For eight years, Classical Revolution Cleveland has performed for audiences out for a night of beer, hot dogs and tater tots at The Happy Dog. Now, these musicians are playing stages beyond the bar scene with their new JOIN concert series for underserved audiences, including veterans, refugees, immigrants, abused/homeless women and children, and the incarcerated.
So, what’s in a name?
“At all costs, we were trying to avoid the word ‘outreach,’” says Ariel Clayton Karas, CRC director and violinist. “There’s always this mentality of the savior complex of the arts coming to the masses. JOIN was that link of equality between ourselves and our audience. We’re not there to fix them with our music. We are literally there to join them.”
A string trio performed a mix of holiday and classical music for the first JOIN concert at the Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility in December. “It was so well-received, they’ve invited us back [ on March 21],” says Ariel Clayton Karas, CRC director and violinist. “They were a fantastic audience, and we loved working with those individuals.”
The musicians also shared the love on Valentine’s Day at the Louis Stokes VA Cleveland Medical Center with a violin program, followed by a performance for a wedding vow renewal ceremony organized by the VA to honor its families. The afternoon’s set list shifted to “Sesame Street” and “Star Wars” favorites for women and children at Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center. The CRC received personal thank you messages and kind words of appreciation after their performances, and hopes to book ongoing concerts for both organizations soon.
The aim is to hold a JOIN performance every six to eight weeks for these new audiences. The free, 30-minute midday concerts are not therapy — just entertainment from talented performers committed to donating their musical gifts and time.
As for JOIN’s future on a larger scale, CRC wants to make it official.
“The big goal by the end of this year will be to secure an avenue for fiscal sponsorship for JOIN,” Clayton Karas says. “I would like to pay my colleagues, and funds will help secure [JOIN] in a more structured, organized way.”
Classical Revolution Cleveland is the local chapter of a national movement started in San Francisco in 2005 to move classical music “off its pedestal” to more informal public spaces. The Cleveland musicians’ casual bar shows feature arrangements performed by a collection of graduate students and professional musicians with a social component to support local causes.
Bar shows will continue the first and third Tuesday of each month, and plans for the next JOIN concert are being finalized with The Hope Center for Refugees and Immigrants, a ministry of Building Hope in the City, later in April.