Columbus Makes Art Presents: Janet Chen on ProMusica’s Concerts Under the Stars
A musician herself, Executive Director Janet Chen leads ProMusica Chamber Orchestra in its efforts to bring world-class music to the Columbus community. In a series that she started six years ago, ProMusica brings three free concerts on Aug. 10, 12 and 13 to the grounds of Franklin Park Conservatory.
Brittany: Tell me about your process for developing a concert series? How do you select what music is to be played?
Janet: I love working with our music director David Danzmayr on developing our concert offerings! It’s really a team effort and a great partnership we have. I wouldn’t say there’s an exact science to it, but it usually starts with both of us throwing ideas, pieces, composers on a piece of paper, or often on a napkin while we are brainstorming at one of our favorite Columbus restaurants. There are often certain themes that help thread a series together, but we always try to mix things up by tossing in a new commissioned work, or performing a traditional work in an unconventional format. For example, our new Naked Classics series does just that. When programming for the Summer Music Series, there are certain limitations on selecting music for the pure reason that we are outdoors — and there are stage limitations, and we consider sound concerns. But most importantly, we think about what audiences would enjoy, what pieces would offer an experience for attendees and how our art can inspire music lovers of all ages.
Brittany: What makes Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens a unique venue to host the Summer Music Series?
Janet: We are lucky in Columbus to have such variety of performance spaces — for ProMusica, during the regular season we make our home at the warm and intimate Southern Theatre. So when considering an outdoor space, we wanted to take the similar intimate feel and translate that experience in a location that also felt accessible, informal, yet unique! We are also proud to showcase other cultural organizations like Franklin Park Conservatory. At the Conservatory, it is just stunning when the sun starts to set, and you see and hear ProMusica performing with the beautiful John F. Wolfe Palm House as its backdrop, and all visual and aural senses come to life with this inspiring pairing of music and light.
Brittany: What can people expect when they come to one of ProMusica’s summer concerts?
Janet: In general I don’t think there should be an “expectation” when coming to our summer concerts, or to any ProMusica performance for that matter — we encourage everyone and anyone to come as they are, and be as they are! But what we do hope, particularly at our summer concerts, is for everyone to experience high quality, classical music that is performed in a casual, relaxed environment. The concerts each are an hour long, and attendees can pack a picnic, bring a lawn chair, picnic blanket, stroll the grounds and enjoy a scenic space filled with our music. We even have children’s activities starting an hour before the concert, so these summer concerts are truly for all ages. I actually think our Summer Music Series is a perfect way to wind down the summer season! And it’s wonderful to see over 4,000 Columbus residents attend over three nights — we especially love to see friends who attend all three nights!
Brittany: Could you describe one of your recent memorable ProMusica moments?
Janet: That’s easy, definitely our most recent tour to Chicago! ProMusica traveled to the Windy City this past June and we performed for a sold-out house at the North Shore Chamber Music Festival. It was such an amazing high for the organization — musicians played incredibly, we had about 50 Columbus friends and patrons that joined us as our groupies for our debut, and we received a fantastic review from “Chicago Classical Review”— when Chicago gives you a thumbs up, that’s definitely a moment to remember, and an important moment in ProMusica’s history. It also signifies our vision to help further lift the City of Columbus as a thriving arts city!
Catch ProMusica’s free Summer Music Series on Aug. 10, 12 and 13, on the Grand Mallway of Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens (1777 E. Broad St.). Full concert details can be found at promusicacolumbus.org. Questions? Call ProMusica at 614-464-0066.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.