Annapolis Symphony attempts to attract a younger audience Youth: Members of the concertgoers' group Forte!, ages 25 to 40, have been enlisted to provide a younger base of support.


In his book "Music Inside Out," composer Ned Rorem wrote that the state of music presents a "variety of solutions in search of a problem, the problem being to find somebody left to listen."

Indeed, as popular culture continues to denigrate the classics and the average age of people attending symphonic concerts continues to rise, orchestras that fail to broaden their base of support do so at their own peril.

This explains why the Annapolis Symphony, even as it heads into its 1998-1999 season with more subscribers than ever, continues its attempts to attract new listeners.

One example of this is Forte!, a fledgling organization for younger concertgoers that bills itself as the Young Patrons of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.

As all musicians who have played or sung a passage loudly may know, forte is the Italian word for strong, and that's exactly the word for the support level demonstrated by the group of 10 ASO partisans that met in a steamy Maryland Hall Library Tuesday evening.

The idea for Forte! evolved from the Friends of the ASO, the orchestra's fund-raising arm, said Andrew Kipe, 25, a St. Mary's College graduate who is about to begin his second year as the orchestra's operations manager.

"The idea had been thrown around for years, and I expressed an interest in working with it," he said. "What we want to do is bring in younger people who have not traditionally gotten involved with the orchestra. We want to break down the stereotype that the symphony is a stuffy affair for little old ladies."

The members, all of whom are between ages 25 and 40, held a "Beer and Bach" reception before the orchestra's chamber concert in the spring, raised $2,500 for the orchestra by selling food at JazzFest in June, and bought season subscriptions together, said Dana Tropp, a computer software manager and former president of the Annapolis Jaycees, who handles the group's administrative affairs.

"We're making the orchestra part of our lives and, later on, we might be the ones that replace the people now helping to run the orchestra," she said.

Forte! has met a variety of needs for its members.

Kelly Sheridan of Pasadena moved to Anne Arundel County three years ago. A music lover who sings with the Arundel Vocal Arts Society, she enjoys going to concerts but hates going alone. Now, with a peer group in place, she doesn't have to.

Tom Bunting, an Annapolis architect who has been studying piano for seven years, was invited to a meeting and came along because "it just sounded like fun," he said.

"My children had formal exposure to music," said Rebecca Quinn. "But there was nothing organized for me. I kept a news article about Forte! on my desk for five months. I finally called, and this has really filled the gap."

Tropp recalled going to Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts as a child. She said Forte! is "my way to continue the music thing."

"The time was right, and there were good people to meet," she said.

The orchestra's season begins with a pair of outdoor concerts over Labor Day weekend. The first subscription concerts are Sept. 11 and 12.

As these young, enthusiastic new patrons of the arts plan their picnics, design their logo, and make arrangements to sell ASO memorabilia at intermissions this year, it's obvious that a symphony season that begins forte is right up their alley.

Anyone interested in joining Forte!, the Young Patrons of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, may call Andrew Kipe at 410-269-1132 or Dana Tropp at 410-923-1313.

Pub Date: 8/27/98

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