April 26, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 15

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    Patrons encourage concert attendance

    By Arthur Fournier
    News Office

    The University of Chicago Presents, the Department of Music’s professional concert series, has developed a time-honored reputation for bringing to campus an international roster of classical musicians. With a goal to diversify and expand the audience for its critically acclaimed programming, last year the organization instituted a program that allows members of its core audience to share their enthusiasm for classical music with a new generation of music listeners.

    Now in its second season, the Sponsor-A-Student program invites subscribers to fund the purchase of concert tickets for students who might not otherwise be able to attend a performance.

    According to Marna Seltzer, Director of The University of Chicago Presents, the response to the idea was immediate and overwhelming. “Last year, the program generated more than 50 tickets, and by the end of the current season, more than 150 donated tickets will have been given out for a concert,” she explained. “More than anything, that shows our long-time listeners really do care about the programming we provide, and that they want to ensure the audience for classical music will continue to grow.”

    Each year, the organization offers a full calendar of concerts and special events. During its 2000-2001 season, The University of Chicago Presents already has hosted five Chicago-debut performances by world-renowned artists; among them cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han, tenor Ian Bostridge and the Artemis Quartet.

    At the beginning of each school year, Seltzer said she and her colleagues send e-mail about the concert season to new students in the College, the graduate programs and the professional schools. Those who respond by signing up for continued updates throughout the year are rewarded with the opportunity to claim donated tickets for a performance, provided they write a thank-you letter that shares something about the experience with their sponsor.

    Third-year Stephanie Lim, who received donated tickets to a Brentano String Quartet performance, explained in her letter that a sponsor’s generosity helped to awaken her latent interest in classical music. “When I was younger,” she wrote, “attending classical concerts was painfully boring, but as of late, I’ve begun to appreciate the music. I just want to thank you for that opportunity–over two hours of musical bliss that I would otherwise have missed had it not been for the ticket donation.”

    According to Kate Sobel, Assistant Director of The University of Chicago Presents, almost all of the students who attend concerts through the program write letters that express a similar depth of gratitude. “It always comes back to the fact that they’ve had an honestly emotional response to the music,” she explained.

    Another example of the program’s success, said Seltzer, is when students become sponsors. One couple did just that after completing their degrees in the Graduate School of Business. “Now that they’ve graduated and have jobs, they’re still coming to our concerts,” said Seltzer. “What’s more, they’re sponsoring students themselves. To me, that’s a sign that the program really works.” Next year they plan on making the program even more geared toward student participation by paying students to actually run the entire process and contact fellow students about the program.

    With only performance left in the current season by the Juilliard String Quartet at 8 p.m. Friday, April 27, Sobel noted that several sponsor-a-student tickets are still available. Although there is no guarantee enough tickets will be available to meet the demand, she suggested that interested students visit the Web site at http://chicagopresents.uchicago.edu to complete a short survey and sign up for the e-mail list.

    For more information on the upcoming performance or the sponsor-a-student program, contact the concert office at (773) 702-8068.