Populism runs deep in American orchestras. In 1922 the New York Philharmonic began its outdoor concerts at Lewishon Stadium in the heart of Harlem. In 1935 the Chicago Parks Department, in partnership with the American Federation of Musicians, launched the Grant Park Symphony in the lake-front park known as "Chicago's front yard." Those concerts continue to this day, still free and 50 percent Parks District funded. While the Lewishon Stadium concerts ended in 1966, the New York Philharmonic has been performing free concerts in New York City's parks since 1965.
Two recent projects I was fortunate enough to see and hear recently extend the idea of engaging the many, to creating events that dramatically link orchestras to their unique time and place.