Access Contemporary Music (ACM) wants everyone to know about contemporary classical music.
We believe strongly that the music of our time deserves a wider audience and that there are many people who would love contemporary classical music if they only knew it existed.
We see two challenges facing contemporary music:
1. The vast majority of people don’t know that composers still exist and their perception of classical music is rooted in the past. They still think of dead European men in wigs when they hear the term classical music.
2. Many people who identify as classical music fans have a negative impression of contemporary music and often stay away from contemporary music programming as a result
These are difficult problems to address. How do you encourage major institutions like symphonies, radio stations, etc. to program more contemporary music when they will, rightly, counter that that’s not what their audience wants to hear?
We have to mount a wholesale campaign to change both the idea that contemporary music is separate from the classical tradition and that classical music itself is a dead art form. The good news is that, with composers, women as well as men, writing music from nearly every country on the planet, classical music has never been more global and inclusive than it is now.
We can change the image of classical music and present it as a living tradition. When classical music is seen as thriving and relevant, audiences will grow. ACM, in consultation with the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program, has developed a strategy to address both of these challenges and revitalize classical music.
1. Go where the people are, make contemporary music visible.
2. Raise musical literacy in general. There are many otherwise extremely intelligent individuals who don’t know basic things about music. This has to change.
3. Humanize the composers who create the music. Show off the diverse elements of today’s classical music.
All of our programs have been created to serve one of those three strategic elements.
Palomar Ensemble’s concert series takes place in neighborhood venues and we partner with community organizations to bring in new audiences. The concerts present music by living composers from around the world, they typically take place in non-traditional venues and the environment is fun and welcoming.
The Sound of Silent Film Festival is a very successful collaboration with filmmakers to present newly composed scores performed live to modern silent films. Every year hundreds of people hear contemporary music for the first time at this event and our programs have been picked up by mainstream festivals like CIMMFest.
Open House is a collaboration with the Open House Worldwide project to give composers the opportunity to write music inspired by spaces in cities around the world. Open House Chicago alone brings out tens of thousands of people to the sites with music and they are delighted to discover that the music was composed specifically for that space. We are now also working in Milwaukee and Barcelona and hope to add other cities soon.
Our ACM School of Music exists to teach musical creativity in communities throughout the city including Avondale, Cabrini Green, Ravenswood, Rogers Park and the South Loop. Our model is to have small storefronts serving hyper-local populations and to give children and adults the chance to learn to express themselves creatively and to appreciate musical creativity in general. Many of our students come to our concerts and have become donors and even board members.
Global Connections is a program for composers in which we have created a series of partnerships with ensembles and festivals around the world to provide performance opportunities for them. We also feature their profile on our website in a user-friendly way that makes even those with little or no musical background interested in hearing their music.