we spend the majority of our time alone with our instruments being our own critics as well as teachers.

A little sad but enlightening. I did learn that I will not expend any effort or money to create an open space for string players of the classical bent to perform in front of their fellow musicians.

Edited: November 29, 2022, 9:50 AM · Just to restore our faith in humanity, George, I do join with friends in informal chamber get-togethers in a Parisian flat. Our host is an able pianist and good sight-reader.
More than half of us are British: interesting, n'est-ce pas!
November 29, 2022, 10:16 AM · A few years after our 30-piece chamber orchestra stablized its membership and "style" some of the string players decided that in addition to our weekly orchestra rehearsals and biannual concerts it would be a fun idea to meet biweekly to play "serenades." There are a number of compositions so titled that require a minimum of 13 string players - 3 on each part (violin-1, violin-2, viola, cello and one bass). And so it went on Friday mornings for several years in the same community-center rehearsal hall the orchestra used weekly.

Then attrition set in and we gradually collapsed ending up with 6 players, moving our monthly sessions to "home parlors" and we variously played sextets, quintets and quartets, doubling on parts as necessary - until the COVID pandemic hit. Over the 2 pandemic years we only met 4 times - and that only when a clarinetist from England (a native of our California county) was visiting - that was a lovely change of pace. Since then (Summer 2021), nothing!

November 29, 2022, 10:47 AM · I admit that I missed this point, George. But now you got me to remember something I had not thought about for decades: When I was "president"* of the "Academic Orchestra" in Zurich as a student I had a similar idea: To have a gathering where every member of the orchestra would have the chance to perform some piece. It was accepted quite eagerly and we decided to have one such session per semester. We had no problem getting a "program" of a bit more than an hour together and it was a very pleasant evening. However the thing died after 2 or 3 such evenings when nobody took the initiative to organize it. Which means that in the right circumstances (and not too often!) people might actually be interested in participating in such an event provided someone else did the organizing. I believe you would have to have a group of people who know each other; a community orchestra could be a possible such group. Plus somebody would have to do the dogsbody work.

My other thought is this: Every rehearsal or sight-reading session of an ensemble is in part a performance: Playing together means in part performing for each other.

Lastly this: The most common variant of your idea is probably student recitals and similar events for adult students or chamber music "coachees". I have participated in quite a few of those over the years.

* "president" is the person who ends up doing all chores for which she/he fails to find volunteers...

Edited: November 29, 2022, 2:06 PM · George, the informal chamber music club I mentioned is probably the closest thing to what you were describing.

They also had a "sonata day" every summer, though I never attended because the first one I knew about would have taken place in 2020. Before everything was canceled, I think there were already four or five people signed up to perform sonata movements.

November 29, 2022, 11:32 PM · I'm puzzled by how you took away that conclusion, George.

I think the "house recital" concept is pretty much that. Locally, there's a chamber music coach that runs "masterclasses" at her home which are effectively informal recitals with a little bit of commentary. I think players are unlikely to attend such things until they are at least intermediate level and feeling reasonably confident about their playing, though.

One of the reasons that I think it's important for adult students at the beginning-to-intermediate level to have essentially pedagogical opportunities for performance is that mixed-level recitals are intimidating for the less-skilled. Beginners are likely to feel just as awkward sharing a concert with advanced players, as they would sharing a concert with pros.

November 30, 2022, 5:08 AM · If only you were in Sydney, if love to stay something like that. We have a chamber music society for reading through works together, quite a few options for folk open mic nights
, and a few retired people doing retirement home performances. At least, that's all I know about.

I was recently invited to a local soiree that's starting up again which apparently had 10-20 people doing any kind of performance from juggling to recitation and belly dance to classical solos - could be interesting...

Edited: November 30, 2022, 6:47 AM ·
One of my fondest musical memories is playing in my teachers' home recital in Walla Walla, WA. He had a prewar, '30's Steinway he had inherited from his mother, and a first rate pianist accompanied those who performed. I played the first movement of the Spring Sonata. It all went so well.

I have a nice piano in my somewhat oversized living room. Given that I'm focusing so much of my time on violin now, I rarely play the piano. But, I keep it in hopes that, someday, I might organize a similar recital in my home.

November 30, 2022, 8:06 AM · I think it is less about the negatives of an open forum and more about the positives of having a shared experience with people you know. I wouldn't mind an open forum for all levels and people at all. But it definitely would not be as fulfilling as having a group of friends, family, or studio mates playing together and socializing.
November 30, 2022, 9:05 AM · Lydia, et al.,

My conclusion is based on my primary premise of minimal structure. My thoughts were more about just having fun versus a structured planned event. Clearly the "Classical Community" has a preference for format and structure.

I now understand that mixing Sonatas and Show Tunes, Bach and Beetles,... would not fly.

Structure, format, the pursuit of perfection along with an inherent sense of competition seem to rule. Yes, there is the joy of mastering a difficult skill which is not like Tessa Lark launching into an impromptu duet with a busker playing his violin on the streets of NYC. That just isn't going to happen. Neither is my idea of an open stage for string players.

November 30, 2022, 9:33 AM · I can see how this kind of gathering might work well in fiddle culture where anyone can join in and make whatever noises they like without causing offence. But for dot readers like me musical events in which everyone has fun don't just "happen", someone has to make sure there's the right combination of instruments played by the right players so that there are no prima donnas, no passengers, no vacant seats and nobody left on the bench.
Edited: November 30, 2022, 10:26 AM · I would love to set something up along these lines, but it's like founding a church:

What is the venue and how is the acoustic? How do you pay for the venue? How do you advertise it, and to whom? How do you decide on hours this operates? How does one sign up or go about performing?

If you know a lot of people in your musical community, and have some clout, then you can set more of this up around your own wants and schedule. If you want the thing to start running itself you have to figure out who would be willing to put time in when you aren't there, and then those people have to be dependable. You need a commonly understood set of rules and expectation that allows people to feel like they can join the group readily, but so that particular people don't necessarily dominate. Is feedback welcome, and under what circumstances? Is there a purely social component, which can help a lot with group cohesion, but can you balance that component so that it doesn't just become a social club and maintains the performance focus.

Building a community out of nothing is tough; you can either be singleminded about control of your version of the idea, which means you have to have a lot of resources and charisma, so that you are putting all your time into it, or you have to allow whatever kind of community can be formed in your area to form itself and largely let go of control, but which still may take a lot of time on your part.

Open mics usually happen at bars, so that's how the whole thing fits financially. In Paris, the salons had very rich patrons, so there was a demand, but the bigger ones had the important musicians and composers of the day on display, so it wasn't exactly an open mic model.

I kind of don't understand your question George. If you are asking a bunch of randos on the internet about your plan to create a physical place where people meet up (even the lovely and thoughtful randos of v.com), then you aren't likely to have a well-attended event. You have to figure out what the demand and possibility is with people in your area. Bigger cities probably have the possibilities for such things if they don't already exist, but it's like running for office. You gotta get out there and shake hands and kiss babies.

November 30, 2022, 1:03 PM · George, I don't understand what you mean by "structure" or "planned event." At a very minimum, you have to have a location, date, and time... otherwise no one knows where to go or when to show up. And it's a good idea to have at least some people signed up to perform in advance, because you don't want to show up and find that no one is there to perform.

Is that too much structure? Because I get the distinct impression you're suggesting it is.

November 30, 2022, 3:50 PM · I think people plan and structure these things for practical, logistical reasons. You need to know how many performers there are going to be, and how much of an audience there's likely to be, so you can have an appropriate venue and an appropriate number of chairs. You need to know who is performing and what they're playing so you can figure out how long the event is going to run for, and a lot of people will appreciate having a printed program (or at least an email sent out with a performance order).

Many such events also have a potluck element for food and socializing, so you need to have some organization around who brings what food, so you don't end up with fifteen types of brownies plus a cheese plate, and nothing else.

November 30, 2022, 4:08 PM · If it is spontaneous you need a group of good improvisers, or sight readers. And with the latter you need music that is suitable for the performers on hand (insrmtrumentation, difficulty, etc)

Even casual music works best with some planning.

Edited: November 30, 2022, 6:30 PM · George (and others who are interested). I float between the genres - bluegrass, Irish sessions, old time and classical just because I’m always looking for some something to play. It is true that taking out a book and playing from the dots would get you the stink-eye if done in a hard core Bluegrass, old time and Irish sessions. That group of players pride themselves on playing tunes from memory.

But there are groups that are dot friendly and one that comes to mind is playing Contra dance music. It’s a big musical thing in some parts of the country and there are groups of musicians that get together informally monthly at a specific place and play from a book called the Portland collection (Google it). I’m involved in such a group.

As a violinist if you are willing to play with non-orchestra instruments (commonly there are fiddles, guitars, flutes, mandolins, banjos, accordions, hammered dulcimer etc) this might suit some of your desires and you don’t need to organize it. The goal is to play the same melody in unison from the dots at least three times, commonly longer if everyone is in to a tune, at dance speed. Taking a solo is NOT allowed and neither is improvising too much outside the dots.

There are organized dances that use callers and play to Contra music so performance is also involved if that’s your thing. It’s fun and reading the dots is a required skill set. A search on YouTube for Contra dances will enlighten those interested.

December 1, 2022, 1:56 PM · Lydia, I think the OP's idea is that there is no "audience". It is rather like a Biedermeier salon where all available daughters are taking turns at the piano (real men were playing the violin in those days), either singing and accompanying themselves or playing Invitation to a Dance...

I think we don't have the "infrastructure" for these sort of evenings any more. but there is something attractive about the idea nonetheless.

December 1, 2022, 4:46 PM · Maybe the existence of such a venue would attract performers. However, I do not think there are enough around to make it viable. Even with effort trying to organize people to turn out, it can be difficult. To just leave it to chance, hoping people will just show, seems unlikely to succeed.
December 1, 2022, 5:24 PM · There are certainly people who hold house parties like that, Albrecht. They generally live in places that are best described as "mansions", and the people who get invited generally span a range of skill but I'd say are more likely to be on the upper end of skill, and these parties often include pros. (I've been to parties of that sort before.)

I've found Scottish sessions to generally be "dot friendly", as James puts it.

December 1, 2022, 6:50 PM · The same people who have the "infrastructure" also have, at least in principle, sufficient coin to pay their hired musicians reasonable fees.

Advertise at the club. Go to the Mercedes dealer pretending to be a customer and slip your business cards into all the glove compartments of the vehicles in the showroom. Etc.

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