Think classical music means tailcoats, concert halls, and formal concerts? Well, sure, it can. But Open Classical is showing DFW audiences that it doesn’t have to.
Mark Landson and the Open Classical crew are working to bring classical music to new audiences throughout the DFW area via a variety of initiatives. Landson and his group run Classical Open Mic nights each Tuesday evening at Buzzbrews on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas and first Mondays of each month in Frisco. All musical levels are welcome at the Open Mic nights, from beginners to professional musicians.
Landson points out that for many musicians, classical music served as “social glue” perhaps through college, but for many musicians who eventually pursue non-musical careers, that connection is lost. His hope for Open Classical is that “people of all ages will have a way to connect around classical music, which becomes again an integrated part of their lives.”
Open Classical members also produce and perform in ticketed shows featuring their group and other area musicians. Most recently, they performed a Thanksgiving-themed comic operetta with new lyrics set to famous opera tunes. See the Theater Jones review here.
In addition to providing music-making opportunities for area residents, Landon wants connect with patrons who might not otherwise realize that they enjoy listening to classical music. He points out that many people “who had little or no exposure to classical music” are now regular listeners at the Open Mic nights.
While Landson is the music director, Open Classical is certainly a group effort. Pianist Thiago Nascimento not only performs in Open Classical events, but also frequently accompanies other musicians during Open Mic nights. Landson observes of Nascimento that he not only is a talented pianist, but also “has a comedic sense and an improvisational ability which completes a unique package.”
Clarinetist Brent Buemi is the real trouper of the group: he hosts the Dallas Open Mic evenings, and Landson notes that Buemi is “willing to wear whatever crazy costume I want to put on him.” For instance, he was attired in a turkey costume in the group’s Thanksgiving production, at one point wandering about the stage in said costume while playing “Turkey in the Straw.”
Patricia Yakesch’s official title for Open Classical is Marketing Director, but the reality of a small organization such as this one is that she is the administrative jack-of-all trades, and more. She maintains social media, coordinates volunteers, and even creates costumes and props for productions.
The impetus for expanding programs to Frisco is violinist Tammy Meinershagen. Landson writes of Meinershagen that she “has amazing energy.” He notes that the Frisco initiative is a great test, because the ultimate goal of Open Classical is to “create these classical music communities in as many locations as we can.”
Mark Landson and the other members of Open Classical, their volunteers, and their participant musicians, are working to change the face of classical music in DFW. So far, they are succeeding admirably, working at a grassroots level to bring performance and listening opportunities to Metroplex residents.
Editor's Note: In our first ever Forward Thinkers series, we look at the people who made the performing arts more engaging in 2014—and are setting the stage for the future. We'll run profiles through the first few months of 2015.