Orchestra of St. Luke's helps classical music diversify

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- When most live music venues were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic a year ago, one non-profit organization in New York City saw an opportunity to grow its audience online -- and make it more diverse in the process.

The Orchestra of St. Luke's has been a Big Apple institution since the 1970s, but the group has really flourished since the opening of its DiMenna Center of Classical Music in Manhattan a decade ago.

The organization is marking this 10th anniversary by continuing to create new programs, stream them online, and confront this unique time in our history.

Harvard Professor Teju Cole is taking part in an online series called "Sounds and Stories," reading from a fable he wrote about the pandemic to music Cole selected to complement his words.

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The series on Wednesday evenings is hosted by actor David Hyde Pierce, best know for his work in "Frasier," who is a longtime fan of classical music and a board member of the orchestra.

"Whatever people expect from the classical music world, they can be surprised and will be surprised," he said.

The Orchestra of St. Luke's operates a state-of-the-art video production center at the DiMenna Center, 20,000 square feet packed with the latest equipment.

"There has not been a time of innovation in our field like this since maybe when radio was invented and when sound recordings was invented," President and Executive Director James Roe said. "This is a period of great innovation."

Roe and his staff have used this past year, when so many people were stuck at home, to explore new opportunities online.

"People who are so eager for some kind of connection," he said. "And we wanted to make a concert experience, a musical experience, that wasn't just taking something that was on the stage and squeezing it through the internet into someone's computer screen."

Watching their streams is almost better than having a front row seat at a live show, and the best part is the value.

"You can pay as little as $1 and watch this," Hyde Pierce said. "It allows the kind of diversity of audience that we all believe so deeply in."

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He and Roe share an objective in the field of classical music that has often lagged behind in efforts to diversify the arts.

CLICK HERE for details about "Sounds and Stories."

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