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?
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.
Unfortunately it does not appear to have resumed after stopping due to the pandemic in early 2020.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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...
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
Is that too much structure? Because I get the distinct impression you're suggesting it is.
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.
Even casual music works best with some planning.
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.
I think we don't have the "infrastructure" for these sort of evenings any more. but there is something attractive about the idea nonetheless.
I've found Scottish sessions to generally be "dot friendly", as James puts it.
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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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.