Community concerts bring Boston Symphony Orchestra to campus


File photo by Dylan Shen

Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians perform in the Fenway Center.

Deanna Schwartz, news staff

Those who want to hear classical music played by world-renowned musicians need not look any further than St. Stephen Street.

Two to three times a semester, the music of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, or BSO, can be heard on campus in the Fenway Center.

The BSO Community Chamber Music Series concerts are each comprised of four or five BSO musicians performing classical pieces at no cost to attendees. The concerts, which run about an hour, include music by the likes of Mozart, Debussy, Monteverdi and more.

Community concerts have long been a part of the orchestra’s programming but have not always been held on campus. The BSO approached Northeastern’s Department of Music in 2010 to host community concerts at the Fenway Center when they outgrew their prior space in Symphony Hall.

While Northeastern students do not perform in the concerts, several participate by providing introductions and archival recordings.

Professors nominate one exceptional music student per concert to introduce the event. These students are usually nominated based on their creativity and public speaking skills, said Arthur Rishi, concert coordinator for the music department. Rishi acts as a liaison between the BSO and Northeastern, coordinating the logistics.

“We think of this as a pretty big opportunity for our students to be working with the Boston Symphony,” Rishi said.

Ileeana Johnson, a second-year music and psychology double major, served as the student speaker at a concert in February 2018. Johnson said that writing and delivering her concert introduction was difficult and stressful but eventually rewarding. The experience gave her insight into what it takes to organize a concert.

“You don’t realize how much work goes into [putting on concerts]. It’s given me a stronger appreciation for the people who do those kinds of things,” Johnson said. “It’s a super cool, unique experience.”

Students from Green Line Records, Northeastern’s student-run record label, participate by recording the concerts for the BSO’s archives.

“It was great to get a front row seat to this performance, and it is pretty cool to say I have recorded the BSO in some fashion,” said third-year music industry major Zac Kerwin, head of recording for Green Line. Kerwin recorded the Jan. 11 BSO concert.

Professor Daniel S. Godfrey, chair of the music department, said the concerts help students apply what they learn in class in a unique way.

“It’s a good opportunity for them to have what they do in terms of learning about repertoire actually serve a function for the public,” Godfrey said.

Godfrey and Rishi said the concert series is a “superb” way to connect with the local community.

“We’re always looking for ways to connect what we do in the classroom with what is going on in the community around us,” Godfrey said. “[The concerts] get students and people from the community in the same room, listening together.”

BSO Community Chamber Concert audiences are generally about half Northeastern community members and half Bostonians unaffiliated with NU, Rishi said.

“We always make a point of welcoming them to campus, because they often do not know they are on Northeastern’s campus,” Rishi said. “It’s been a great way for the music department to reach out to the community.”

The next BSO Community Chamber Concerts are on March 15 and April 12 in the Fenway Center.