Guerilla Chamber Music

Submitted by: Ohio State University

by Christine Wu with Talia Lindsley, Norman Cardwell, and Chris Lape (mentor: Mark Rudoff)

In response to The Savvy Musician Challenge #2 

Attracting New Audiences.  Classical and jazz performances often appeal to only a small segment of our population, typically aficionados.  Design a chamber music experience (4 players or less) that will engage new and untraditional audiences.  Describe your target demographic(s), why they will be interested, the event design, and marketing strategy.

Both outside and within our community, The Ohio State University is known for several things: our football team, The Best Damn Band In The Land (TBDBITL – our beloved marching band), our basketball team, its science programs, and its engineering programs. Compared to all of these aspects, the School of Music (SOM) flies very low under the radar. For most people, the closest they come to experience the SOM is through watching the marching band at football games.

We believe that the SOM needs to have a greater presence in the university community, and that the community needs to have a greater awareness of our endeavors and concerts. It is our responsibility as musicians to advocate for this awareness, and in our future music careers, it is important that we know how to “create buzz” and draw people to concerts. Guerilla Chamber Music gives us an opportunity to not only share the music we love but also to learn crucial entrepreneurial skills.

Promoting music within OSU constitutes “outreach” because we are trying to reach a community that knows very little of the SOM and chamber music. If we can give the SOM a solid presence at OSU, it sends the message to faculty, students, and the Columbus community that music is a vital and integral part of our lives, and that the gift of music should be nurtured in future generations.

Event Design:

We plan to perform a concert series in the Ohio Union* starting in May. Each concert will last about 45 minutes – 1 hour, and performances will include quartets, trios, duos, and soloists (with or without piano accompaniment). The concerts will be during the day, when students are most likely at the Union. If possible, the concert time will coincide with studio class time, as this is a time when all school of music students are guaranteed to be available. (The concert may even be a great alternative to a departmental/studio recital). Because the planning team is made up of string students, we will start out featuring string chamber groups on our concerts. However, we hope to eventually extend performance opportunities to all studios in the School of Music, pending cooperation with these studios.

We hope to break down barriers between the performers and the audience to make the concert environment more informal and relaxed. This can happen by decreasing the physical amount of space between the two groups. This can also happen by having the performers interact with the audience – by introducing their pieces, or sitting with audience members after their performance to discuss the music.

We know that students will be coming from and going to class, and we expect that people will be floating in and out of the audience. We hope to increase the informal ambiance by providing refreshments and drinks. We are thinking popcorn because it’s cheap to produce and a fun, unpretentious snack. We are investigating free drinks through a grant from Coca-Cola, which provides free Coke products at many student events. College students are a fan of anything free, so they may be drawn in by the free food and drinks at the very least.

*Why the Ohio Union?

It is brand new, and OSU students, faculty members, staff, and even community members have been flocking to the Union to enjoy all that it offers. It is designed as a gathering place for OSU students, and right now, since it just opened, it is THE place for the OSU community to eat, study, hang out, and do lots of other activities. It is one of the few places on campus where we are likely to encounter the entire spectrum of the OSU community.

Previous “non-traditional” performance venues on campus lacked pianos, which limited the types of ensembles or performances. The Union is an ideal venue because it has a grand piano on the second floor; this allows for more variety in chamber music performances. There is open space around the piano where chairs can be set up, and there is also a lounge nearby for additional seating.

The space where the piano is located is very open, and performances would be heard from the first floor to the third floor. This will help draw in listeners, and also create a less formal environment. In many discussions on the current state of “classical” or “art” music, it has been stated that people may feel intimidated by the “formal” environment of traditional concerts. It is our hope that the less formal environment, coupled with the fact that many people pass through the Union, will draw people to stop and listen, even if only for a couple minutes. They can sit down and listen without feeling awkward about coming late or leaving before the performance is over.

Target demographics:

The OSU student population, faculty and staff members, and other OSU community members. We, as OSU School of Music students, feel that we should establish a presence in the OSU community before trying to establish a presence in the greater Columbus community.

There are many students at OSU who were involved with music in high school but do not participate in music ensembles at OSU. Though their audience potential seems to be untapped so far, we believe that these students would be a supportive audience if they knew about the concerts.

Another target audience is people with less music background who are unlikely to attend concerts. We want them to be able to appreciate classical/art music even if they have no background in music.  

Why they will be interested:

The rubbernecker effect! When people see or hear something interesting going on, they will be tempted to listen. People like to stop and listen/watch street performers and musicians, and by the same logic, they will be likely to investigate the source of music if they hear music floating around the Union. We also feel that people will be interested in staying for a performance simply because there is a certain aura surrounding live music. There is something amazing about watching people perform music with passion, and we believe that people experience this regardless of their age or musical background.

Marketing strategy:

We plan to use the standard marketing efforts that are used for other campus events. These strategies include but are not limited to: Facebook, word of mouth, adding the concert series to the University Calendar of Events, having the Lantern (OSU Newspaper) write a story about the series, including the series in the Lantern’s weekly Arts section, advertising through university listservs and emails, “chalking” campus sidewalks, and distributing flyers around campus.

Anticipated Outcomes:

We hope to build a consistent, enthusiastic audience base that always wants to hear more music. We want people to realize that they can listen to and appreciate chamber/classical music, regardless of previous music background. Hopefully this will translate into greater awareness of SOM events and larger audiences at SOM concerts. As mentioned in the introduction, we would like to demonstrate to the OSU community that music does have an important function in society.

Future Directions:

We would like to expand the series beyond the Union. Other campus locations may include: dining halls, libraries, and the Recreational and Physical Activity Center (just to be ironic!). Eventually, we would like to expand beyond the university boundaries by playing at coffee shops and art galleries.

To help with administrative details and event costs, we would like to establish Guerilla Chamber Music as a registered student organization. This way, we can receive funding and resources for running a chamber concert series.

The OSU School of Music defines its mission as preparing the 21st Century Musician, a pedagogical philosophy that brings a focus to career development across programs and curricula.  Our Music Media and Enterprise Program offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that critically examines musical creation and reception in the context of evolving technologies and as a form of commercial, social, and cultural enterprise.  The graduate curriculum includes courses in professional training for the university market.  The undergraduate performance curriculum has long included a robust pedagogy component, integrating with the school’s historic strength in music education.  And beyond the formal curriculum, the School supports a number of student organizations and projects to support student entrepreneurship.

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