Just how cool would it be to be onstage at the Knight Theater as an orchestra-member-for-the-day of the Charlotte Symphony under the baton of maestro Christopher Warren-Green, performing Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”?

Pretty darn cool according to Mary Deissler, Charlotte Symphony’s president and CEO. That’s why she’s launched the first-ever Pro-Am experience on Saturday, May 20, where local amateur musicians practice, learn and play alongside the Charlotte Symphony in a free concert open to the public.

“There’s a whole movement in the orchestra field exploring participatory opportunities where the public can get up close and personal with the musicians who make the magic happen on stage,” Deissler said. “What a wonderful experience to watch people who have studied an instrument once upon a time and really loved it but then life gets in the way and you go on. This is a tremendous opportunity to remind folks how much they loved playing as part of that family that is an orchestra, the thrill, excitement and sometimes even slight panic of performing live onstage.”

Nearly 40 area orchestra wannabes signed up by the late-April registration deadline, filling close to half of the available 80 slots. Flutists were the first to fill the slots according to Deissler along with other woodwinds, percussionists, strings and brass representing.

For a $125 participation fee, amateur musicians (the ability to read music and play an instrument are required) receive a boxed lunch, commemorative T-shirt and the opportunity to rub elbows by learning from and playing with Charlotte’s finest professional musicians.

The day begins with introductions and rehearsal mid-morning followed by lunch, more practice and the performance at 2:30 p.m. Participants are encouraged to invite friends and family to the performance.

A lively program is planned and features “Pomp and Circumstance,” “Bizet Suite No. 1” from “Carmen,” Johannes Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 5” and part of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”

These are all familiar pieces with none too difficult for those whose violin or piccolo may be a bit rusty.

“We hear again and again from our audience, particularly younger members, they don’t simply want to be passive observers, they want to be involved,” Deissler said. “Pro-Am is one of the many outreach programs Charlotte Symphony is undertaking to develop a closer relationship with our audience. Our musicians look forward to opportunities to meet members of the community and while not a usual thing, most really enjoy the chance to explain what they do when they make music.”

Don’t be surprised if you see a few familiar Charlotte notables among the amateur players. While Deissler was reluctant to out any of the closet-musicians that the Symphony is actively recruiting for the event, some very recognizable Charlotte faces are rumored to take the stage for the performance.

Only their high school band teachers – pressed into emergency service – know for sure.

Want to go?

The Pro-Am Charlotte Symphony will perform at 2:30 p.m. May 20 in the Knight Theater. The performance is free and open to the public.

Photo credit: Charlotte Symphony

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