Local Arts

Young people make a difference in arts groups

Charlotte Concerts’ Young Donors group is hosting a free reception before the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. Reception is 6-8 p.m. Feb. 27; concert at 8 p.m., Halton Theater.
Charlotte Concerts’ Young Donors group is hosting a free reception before the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. Reception is 6-8 p.m. Feb. 27; concert at 8 p.m., Halton Theater. CHARLOTTE CONCERTS

My involvement with Charlotte Concerts began casually, over a cup of coffee. The board was looking for a new representative employed by Central Piedmont Community College, whose Halton Theater hosts their performances.

Board President Anne Bryant seemed glad to talk with me about the organization and its goals, despite my age (I’m 27) and inexperience.

Anne shared stories of the music and performances the organization brings to the community. They are diverse, impressive and numerous; this year marks 85 straight seasons of world-class acts – everything from chamber music to jazz, from here in the U.S. to across the globe.

While this is important, what struck me was their dedication of money to music education in Mecklenburg County.

I was transported to my fourth-grade classroom, where I’d been awarded a place in the newly formed woodwind section. I handed my assignment to caring and supportive parents who purchased my clarinet without complaint. Our band of 10-year-olds began to learn the biggest lessons of music, those relating to teamwork, discipline and dedication, at our first rehearsal.

Many of our Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students do not get this experience, and they miss an opportunity to learn important character-building skills that come with hours of practice.

I’m proud to be part of an organization that, last year, expended more than $160,000 on music education to Mecklenburg and other counties. We underwrote all expenses for CMS Middle Schools Honor Orchestra, the CMS High School Honor Band, and the Honor Chorus; donated sheet music to multiple schools; presented new instruments to underserved students in middle and high schools; and gave free student tickets to all concerts.

This is what Charlotte Concerts gives to the community, and this is the reason I serve on the board of directors.

Even though I don’t donate huge sums of money, I do what I can and for that I am respected. I serve on the marketing committee, put stamps on postcards and set up auction items for the ball. And I’m helping launch our new Young Donors Group with a reception Friday before our next concert, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra’s “A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald.”

Few individuals under 30 serve on boards of arts organizations in Charlotte, which is an issue to be fixed. It is important that our boards listen to a new generation’s voices, whose fresh ideas and resilient spirits come from life experiences specific to joining the workforce during a recession. Current board members should mentor their younger counterparts and encourage their participation whether or not they are financially capable of meeting high donation requirements.

I am friends with many young people whose can-do, problem-solving spirits are changing the way we connect with each other and fostering creative growth in our city. It is exciting to imagine what they could do if invited to serve on boards.

I recently moved on to a new career opportunity, but was grateful that Bryant asked that I continue to serve, and encouraged my pursuit of a young donors group. I see this as an opportunity for my peers, who will someday be making decisions on behalf of these arts organizations we hold in such esteem. I hope they will join either this or another young donors group.

I am proud that Charlotte Concerts has allowed me a voice and an opportunity, and hope other organizations will invite the opinions and suggestions of the bright young voices in our community.

This story was produced as part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance.

If you go

Charlotte Concerts’ Young Donors group is hosting a free reception before the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, with refreshments by vendors including Earls Grocery, Not Your Mom’s Donuts and Birdsong Brewing.

Details: Reception is 6-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27; concert at 8 p.m., Halton Theater, 1201 Elizabeth Ave.; 704-330-6534; Young Donors RSVP includes two free concert tickets: CharlotteConcerts.org/Events tab.

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