For some time, symphonic music has had a reputation for being stuffy, esoteric, or even inaccessible for younger generations. Now an initiative by the Fort Wayne Philharmonic (the Phil) is addressing those stereotypes head-on to make its programming relevant to the 40 and under crowd.
Enter Music + Mixology. Now in its second year, this series is specifically designed for young professionals who want to experience classical music in a new way and meet other music fans over drinks while they're at it.
After select Masterworks performances by the Philharmonic, guests are invited to join Associate Conductor Caleb Young
and his committee for drinks and discussion with other patrons and musicians at Wine Down
in downtown Fort Wayne.
Young, the orchestra's 29-year-old
conductor, is the brainchild behind the event series. He says the concept of Music + Mixology is simple, yet intentional.
“A lot of modern symphonies are struggling to attract the 22-39 segment,” he says. “That’s the demographic we’re shooting for.”
This age group is key for the Phil because they will be the orchestra's next generation of patrons, in theory. But they aren’t the current season ticket holders, and as baby boomers age, orchestras nationwide are feeling the pinch.
But how can classical musicians reach an evolving consumer base? As one writer opines
in an October 2016 piece in Forbes
, it calls for evolving with the times.
"The bottom line is, the times are changing. Millennials have more sources of entertainment to choose from now than in generations past. Concert halls and opera houses are going to need to compete for the attention of millennials if they want to continue to be the staples of cities around the globe. They will need to be creative and adapt to the 21st century at times by featuring new events, making it more of an experience and opening their doors to a much more diverse community."
Thinking along these lines, Young had a hunch that hosting events could be the answer. He looked at how orchestras in other small- to medium-sized markets were tackling this issue of audience development like in Portland, Maine.
He received good feedback from a friend associated with the Portland Symphony Orchestra who successfully executed a “Symphony & Spirits” experience there.
So why not try the same in Fort Wayne? Young thought.
He was able to get his board of directors, committees, and staff on board for the inaugural Music + Mixology series in 2017.
The next series will begin on Oct. 27 at Wine Down, following that evening’s Masterworks performance at the Embassy Theatre. Along with being a fun way to hang out, Young says Music + Mixology is a great opportunity for patrons to get up close and personal with musicians in a casual environment.
Part of the magic is he says is that the five committee members who plan and execute these events have nothing to do with the Phil, per se. The common denominator is that they are passionate about Fort Wayne. Committee members also help break the ice and ensure guests feel welcome.
Ultimately, Young is optimistic that these experiences will speak to his target audience and translate into positive outcomes for the Phil in return.
“The hope is that we hook them into our sphere, and that creates a lifelong music lover,” Young says.
Attend Music + Mixology
The Rach 2
October 27, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. | Embassy Theatre
Andrew Constantine, Conductor
Lise de la Salle, piano
Purchase tickets here