Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Boston’s Free Prize Inside – Free Music All the Time!

It is no secret that the Boston area is home to over 100 institutions of higher education. Those of us who live here are reminded of this fact every Move-in Weekend and Move-Out weekend. What many Bostonians fail to realize – and fail to take advantage of – is that from those scores of colleges and universities and conservatories flows a steady stream of free concerts, recitals and performances that are the equal of anything you might pay to see at Symphony Hall or the Wang Center.

In the past several months, I had availed myself of the opportunity to see and hear an astonishing array of outstanding performances. Here is a quick sampling:

World premiere performances of several compositions by New England Conservatory faculty member Larry Bell and by James Orleans, of the NEC faculty and double bassist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Most NEC concerts are held in the intimate confines of Jordan Hall, one of the most acoustically pleasing and aesthetically perfect concert halls I have ever experienced.

An evening of instrumental and choral music by Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi, the musician who built the bridge between the Renaissance and Baroque periods of music.

A performance by the NEC Symphony with Joseph Silverstein conducting. Silverstein is the former concertmaster and principle guest conductor of the BSO and is the elder statesman among world-class conductors. The program included Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture and Sibelius’ beautiful Symphony No. 1 in E Minor. The quality of the music and musicianship was on a par with anything I have heard in any of the major concert halls in the world.

For a calendar of upcoming free concerts at NEC, this link will let you know what to plan for:


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At Berklee College of Music, a magnet for aspiring jazz musicians from all over the world, I attended a concert that included original compositions by the school's top 20 students of composition and film scoring. It was a memorable evening. I am convinced that the next Ennio Morricone may emerge from among those nascent composers

Here is what Berklee’s Website has to say about the music scene in Boston:

The Boston music scene has long been viewed as one of the most innovative and exciting in the U.S., and part of the reason for that is the strength of the music scene right here at Berklee. The hundreds of student, faculty, and alumni concerts on campus each year make Berklee one of the best places to see and hear what's new in music.

Some basic information about Berklee events:

Most events are free and open to the public.

The ticket price for college concerts in the Berklee Performance Center is $5 for the general public.

See Directions to Berklee and the campus map for directions to Berklee and its performance venues.

You can also keep tabs on Berklee concerts by calling our Concert Office Hotline at (617) 747-8820.


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Harvard University, noted for its academics and “People’s Republic of Cambridge” sensibilities, plays host to a veritable cornucopia of cultural and music events each week. If you had attended student performances a few years ago, you would have heard a young physics student by the name of YoYo Ma playing the cello!

A student performance of “Wonder of the World” by the Harvard-Radcliffe Summer Theater at the Loeb Theater introduced me to the remarkable writing of David Lindsay-Abaire.


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Emerson College has long served as a launching pad into show business – Dennis Leary, Henry Winkler, Jay Leno are among the school alumni. Student productions often rivaled the quality of the higher-priced houses down the street from the Cutler Majestic Theater. A few seasons ago, I was enthralled by the Emerson production of “Children of Eden.”


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Located just around the corner from its more well-known neighbor, NEC, The Boston Conservatory presents over 200 performances each year—from student and faculty recitals, to fully staged works of dance, theater, and opera, to musical ensembles.


In addition, I have sampled student performances at Brandeis and Tufts. I have never been disappointed in the quality of a performance.

Beyond the realm of academia, Boston also boasts a vibrant local music scene – of every possible musical style and genre. The Arts pages of the Boston Globe every Thursday give a full rundown of choices.

Many excellent bands play in small clubs and bars, where the price of a drink or two will buy you an evening of outstanding entertainment. For example, one of my favorite soul bands, Chicken Slacks Soul Review plays three sets of R&B standards each Thursday night at Central Square’s CanTab Lounge of Massachusetts Avenue.


In some cities, most people can’t afford to experience live entertainment. In Boston, you can’t afford not to!



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