ALIAS Springs Forward with New Education and Community Programs

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An important part of the ALIAS mission is to reach out to different types of audiences who might otherwise not have access to classical and chamber music performances. Through the ensemble’s Education and Community Programs (ECP), ALIAS performs for children and adults at schools, libraries and other organizations, such as a recent performance at Park Center South.

“These really aren’t concerts. We bring an interactive program where we talk about what we’re playing, what it means and how we do it,” says Chris Farrell, ALIAS’s talented violist and composer who also develops the performances for the ECP.

“Most importantly, we give the audience opportunities to ask questions. Hopefully this builds an audience likely to attend chamber concerts in the future. Normally, these audiences would not have access to this type of classical chamber music. And it’s great when the audience asks questions!”

One of the goals of ECP is to give audiences a better idea of how to listen to all types of music. Chris says we’re all taught how to read: how to look for characters and how to recognize how sentences are put together.

“Yet there’s an assumption that everyone knows how to listen to music,” says Chris. “But classical music can be intimidating if you don’t know how to listen to it. I want the audience to learn there are specific aspects that will enhance their listening experience.”

This year’s ECP performances included interactive sessions where the audience learns first-hand how music is put together. Chris is using movements from his composition Three Portraits for string quartet (which is one of two World Premieres being performed at the ALIAS Spring concert on May 22nd). At each performance, Chris gives a brief overview of how the music is composed, giving the audience a better understanding of how all the parts fit together.

Each ECP performance also includes an excerpt from John Zorn’s Cat o’ Nine Tails for string quartet that ALIAS played at the Winter concert.

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“It’s really sort of the opposite of the melody idea,” adds Chris. “It tells a story and is more of a narrative of sound.”

This approach was well-received by the audience at Park Center South, where ALIAS performed on March 8th. Park Center provides support services for adults recovering from mental illness. During the show, Chris invited the audience to listen to a piece of music that he wrote that has a beginning, an ending, and six short segments that are interchangeable. He then divided the audience into three groups and gave each group a choice of two segments. In this manner, the audience decided how the piece was played.

“It was awesome! It’s just mind-blowing how ALIAS got the audience to help create music on the spot,” says Park Center’s Mark Horn, who is a psychiatric rehabilitation practitioner at the center’s South facility on 12th Avenue. “They gave everyone plenty of chances to ask questions. And what’s really exciting is that we got to have this experience with world class musicians.”

Chris says the point to this activity is to show audiences how musicians can make a choice at any point during composition of how the musical pieces will fit.

“Those decisions can change how the finished piece comes together,” he adds. “Each segment has a different idea behind it. At each turn, the way the segment unfolds will make the music different.”

In addition to the recent Park Center performance, ALIAS will conduct its Education and Community Programs for several Middle Tennessee schools and libraries. Many of these audiences are in low income areas, where they might otherwise not have the opportunity to experience chamber and classical performances. Led by Chris Farrell and Board Member Michelle Lin Doane, the ALIAS musicians shared their talents with 550 students and adults during the 2012 season.

With the exception of this year’s performance at the Goodlettsville Branch of the Nashville Public Library, ECP performances are not open to the public (school performance audiences are only students and teachers).

ALIAS is proud to list the following schools and organizations for its 2013 ECP season:
• March 8th – Park Center South
• April 3rd – Park Avenue Enhanced Option Elementary
• April 5th – Hume-Fogg Magnet
• *April 6th – Nashville Public Library (Goodlettsville branch) *This performance at the library is open to the public!
• April 9th – Virtual School at Vanderbilt