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A New Frontier for Music Organizations

The recent news that Riccardo Muti, one of the world’s greatest orchestra conductors, was performing at the Warrenville, Illinois all-girl juvenile prison might have been regarded by some as little more than a public relations photo-op. But those who follow the classical music world know this is part of an important trend. Orchestras, chamber music organizations, and music presenters have long seen “outreach” as important to their missions. But for the majority, non-concert-hall activity has focused on students in school settings. Today, some of the more important musical organizations view their missions more expansively, wanting to reach and have impact on the lives of people wherever they may be found. Prisons, homeless shelters, hospitals, and hospices are increasingly important venues for making these musical connections.

In a previous On Our Minds entry, we wrote about Carnegie Hall’s Music Connections as an example of how new programs in community engagement help foster more “complete” musicians. Another benefit may be that these programs also enable arts organizations, including symphony orchestras, to expand their relevance and connection to underserved communities. Not only does this enrich the exchange between musicians and audiences, it extends the boundaries of typical arts appreciation and expands the nature of the relationship.

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