Founded by conductor, Cesare Civetta, The Beethoven Festival Orchestra (BFO) is committed to improving the accessibility to the arts by offering affordable performances by the highest caliber integrated symphony orchestra while developing multicultural audiences.
There is a lack of racial diversity in symphony orchestras. However, the BFO will be truly integrated, comprised of virtuoso musicians of diverse ethnicities and races providing opportunities especially for those that are in between school and their careers to gain more experience and broaden their network.
Diversifying the Audience
In her book, Invitation to the Party, Donna Walker-Kuhne writes about the arts being “the only tool we have that successfully crosses ethnic and cultural barriers, bridges misunderstanding, erases social strife and celebrates diversity…When diverse groups of people come together and experience the arts as one…they develop an appreciation for our shared humanity. Making the arts accessible to as broad an audience as possible helps build a better society.”
There is a glaring lack of diversity among classical music audiences. Our vision is to perform for all ethnicities, ages, and races, for audiences as diverse as a crowded New York City subway platform during rush hour.
Performances of symphonic music are often inaccessible, because of the exorbitant ticket prices for good seats. The box office receipts of organizations that charge up to hundreds of dollars per seat only cover a small part of the costs. We wish to make performances more accessible. By charging $15 for all tickets, the cost of admission will no longer be an obstacle.
Why is it named after Beethoven? Because when he was 31 he made it clear that he didn’t consider his music to be for the exclusive enjoyment of the aristocracy who partially subsidized him, but for everyone!
Youth Engagement Program
Our goal is to be especially welcoming to teenagers and millennials. We wish to stimulate interest and engender the feeling among youth that they belong at the events by bringing small groups of performers to schools, particularly in underserved communities. Young soloists, especially Black and Latinx artists will often be featured for the youth to see their peers who look like them playing classical music.
The Audience Experience
The BFO will forgo unnecessary traditions and formalities, thereby improving its attractiveness and accessibility.
- The orchestra will frequently play in venues that have reverberative acoustics, and ideally will perform in the center of a venue, allowing for 360-degree raked seating.
- Since all seats will be the same price, there will be open seating, and during performances, audience members may change their seat locations to experience the concert from different vantage points.
- Interesting information about the composers and their music will be shared before each performance, with the orchestra demonstrating sound bites to familiarize the audience with what they are about to hear.
- Applauding in between movements will be encouraged!
- Creating a natural, welcoming atmosphere we especially want the youth to feel comfortable coming in t-shirts and sandals, the orchestra will not wear formal, monochromatic attire, and the audience may bring drinks and snacks into the concert to enjoy during the performances.
- Large screens will display cutting edge music videos to accompany the performances combined with live streaming videos of the performers. The words to vocal, hip-hop, and choral music, will also be displayed on the screens.
Celebrating a multiplicity of cultures the BFO plans to program classical orchestral, operatic, dance and choral repertoire alongside gospel, Latin, jazz, rap, and spoken word.
Chorus and Children’s Choir
A 200 voice volunteer chorus will also be established to perform great choral repertoire with the orchestra. Occasionally the orchestra will feature dancers and its own children’s choir.
An important component of the BFO will be its youth orchestra for outstanding musicians. The program is designed as a training orchestra for aspiring young musicians instilling the values of unity and hard work toward the achievement of high calibre performances and will offer the young players opportunities for leadership responsibilities. Musicians from the professional orchestra will mentor and coach the individual sections of the youth orchestra.
Another aspect of the organization will be its volunteer reading orchestra for professional and amateur musicians to come together every week to play great symphonic works. Instead of performing public concerts, the musicians will play for themselves simply for the joy of making music together and provide opportunities for composers to hear first-time readings of their music.
The BFO will provide internships and assistant responsibilities, particularly for young Black and Latinx conductors, in addition to offering workshops and master classes in orchestral, choral and operatic conducting.
One of our fundraising strategies entail a strong social media presence featuring a series of short videos to create enthusiasm about the orchestra and to enable donors to learn about the individual journeys of the young artists: freelancing, auditioning for orchestras, entering competitions and challenging paying off student loans. In addition to grassroots fundraising, we will seek financial assistance from organizations such as foundation, corporate and governmental sources.
In ancient Greece and China music was a keystone in society. Music is perhaps the most powerful language, transcending time and space by uplifting and inspiring us when we’re sad, calming us when we’re anxious, and healing broken hearts. The Buddhist philosopher, Daisaku Ikeda, wrote that music has the power “to move audiences to jubilation, penetrating their hearts with vitality and hope.” It’s so exciting to create an orchestra that will bring communities together and be a clarion call for peace.
Beethoven’s opera, Fidelio, is a moving story of love, unjust imprisonment, courage, heroism, freedom, and the triumph of justice over tyranny. And there are operas about Harriet Tubman, James Baldwin, and Paul Robeson. The orchestra will perform the music of living composers, especially women, Black and Latinx composers, whose music is often ignored.
Music has the potential to effect change in a community. We want to create an orchestra that breaks free of its museum-like setting by placing it directly in the maelstrom of the contemporary world in a socially engaged manner. We intend for the orchestra’s events to be relevant to today’s crucial issues, such as violence, war, mass shootings, terrorism, racism, xenophobia, immigration, and corruption. Therefore we seek to commission new music about peace and justice and to collaborate with poets, painters, dancers, filmmakers, spoken word, hip-hop and rap artists to raise awareness about the sanctity of life.