Austin Civic Orchestra Makes Classical Music Accessible and Affordable

The image typically associated with classical music is usually one of elite, wealthy people attending pompous venues that usually aren’t accessible to the average person. One local organization’s goal is to provide live classical music performances to the Austin community in a more accessible way.

Story by Jennifer Hernandez

Photos courtesy of Austin Civic Orchestra

The Austin Civic Orchestra’s mission is to bring classical music to new audiences. There is a misconception that classical music is only for a certain audience. Classical music, like other genres, is for everyone, and the Austin Civic Orchestra makes sure that it is widely accessible. “My goal with the ACO is to reach out to people who think classical music is stuffy and elitist and prove that it isn’t,” music director Lois Ferrari says.

Austin Civic Orchestra's cellists, all of whom are volunteers.

Austin Civic Orchestra's cellists, all of whom are volunteers.

Ferrari leads the Austin Civic Orchestra, a volunteer-driven organization that performs classical music throughout the city of Austin. She conducts full concerts and enjoys working with the musicians who dedicate their time to enriching the classical music scene and bringing the music directly to the people. “Our civic engagement is to make our music accessible to people in the austin area,” says Amy Crandell, bassoonist for Austin Civic Orchestra. ”We have venues that are easy to get to, that are comfortable and are handicap enabled. We perform a variety of concerts. We go from the very casual zilker park pops concert where people can sit on the grass and then we have indoor concerts which are a little more formal.”

Crandell plays the bassoon for the organization, an instrument has she has been playing since she was 12 years old. She joined the Austin Civic Orchestra in 2006. Like the rest of the musicians in the Austin Civic Orchestra, Crandell is a volunteer. With musicians ranging from ages 16 to 75 and various backgrounds, the Austin Civic Orchestra, in a way, reflects the  Austin community itself. “My favorite part about working for the Austin Civic Orchestra are the concerts that we put on,” Crandell says. “It’s an exhilarating feeling to participate in. the excitement with the other members from the orchestra. The excitement is powerful and runs through the whole concert.”

The orchestra brings classical music to more accessible venues.

The orchestra brings classical music to more accessible venues.

In a city also known for its high-tech industry and modern innovations, the sounds of Beethoven and Mozart still thrive. Classical music is full of timeless pieces which can still be heard and performed with great impact today. “It’s one spoke in the big wheel of Austin music,” Ferrari says. “This city is so rich and diverse in its live musical roots. I love that we can have crossover experiences with audience members and performers from all musical genres. Live classical music is just as exciting as any other type of live music, most people just need to have a first experience to realize it.”

Future concert goers will be pleased to hear that many of the Austin Civic Orchestra shows are affordable and discounted for college students. Performances are even set in casual outdoor settings like their bi-annual Zilker Park pops concert, which is free and fun for everyone. “We are trying to encourage the younger generation to have an appreciation for music like this,” Crandell says. “We do this by providing free admission to them and then low priced admission for adults.”

The next Austin Civic Orchestra concert will be at Bates Recital Hall on Saturday, May 13th, at 7:30 pm.