Since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, many different companies and organizations have found ways to use the new laws to their advantage. Now the Colorado Symphony Orchestra has decided to get into the game by mixing Mozart with Marijuana in an effort to both raise funds and entice younger generations to discover classical music.
The Colorado Symphony is planning four marijuana-infused events starting in May and ending in September. Three concerts will be held at a gallery located in Denver’s trendy Santa Fe arts district, and the Symphony will then perform at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater in the foothills west of Denver on September 13th. The Symphony is a typical fixture around various venues in the Rocky Mountain region during summers, but at these special events patrons are actively encouraged to bring any of their own marijuana products.
To organize the shows the Symphony has partnered with Edible Events, a company that specializes in producing private and public marijuana-themed events around the Denver area. The company is one of several that have opened for business in the wake of the end of pot prohibition and offer to organize special events as well as give tours of local growing facilities and dispensaries.
Marijuana has become deeply intertwined with many aspects of Denver’s youth culture, and Colorado Symphony CEO Jerome Kern wants to tap into that demographic: ““The cannabis industry obviously opens the door even further to a younger, more diverse audience,” he told the Associated Press. He also believes mixing music and the marijuana gives the marijuana industry “the legitimacy of being associated with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.”
Adding a younger and more diverse audience to cultural venues is a vital goal, not only for the Colorado Symphony, but for other venues across the country. A Survey of Public Participation in the Arts commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts showed between 2002 and 2012, national symphony attendance dropped by almost 3 percent. Attendance at other similar art forms such as musical theater, ballet and opera also dropped, while attendance in Jazz or Latin and Salsa music performances rose by modest percentage. That suggests a more diversified audience looking for different types of high-end entertainment beyond the traditional arts.
The age of people attending classical music performances has also gotten older; attendance for those between 35 and 54 has dropped while those over 65 has risen. Colorado Symphony executive director Jerry Kern believes partnering with the cannabis industry is a key to reversing those trends: “Part of our goal is to bring in a younger audience and a more diverse audience. I would suggest that the patrons of the cannabis industry are both younger and more diverse than the patrons of the symphony orchestra.”
As with almost every orchestra around the country, the Colorado Symphony is always looking for new sponsors, but some question whether mixing classical music with the marijuana industry is the best way to go. At least one musician and several patrons are reportedly not happy with the upcoming events, and the cost of tickets for the gallery events, at $75 apiece, will price many who would consider future classical concerts out of the market.
Tickets to the Red Rocks Amphitheater show will likely be cheaper but the venue presents its own problem: Red Rocks is owned by the City and County of Denver, and smoking pot is officially banned at all City and County recreational venues. Even so, the ban is likely to have little to no effect on the classical event; audiences have famously been ignoring the pot prohibition at Red Rocks for decades.
By Andrew Elfenbein