The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra League aims to connect musicians and their audience at the Institution — both on and off the stage.
The CSOL will host several public events this season — including today’s 90th anniversary celebration, which will take place after the CSO’s 8:15 p.m. concert Thursday, July 18 in the Amphitheater. The celebration is at the Athenaeum Hotel and is open to CSOL members and CSO musicians. Memberships start at $15, and will be available at the door.
CSOL President Suzanne Shull said tonight’s 90th year celebration is more than an anniversary — it is a celebration of the CSO’s legacy.
“It’s a big deal to have an orchestra for that long,” Shull said. “Not many orchestras in the United States can say that they’ve been around for 90 years — even some of the big ones.”
Tonight’s celebration is the CSOL’s largest event of the season, but the organization has also planned several smaller get-togethers, such as Q-and-A sessions after Tuesday night concerts at the Athenaeum and “CSO Friends and Family Fridays” at 12:15 p.m. Friday, and again on July 26 and Aug. 9 in Smith Wilkes Hall.
Last week, the season’s first Friends and Family Friday featured the CSO’s five Diversity Fellows, who participated in a Q-and-A session with attendees. Violinist Arman Nasrinpay, a 2019 fellow, said these social events can create dialogues between different audience members and the often-insular world of classical music.
“A lot of different people go to these concerts, and it’s nice for them to be able to get to know the musicians as people,” Nasrinpay said. “They get to learn what the process is like, how they were able to get there. … Classical music is often its own little bubble.”
Nasrinpay said engagement between musicians and audience members benefits both communities.
“And for us, we get to meet the community that we’re part of,” Nasrinpay said. “I think it’s important to have that collaboration; it keeps the orchestra and the community engaged with each other and relevant to each other.”
CSOL began in 2006, when a small group of orchestra members, their loved ones and their supporters decided to work together to build a community between those onstage and those in the audience. The group’s founders are Cliff Weidner, Hannah Weinberg, Jason and Nancy Weintraub, Pat Dougherty, Joe Prezio, Marge Sterritt, Lenelle Morse, Bernie Lieberman and Judith Claire.
Shull said CSOL encourages meaningful communication between those who play music and those who listen.
“The whole purpose of the organization is so that people on the grounds can get to know the musicians better,” Shull said. “They can have access to them instead of just seeing them onstage.”
According to Shull, the CSO community is like one large, musical family.
“Some of them have been playing up here for years,” Shull said. “They think of themselves as the orchestra family here, and many of them raise their children here; it’s a very important place to them.”
Shull said many of these longtime community members live outside of the grounds, limiting their daily interactions with other Chautauquans.
“There are not so many opportunities to run into them on the grounds, however, because so many of them live off the grounds,” Shull said, adding that the CSOL pioneered their series of social events to help weave the two communities closer together.
Many festival orchestras host a new group of musicians every year. Shull said the CSO is unique in that its members return season after season, building a lifelong community.
“What’s unique about this orchestra is that you can expect to see some of the same faces year after year,” Shull said. “You can watch their kids grow up.”
According to Shull, there’s another benefit to building community with CSO members: a deeper appreciation of classical music.
“I think (interacting with musicians) contributes to the enjoyment of music, of watching people play,” Shull said. “And the more you listen to it and enjoy it, the more you go to the symphony, the more you read program notes, the more you learn.”