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Friday, November 14, 2008

Arts on Shoestring


We're not going to be going to any Broadway shows or touring companies or major ballet companies or concert halls anytime soon.

But I'm inspired tonight. I just got home from a breathtaking concert, held at my church, two blocks away. The act was a chamber group. They specialized in contemporary music, and they knew just how much to say to make it accessible. (Let's face, it, lots of people aren't big fans.)

The evening was wonderful. There was a suggested donation, which I paid, but even so it was a small fraction of the cost of a concert hall performance, and I think these musicians were every bit as good. They ended with Mozart "for dessert".

So don't deprive yourself or your family the finer things in life. Here are 10 ways to get some culture into your lives as the holiday season approaches.

1. Go to a local production of The Nutcracker.
Surely a ballet school near your offers a performance. Many schools have talented local dancers in the lead roles in addition to the student dancers.

2. Check the website or get on the mailing list for your local community music school. In addition to student recitals, many hold frequent faculty recitals to showcase the musical talent of their instructors.

3. While you're there, find out if they give financial aid for music lessons. Ours does, although they do ask you to contribute in other ways, like helping to set up chairs for concerts and recitals.

4. Patronize small, local museums. We happen to have a world-class photography museum in my little town. Admission is cheaper than at the major metropolitan collectoins.

4. Some museums have free admission times. Find out when yours are and soak it all in.

5. Visit outdoor sculpture gardens. Many have no admission charge, and a self-guided walking tour may even be available.

6. Get together with friends and host a music party. A potluck takes the expense burden off the host. Ask everyone to perform something. Maybe some duets will even break out!

7. Borrow music recordings from your local library instead of buying them or downloading them. If they don't have what you want, you may be able to get them through interlibrary loan.

8. Inquire at major venues if they have rush or standing room only seats for major performances. Standing ticket-holders often do find seats after the first break in the performance.

9. Scan the newspaper, or subscribe to the RSS feed for arts news. Recitals and concerts by up and coming artists are sometimes available for the asking. I recently saw an award-winning young pianist in recital at the Southbank Centre in London, just by searching the web and emailing a request for tickets. Oh, and it was FREE.

10. For special occasions, find out if there is a half-price ticket booth for music, theater and dance near you or at a destination. I often forgo an expensive dinner if I'm traveling on business in New York or London in exchange for an evening at the theatre, thanks to the TKTS and Leicester Square booths. I can't afford it any more, but when I could, it was always worthwhile.

Photo by BdwayDiva1.

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