As one of the oldest arts organizations in the region and the oldest professional orchestra in the state, the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra boasts a long history of making music and bringing world-class talent to the Capital City. BRSO’s concert season runs from September through May, sparking the joy of music through several ongoing events and concert series. Now with a newly renovated performance venue, BRSO is preparing for its 76th season, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for us!
The Visit Baton Rouge team sat down with Caty Steward, the Director of Patron Engagement at BRSO, to learn more about how the organization serves the Capital City and the lasting impact the arts have made on this community.
Visit Baton Rouge: With the recent renovations at the Raising Cane's River Center, BRSO was without a home for a while. What has that been like?
Caty Steward: I think someone called us a vagabond orchestra, which I love the way that sounds! We were kind of all over for a while, but we have really fantastic partners, and it was the spirit of Baton Rouge coming together. I like to say we are your Baton Rouge symphony—we want to meet you anywhere, and we can make music anywhere.
VBR: Can you tell a little more about your partnerships throughout the city?
CS: I love a partnership! The Symphony plays for The Nutcracker every year with the Baton Rouge Ballet, so that’s one thing. We’re working on some stuff this year to get more things going… I don’t know how much I can say yet, but there’s a lot in the works. We also perform in St. Francisville, Zachary, Denham Springs, all these other parts that are still part of Greater Baton Rouge. We want them to know, hey, we're here for you, but we want you to come see us, too! We’re saving these seats for you.
VBR: What types of concerts do you perform?
CS: So we typically will have at least one concert a month, but it really just depends on the season… our season is pretty varied. Our orchestral series is our big, full orchestra, very classical. Then our chamber concerts are smaller groups, smaller pieces and our partners in the city like St. Joseph Cathedral, First Baptist, and First Methodist are great for that more intimate feeling. We also do pop concerts, December gets really busy with so many holiday brass concerts, every now and then we throw some jazz in there! Our Candlelight Concert Series is really fun; we’ve been mixing classical composers with modern-day hits like Bach and The Beatles or ABBA and Tchaikovsky. It’s at the Noland Black Box, which seats about 75 people, and we turn off all the lights and set up about 2,500 candles. One of our biggest concerts every year is Oktoberfest. We’re even trying to get a library tour set up this summer to reach kids.
VBR: What can patrons expect to see in the upcoming season?
CS: In the past, we’ve featured artists like Yo-Yo Ma, Renee Fleming and Johnny Mathis. We are lining up guest artists for the season, but we are still finalizing a few things. What I can tell you is we have Emanuel Ax coming for our Pennington Foundation Great Performers in Concert series in September, which got pushed back with the renovations at the River Center. But we have some fun announcements coming soon!
VBR: For people who haven’t been, what is it like attending a concert?
CS: I’m still shocked that after 75 years as an organization, people will ask, “Baton Rouge has a symphony?” Absolutely, we do! But, so many people have the perception that going to the orchestra is like cocktail dresses and tuxedos and you sit quietly and you can’t have any fun. That’s not at all what it is. The music director normally tells the audience a little bit about the pieces, so you’re learning about what you’re going to hear. You get to experience this beautiful music with a group of people who all want to be there. I encourage people to come to Oktoberfest or one of our other community events to see how fun it is… And then come to our full orchestral performance! It’s a little more traditional, but you’re not out of place. Everyone is welcome.
VBR: How does it feel to finally be back at the reopened River Center?
CS: We were so excited to be back home. We did three really fantastic concerts there this season and we’re getting ready for next season! The space is beautiful, the stage is wonderful, the sound is wonderful. There's just no other feeling of being in a legitimate theater—in a space designed specifically for orchestral music. And then hearing that first violin tuning… Yeah, there's no better feeling than that in the world.
We can’t wait for a night at the symphony! Stay tuned for exciting announcements about the upcoming season on the organization’s Instagram and Facebook. Tickets for Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra’s Great Performers in Concert show are on sale now.