Classical music has a reputation for enjoying an older audience, something the Calgary Civic Symphony Orchestra struggles with. However president Manon Mitchell believes Calgary youth are missing out on the benefits of this classical style, which is making her re-think her symphony to be more interactive and accessible.

Where the symphony strives to fill its performances with youth, the rest of Canada seems to be struggling just as much to fill theatres. According to a survey by Hill Strategies, only seven per cent of Canadians between the ages 15 and 24 attended a live classical art performance in 2010 — meaning the benefits of music are being missed by a large portion of youth.

With the interest in classical music gradually decreasing, the Calgary Symphony lacks the numbers it needs to fill its home — the Jack Singer Concert Hall. The concert hall fits close to 1,800 people and only about a quarter of that number actually comes to performances.

“Music is the medium. It’s kind of like getting a shot for the flu.” — Manon Mitchell

President and violinist, Manon Mitchell, has been working to shine a spotlight on Calgary’s orchestra of 60 – 70 amateur and professional musicians. She believes music has a powerful message to send to young audiences.

“Music is the medium. It’s kind of like getting a shot for the flu. You’ve got the needle, but then you have the stuff on the inside. Music is like that conduit. It’s the needle that allows that message to go through and allows work to be done.”

Mitchell also thinks music is extremely important as it accesses all parts of the brain and can be medically beneficial too.

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“Recent videos on YouTube where you see people with Parkinson’s, who suddenly can now walk and talk if they do it to music. As soon as you take the music away, they go back to their demised state. They can control it when music is present.”

Carolyn Lowther, a violinist with the Symphony and pregnant with her fourth child, also believes music is important in a child’s life.

“Back in Regina I was teaching little kids the Suzuki method and it was kind of neat to grow up doing that. Since having my own kids, I haven’t been teaching as much, but now with my daughter, I can try that out.”

Mitchell believes it is beneficial to have kids like Lowther’s in the audience, as the symphony works to engage a larger age demographic in its performances.

In an attempt to appeal to youngsters, the Symphony put on a fun-filled event to immerse people with the power of music and a little bit of gambling for the adults.

“We had a James Bond event a little while ago. We had casino machines in the lobby and everyone got $10,000 in playing chips. It was really fun and got people engaged.”

Mitchell will now be utilizing social media to help engage different demographics to come see the Symphony, hopefully, she says, expanding her online presence will help spread the word.

mlabossiere@cjournal.ca, jcrosser@cjournal.ca
The editor responsible for this article is Aysha Zafar, azafar@cjournal.ca.