QC Symphony launches new program to offer free tickets to several community organizations

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The Quad City Symphony is partnering with 10 community organizations to offer free concert tickets.

If you think classical music and the Quad City Symphony Orchestra are only for “the elite,” think again. A new program announced Friday makes our orchestra more inviting than ever.

With the Concert Access Pass (CAP), individuals and families served by 10 partnered community organizations can get up to four tickets to any QCSO concerts for free. This program strives to offer all Quad Citizens the opportunity to experience the unique power of music to build connections with others and transform lives.
The current QCSO CAP partner organizations (with more to come) are:

  • Big Brothers & Big Sisters of the Mississippi Valley
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Valley
  • Child Abuse Council
  • Dress for Success Quad Cities
  • Hand in Hand
  • Illinois Department of Human Services
  • The Project of the Quad Cities
  • Project SEARCH
  • River Bend Food Bank
  • Second Baptist Church Outreach Music & Arts Academy

Individuals receiving services or assistance from participating CAP organizations are eligible to receive up to four free tickets to all QCSO concerts. Eligible individuals request their CAP Membership Card directly from the partner organization and can request tickets in-person, by phone, or online, beginning 30 days before each concert performance.

SO executive director Brian Baxter introduces the new CAP program Friday, Nov. 5 at the Adler Theatre, Davenport (photo by Jonathan Turner).

QCSO executive director Brian Baxter said the effort fits with the QCSO mission that all its programs are accessible to the public. “The Concert Access Pass is a great example of this strategic vision in action,” he said Friday on the stage of the Adler Theatre, the orchestra’s Davenport home. “The QCSO believes that music performance, and access to it, is essential to our community.”

“I’m proud to artistically lead an organization that’s truly about access. So often in our society today, we’re perceived as being inaccessible, as an orchestra and classical music,” conductor and music director Mark Russell Smith said. “We’ve worked incredibly hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“We live in, pretty much for better or worse, a virtual society,” he said of broadcast, online and streamed entertainment. “What I love about this program and about what I do, on this very stage, is that it’s a unique moment in time. Being here in the concert hall is incredibly different than being at home, watching on TV. That’s great to have that, the ability to do that.

QCSO music director and conductor Mark Russell Smith (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“What I think is missing a lot in our society is being together, having communal experiences,” Smith said. “What live music does, what we do on the stage here, we’re so much informed by the audience, by feeling the collective power of the audience. So for us to be able to make this more accessible, to offer these tickets, is an incredibly valuable thing, an important thing.”

The QCSO wants people to be engaged with the arts, to be inspired and motivated by music.

“It’s different in the hall than it is not in the hall,” Smith said of the orchestra. “I was very fortunate as a young musician to have a number of transformational live concert experiences.”

As a 19-year-old student in Chicago, he recalled hearing the Chicago Symphony play Bruckner’s 8th Symphony (which the QCSO will do in February). “I had a physical reaction to this music – my heart kind of leapt out of my chest,” Smith said. “I had never experienced something like that, to have this majesty surrounding me, was just a unique thing for me. And it was such an inspiration.

“If I can participate in that world, if I could conjure those emotions, I would give anything to be part of that, and I’ve been fortunate enough to do that,” he said, adding he also got to see Leonard Bernstein conduct in New York City.

Mark Russell Smith speaking Friday, Nov. 5 at the Adler Theatre (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“I’m very proud of what happens here on this stage,” Smith said. “Our musicians play with great passion, with great energy, and our audience perceives that. If you’re in the room where it happens, you get caught up with that. To be able to really, really make things accessible is very meaningful to me.”

“It’s a wonderful, unique thing,” he said. “We play for our audience; we don’t play for ourselves. Everything we do, all the work we put in, is so that our audience’s lives are enriched, are transformed. That’s what this program is going to show.”

Reactions from some CAP partners

Stacie Kintigh, an instructor for Project SEARCH, which serves young adults with disabilities to learn skills in the world of work, spoke Friday of the program’s importance.

Stacie Kintigh of Project SEARCH (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“One of the things I think is very important is to have access to all that the Quad Cities has to offer. One of our greatest treasures is the QCSO,” she said. “I am an arts person down to my core; I’m a theater director, and I firmly believe what our conductor has to say today about having that emotional, physical experience.”

The tickets will be vital in introducing high-quality music to her students. “It’s a great gift,” Kintigh said. “My interns are very excited that Harry Potter is coming up; they can’t wait to be here and experience a film in a way they never have before.” (The film “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” with live music from the QCSO will be Nov. 20 at the Adler.)

Rev. Carmen Ausborn of the Second Baptist Church Outreach Music & Arts Academy (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“We are just so excited, so grateful for this opportunity,” said Rev. Carmen Ausborn, executive director of the Second Baptist Church Outreach Music & Arts Academy in Rock Island. “I think those who will experience this will impact our children for years to come. These are children who would not normally have the opportunity to come to a performance like this, and afford things like this.”

The orchestra has shared performances at the SBC academy for years, she said. “I was one of those children, and can attest to the power of music, which can affect you for years to come.”

Another thrilled for the new opportunity is Lee Gonzales, peer navigator for The Project, which provides services regarding sexually transmitted diseases, mental health, HIV testing and supportive services, counseling and LGBTQ programs.

Lee Gonzales of The Project of the Quad Cities (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“This would be great for our mental health clients and anyone who is suffering from any kind of trauma,” he said. “I’ve learned through my experiences with music, it helped me become the person I am today. With this partnership, I feel this could bring a whole new light to our clients.”

CAP will be a permanent program

Baxter plans to add more community organizations to CAP, and make this a permanent fixture of the QCSO.

He sang the praises of the orchestra’s financial supporters for its mission, including Quad Cities Cultural Trust and Quad City Bank & Trust. Baxter noted the new QC brand campaign, and extended its tag line, “QC, That’s Where – our orchestra makes the experience of live music accessible to everyone in our entire community.”

With all the financial challenges the QCSO has, especially with COVID, it’s not difficult to make more free seats available, Baxter said.

“We’re able to do it; we made a determination and we have been seeking specific sponsors for it,” he said. “It’s being supported by the general fund, basically.”

The QCSO traditionally offers free tickets to students who play in the orchestra youth ensembles, and local school groups (like school bands and orchestras), Baxter said.

“At any concerts, we have seats that are empty and we want to fill the hall,” he said. “An empty seat is useless, so this is a way to intentionally connect with people. They choose what they want to come see and they take ownership of it.”

Brian Baxter is executive director of the Quad City Symphony (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“This is a model we’ve seen in a couple other orchestras that are similar in size to us, and they’ve had a lot of success with it,” Baxter said.

Often, when he speaks with subscribers or donors about when they first saw an orchestra concert, it’s when they were young and they got invited with a free seat.

“It’s not always strictly, I can’t pay for it. Sometimes, it’s, I don’t know if it’s my thing,” Baxter said. Some of the partner organizations are groups that have been involved with QCSO already.

QCSO concerts eligible for CAP tickets are Masterworks, Up Close, QCSO At the Movies, Holiday Brass and LPE Opera: Karkinos.

Ticket requests open 30 days before the first concert performance and can be made through the Thursday preceding the concert. Tickets cannot be requested at the venue or the day of the concert. Contact information and member ID# will be required to reserve tickets.

The QCSO Box Office is located at 327 Brady St. in Davenport, and is open Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can call box office staff Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at 563-322-7276. For more information, visit www.qcso.org.

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