Originally published September 18, 2011 at 9:13 PM | Page modified September 20, 2011 at 5:34 PM

A crowded free day of music at Seattle Symphony

Seattle Symphony's new music director, Ludovic Morlot, welcomed the public Sunday to a free day of music at Benaroya Hall, including two 45-minute concerts he conducted.

Seattle Times staff reporter

quotes "Even if it's supposedly free, it doesn't mean that this whole event reeks of... Read more
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quotes Wonderful idea Mr. Morlot. Glad to have you as the new director. Keep up the good work!!!! Read more


Seattle Symphony's new music director took center stage at Benaroya Hall on Sunday, amiable and eager to welcome faithful symphony-goers and newcomers alike to Seattle's temple of classical music.

Ludovic Morlot treated families to a free day of music in all its forms, culminating in two 45-minute concerts he conducted. For most of the day, Morlot gave the stage to other local music groups, including big bands, jazz orchestras, a violin duo, hip-hop performers and a cappella singers.

"You can experience live symphonic sound and be moved by it, regardless of what the vocabulary is," said the French-born Morlot, who conducted his first concert of the season here Saturday night.

Morlot started his new job in Seattle on Sept. 1, taking over from Gerard Schwarz, who held the post for 26 years.

The crowd Sunday was as diverse in age and ethnicity as the music — a strategic move by Seattle Symphony to try to broaden its appeal as its core base of subscribers ages. Jeans and sneakers were as plentiful in the concert hall as suits and shawls. The half-hour performances gave parents enough to enjoy without taxing the patience of their children.

"I tend to think of conductors as a little bit standoffish," said Chris Barclay, 40, holding his 3-week-old son, Andrew. But Morlot struck him as down-to-earth and open.

"He seemed like he was very focused on expanding the audience and getting kids into music," Barclay said.

Robert Henson, 42, of Seattle, brought his daughters Penelope, 5, and Eleanor, 8, to listen to the free Seattle Symphony concerts.

"I think it's an important aspect of our culture," he said. "I think it's critical that everyone experience that at least once."

Realizing that ticket costs can keep families away from the symphony, the orchestra has started a new program, Family Connections, which offers free companion tickets for children to any of the Seattle Symphony's Masterworks concerts this season (go to for details).

Vanessa Stembridge, 51, of Renton, said she brings her son, Nathan, 13, and daughter, Natalie, 14, to the Christmas concerts.

Sunday was an opportunity for them to hear some new music for free — and Natalie, who favors a band called Mindless Behavior, said she planned to listen to the hip-hop performers.

Porcha Mason, 16, who's played the violin for five years, said she tells her friends, who prefer hip-hop, they should listen to classical music. Classical — her favorite composer is Beethoven — "gets you in a really good mood."

As Morlot attempts to broaden the symphony's subscriber base, he has commissioned new works inspired by local music legends such as Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana. An Oct. 18 concert, called "Sonic Evolution," will showcase these works, as well as up-and-coming Seattle band Hey Marseilles, along with the orchestra.

As Morlot wrapped up his first question-and-answer session with the public, the last question came from a young girl. "What kind of music are you going to play for kids?" she asked.

Morlot told her that he has two young daughters, one who plays violin and the other cello, and that music is important in their household. He said he planned to hold five Discover Music concerts for children during the season and to personally conduct three of them.

He also said he planned to partner with youth from ballet, theater and other arts organizations in the area to enrich the experience for children.

"I think it's really crucial that we understand that there's only one kind of music I want to believe in — it's great music — and it's not just the one we do."

Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or

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