If classical music makes you think of old, Austrian men with funny wigs who wear knee-grazing britches, let the Charleston Symphony Orchestra remix that for you. The CSO’s new young patron group — appropriately named Remix — wants to show you that classical music has a story to tell, and that tale isn’t stuffy.
That’s a pretty big task in itself. But that doesn’t scare Hugh McDaniel, a Remix committee member. He’s passionate about the CSO, about music, and about Remix.
Remix is going back to some of classical music’s roots, which seems kind of counter-intuitive. Using history to bring the music of wigged old men into modern times seems like it would just induce more snores, but Remix wants to utilize the fun part of the history. And yes that does involve parties, but not ragers. Instead Remix will reintroduce the salons of 18th-and 19th-century Europe, which were ways for people to gather, listen to music, and discuss cultural events in small, private settings. Remix’s salons will do the same, with the first one scheduled for Sept. 27 at Redux featuring the Remix Quartet. They’ll perform amid Gwyneth Scally’s nature-inspired exhibit, which is currently hanging in Redux’s gallery. By offering classical music in an intimate setting, Remix will be able to explain how the composition came to be and make it relatable. “Our generation is just not very open to paying good money for symphony tickets to sit in a dark hall and stare at a bunch of musicians on stage,” says McDaniel. “I love it, we love it, but unfortunately our generation just doesn’t do that as a common habit. So what we want to do is to really bridge that gap.” Sometimes those explanations will be about how Beethoven was inspired by Haydn, but other times they could be more personal, like how the composer was dealing with heartbreak or death. These backstories can resonate with listeners and help them hear the music in a new light. “Context makes a piece so much more relative, and we want to give listeners a key to understanding the music,” McDaniel says.
Jonathan Gray, a musician, Jump Little Children bandmate, and a Remix member, has always been a fan of the CSO, but he’s really excited to see how Remix can bring the orchestra musicians into different types of venues with new audience members. “Even if the music is 300 years old, it can still relate in today’s world,” he says. The CSO just needs to present it to audiences in ways that can show that, which is what Remix’s events will do — and why Gray is so hopeful and happy to be part of it.
Another element of Remix’s programming, called Fusion events, involves collaboration with other artistic groups around town. They’ve already teamed up with the Charleston Library Society and have plans to work with the Charleston Historic Foundation. McDaniel is a big fan of working with a wide range of organizations. By intermingling, it’s easier to reach different audiences. And it doesn’t hurt to learn how other groups handle events and fundraising efforts.
One of the key differences between Remix and other young patrons’ groups is its dedication to hosting family events. This is a two-fold win. By making events more inclusive, Remix has an edge over other more networking- and party-focused groups around town.
Second, they’re introducing classical music to the next generation. “We’re out to inspire the next generation of symphony supporters, and we’re doing that through innovative programming with a younger audience,” says McDaniel. While it may be a while before the kids at a Peter and the Wolf family event can financially contribute, it’s never too early to familiarize people with classical music.
And with a busy fall and spring season planned, Remix has a pretty good idea of where they see themselves in the future. Sure, they want membership to grow (currently they have about 50 members), but they don’t want the events to grow too large or lose intimacy. “We’re all about the music, first and foremost,” McDaniel says. Well, play on Remix, play on.
Remix’s first fall event is at Redux Contemporary Art Studio on Sept. 27. Their first family event is Sept. 29 with a performance of Peter and the Wolf at Charles Towne Landing. Individual tickets are available for the event, or join Remix for $100 ($150/couple) and receive a discounted ticket price to both events. To learn more, visit charlestonsymphony.com/remix.