Despite its constant presence on lists of America’s most expensive cities, Washington D.C. has a music scene that easily lends itself to budget conscious concert-goers. With a strong focus on community-based arts and local outreach, free classical music concerts are easy to find.
A university music school is an example of a great venue for live and local classical music performances. As music students progress toward graduation, the link between a professional career and four (or five, or six, or…more) years of formal study is a degree recital. Often performed in addition to, or even in lieu of, a thesis or a dissertation defense, student degree recitals are serious rites of passage. In my own experience as an undergraduate music major, the buzz of energy (and knots of anxiety) setting the stage for student recitals always cumulated in high caliber, better-than-professional performances.
And they are often free and open to the public.
In the Washington D.C. area, it’s possible to find a free student or faculty recital on nearly any day of the week. Student recitals often take place on campus, in one of the university’s performance halls, theaters or lecture halls. Usually running between 60 and 90 minutes, student recitals are serious and formal events, with audience expectations that mirror any other professional classical performance.
Student recitals are also great opportunities for listeners to experience core solo repertoire on their favorite instruments (violin and tuba doctoral candidates alike are required to give recitals), as well as outlets for experimental or newly composed music.
They also tend to generate a distinct sense of community that I’ve found incomparable with other professional performances. It’s customary for the performers to mingle in the lobby after the recital with the audience (often half-filled with family, friends and colleagues). The collective sigh of relief and celebration is palpable and catchy. I don’t remember much from my own graduation day; but the spontaneous applause that erupts when a performer enters the lobby after a show never fails to stir stomach butterflies – visceral memories of my own recital.
A number of Washington D.C. area universities publish calendars of their free student and faculty recitals, including the George Mason University School of Music, the University of Maryland School of Music and the George Washington University Department of Music.
(Photo courtesy of Jesse Wagstaff)