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Classical Happenings

The Sound Garden: Wrap Up

Sound Garden Lake Ann Brewing Mei and David
Interlochen Public Radio
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A whirlwind of performances, podcasts, radio segments, and magical moments later, the first year of the Sound Garden has wrapped up! We put so much soul into this project and it was so rewarding seeing months of preparation put into action. Our goal as The Sound Garden was to bring classical music out into the real world, but the project itself turned into so much more.

When we were first planning out our season, we kept asking ourselves, “What can we do?” It seems like everything new or “inventive” in the classical world has already been done. What could we do that was unique, impactful, and most importantly, authentic?

Sound Garden Lake Ann Khalil

Then we thought from the audience’s perspective. What about classical music made audiences reluctant to go? What is the difference between a classical concert and any other genre’s concert? As we thought about what was missing from classical music, we started honing in on this idea of audience connectivity. We all decided that a concert has so much more substance and lasting impact when the audience feels connected to the performers in some way. We’d all been to too many classical concerts where the performers barely even acknowledged the audience. Even if they played beautifully, there was something big missing from the performance. And in conjunction with the early weeks of the Sound Garden, where I was performing on my own, we wanted to emphasize bringing music to where people are already comfortable. Taking what we discovered in week one of The Sound Garden at the yoga class--that music takes on a new meaning when the listener is in a headspace to accept and process it--we knew we wanted to create an environment of comfort and happiness, rather than a too-formal one.

Mei Sound Garden Lake Ann

The majority of our career training has emphasized striving for perfection. One of the biggest hurdles we encountered was letting go of this idea of a perfect presentation in favor of authenticity in each performance. Before and after each performance, we challenged ourselves to speak with audience members and make genuine connections, which created a more intimate and meaningful concert experience. It was definitely a new challenge for us--it took a lot of energy and presence to connect with strangers, and we had to pace ourselves so we had enough stamina for the performances. But getting to meet new people changed the concert experience for both us and the audience. It was certainly less nerve-wracking to play for people we now considered new friends rather than strangers, but we also could see that the audiences were more present and curious as we engaged in an ongoing conversation with them through the performance. Some of our audience members were musicians; many were not. Some were part of the jazz or rock world and admitted they would never go to a classical music concert. But every person took the time to listen to our program, whether they were familiar with classical music or not. It was so special to be able to share music with audience members with such a wide range of tastes and experiences.

With each performance, we found a little more of our ensemble’s voice and personality. Playing in unusual locations challenged our flexibility and musicality in ways that traditional concert halls couldn’t, and it gave us the opportunity to make each performance unique for the audience. It’s something we want to continue exploring as we challenge ourselves and the traditional boundaries of classical music.