Latest News

The Mint and the symphony launch new seasons, eras

He bailed out on a British conservatory as a teenager to become a professional musician. She stuck with school and earned a Ph.D. in art history.

They’ve followed different paths – until this summer, when each of them landed in Charlotte.

Christopher Warren-Green came from England to become the Charlotte Symphony’s music director. Kathleen Jameson left an even more foreign land – Texas – to lead the Mint Museum.

They’ve also arrived at the same philosophy: For their groups to flourish, they have to draw in more of the community.

Jameson and the Mint can take advantage of a new calling card: the South Tryon Street building that opens Oct. 1. Jameson has already shown a few art lovers around.

“The more I take people through this museum,” Jameson, 41, says, “the more inspired folks are.”

She thinks the building gives the Mint new power to connect with an increasingly diverse Charlotte. There’s room enough to devote a gallery to Romare Bearden, the Charlotte-born artist who contributed to the Harlem Renaissance. The museum has established a Romare Bearden Society that aims to draw African-Americans into its membership.

Jameson wants to reach others, too – whether they’re Asian, Latino or just people who haven’t thought an art museum was the place for them. She points to the Craft & Design collection, which celebrates creative work that’s flourishing today – including a healthy number of N.C. practitioners.

“That is an ongoing, living tradition,” Jameson says. “It’s not something separate. It’s not something you have to go to Europe to understand, or something that happened 200 years ago.”

Across First Street from the Mint, Warren-Green and the orchestra will make their own play for newcomers at the Knight Theater.

“You can get outside the box of the traditional concert without dumbing it down in any way,” Warren-Green says.

The atmosphere at the new Knight Sounds series will be less formal. Musicians will chat with the audience about the music. In one concert, NASA video of the heavens will accompany Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.” After a concert of music by Latin composers, the audience will adjourn to the Mint for a salsa-dancing party.

Warren-Green and Jameson alike point out that new audiences can pay off doubly over time: The most faithful converts not only pay dues or buy tickets, but become donors, too. The orchestra especially needs that as it struggles to overcome years of financial troubles.

Warren-Green, 55, and his family moved to Charlotte this summer from their native England – saying goodbye to their 500-year-old cottage outside London – so he can become the orchestra’s standard-bearer.

This season, he’ll conduct on all the orchestra’s concert series. The Knight series is only one example of how he’ll try to give people new ways to relate to the orchestra. Another: In honor of a key piece of Charlotte’s history, he’ll devote one of his Classics programs to music inspired by Scotland. A Scottish festival will precede the concert.

Warren-Green will also go to work outside the concert hall. Oct. 10, he’ll take a phalanx of players and conduct the national anthem before the Panthers-Bears game.

Warren-Green says he’s ready to give up rehearsal time so the orchestra can spend the time going into schools, reaching children on their own turf. He wants his group to work more closely with the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra, too.

The foundation for all this, he says, is winning financial support for the orchestra.

“The more we put into the symphony,” Warren-Green says, “the more we can get out of it.”