Free For All

EMF continues to broaden its appeal with concerts gratis to the public

If you thought classical music was out of your class, here’s your chance to elevate your status with no strain on your wallet. For the second year in a row, the Eastern Music Festival presents its Pay What You Can orchestral celebration June 28. “We decided that first Friday night of the festival was a good introduction to the whole shootin’ works, the whole shebang,” says EMF Executive Director Chris Williams. “One of my board members said, ‘Let’s go find a foundation to support it.’ And the Mebane Foundation, which does educational work, said they thought this would fit beautifully, agreed to provide the funds so we could make that one concert free and open to everyone.” The Greensboro billionaire Allen Mebane, who made his fortune in textiles with Unifi, launched his namesake foundation to ensure that all children, “regardless of race or socioeconomic background, should have the opportunity reach their highest potential in school, in career, and in life.” That philosophy dovetails perfectly with the EMF’s goals of exposing young people to the arts through an intensive, hands-on learning process and attracting the audience to see their accomplishments in performance.

In this case, you get to see all the EMF’s orchestral musicians onstage in one night. The Faculty orchestra plays one big piece, then the two student orchestras will split a Brahms symphony with each playing two movements of the symphony. “You get three orchestras playing two pieces, for whatever you can afford,” Williams says. “Last year we tried it, we were very quiet about it, weren’t sure how it would work. It brought in some families, some students who had maybe not taken the leap forward into EMF yet, that had not come before because they were curious but not willing to commit. It got people interested and excited right away.”

To rev up the excitement, the EMF hosts a chamber crawl June 15, partnering with a handful of musical ensembles for an afternoon of free performances along Elm Street. “Last year we did eight performances in eight venues — plus a little party vibe at the end,” Williams says.

Otherwise, the rich array of concerts and guest artists audiences have come to expect from EMF will continue through next month. On July 14, the festival goes on the road to Boone for a one-night appearance at the Appalachian Summer Festival, an encore performance of the Eastern Festival Orchestra featuring pianist Awadagin Pratt. And a beefed-up, second-line soundtrack — a two-week program for euphonium and tuba, much like EMF’s guitar program — should put some pep in your step, ensuring a brassy summer kickoff for the venerable festival. — Grant Britt  OH


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