The concert at the Benedict Music Tent last August started out traditionally enough: violin virtuoso Robert McDuffie played pieces by Tchaikovsky and John Adams, accompanied by an Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS) orchestra. But in the second half McDuffie was joined on stage by childhood friend and former R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, plus a drummer and two electric guitarists. The fivesome, along with the orchestra, played the US premiere of Mills’s Concerto for Violin, Rock Band, and String Orchestra—and rocked the house.
As a tactic in AMFS’s ongoing strategy of attracting a younger audience, it clearly worked. The festival aims to further consolidate the 21-to-50-year-old fan base with its Salon initiative, launched last summer and offering music-focused events in private homes or small venues, informal gatherings, and discounted concert tickets (yearly membership is $300). Following the McDuffie/Mills performance, for instance, Salon hosted an intimate cocktail party that included an on-stage interview and a chance to mingle with the stars. June's inaugural event featured AMFS students in concert at the Cooking School of Aspen, with music-inspired wine pairings. “It’s something we talked about for many years,” says AMFS Vice President for Development Alex Brose. “We want to get people enthusiastic about classical music beyond just buying a ticket and going to the concert.” With that in mind, a thought-provoking component is key to the outreach effort. Future events may explore the intersection of music and other fields, like architecture or neuroscience.
This winter’s Salon event highlights pianist Conrad Tao, who performs February 9. He may not bring a rock star on stage with him, but keep an eye out for some creative insights—and an appreciative new audience. aspenmusicfestival.com
Update, May 23, 2018
This summer's Salon events:
July 18, A Walk into Music. Naturalists from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies lead a hike from Toklat in the Castle Creek Valley, followed by lunch and a nature-inspired concert by AMFS students.
July 30, Animation for Children and Teens. Before the evening's concert, explore the world of animation with the Walt Disney Family Museum's Education Studio Manager Travis Lacina.
August 9, Behind the Curtain: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and an Evening with Joyce Yang. Attend a private dress rehearsal of the ballet's new production featuring world-renowned pianist Joyce Yang and get discounted tickets to the August 10 or 11 public performance.