Grass Roots Music
Great art music must be lived, not simply admired from afar. Music can be much more for audiences than a badge of cultural consumption. It can also be more for performers than a job or a skill to be mastered.
One of Jaemi'€™s greatest strengths is her ability to recruit good people to join the exciting projects she creates. Having always had an entrepreneurial streak, she has been organizing performances and creating opportunities since she was a teenager. Her enthusiasm and collaborative leadership style hep her engage colleagues and audiences alike. Jaemi's reputation for honesty and respect helps her to build professional and personal relationships with players. It is these relationships that form the basis of her organizing campaigns that get her projects off the ground, often without financial backing. Jaemi's naturally warm nature helps her to connect to audiences on a human level and make them feel like a part of the concert event, rather than voyeurs. With players and listeners alike, Jaemi builds a sense community that generates volunteers and helps an organization grow from the inside out.
Like many college orchestras, the Centre College orchestra was, on Jaemi's arrival, a group of students who spent hours together every week but often didn't know each others' names. While there were groups of friends within the ensemble, there was a lack of general social spirit. So, Jaemi instituted a weekly dinner before rehearsal, where as many players as possible gather in the dining hall and get to know one another. She also began bringing snacks for break time so that students have a natural excuse to socialize and get to know that stranger about to take the last cookie. Players regularly visit Jaemi's office hours just to chat and, as more random players drop by, new relationships are formed. All of this increase in student engagement has helped Jaemi create a student leader corps of seven players who help with publicity, planning social events, and helping bring player concerns to Jaemi's attention. The result is a group that plays better together and is more invested in its own improvement.
In founding the Houston Heights Orchestra, Jaemi created a symphonic ensemble and musical community that builds connections by sharing music. The all-volunteer orchestra with rotating seating is made up of professionals, music students, and amateurs, all of whom come to rehearsals for something that is surprisingly hard to find - enjoyable music making. Concerts are in intimate settings in the Heights neighborhood and always include social time with the audience and performers sharing refreshments. Like Jaemi, the orchestra takes the music seriously, but not itself. The collaborative atmosphere and general goodwill of the group make for exciting performances which have begun to build a real community audience. Fans of the Houston Heights Orchestra come to performances to hear great music and have an enjoyable night out. Ticket prices never top $5, so that performances are truly open to the entire public, offering families an event they can afford and enticing new listeners to try something new. When performers and listeners come together with an adventurous and open spirit, great things can happen.