BSO launches community-engagement program with free concert

With “BSO in Residence,” the Boston Symphony Orchestra has launched an initiative to support collaboration with surrounding communities. The program’s first neighborhood of focus is Jamaica Plain, where BSO players will participate in community events for the next three years.

By phone, BSO youth and family concerts conductor Thomas Wilkins, who is also the first African-American to hold a BSO conducting position, expressed his excitement to be bringing this “life-altering music” outside Symphony Hall. “[The BSO] came to the conclusion, rightfully so, that the orchestra really needed to expand its footprint,” he said, and referred to the players as “a natural body of teachers and mentors and inspirations.”

Noting that the community-engagement program fits with Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s Boston Creates cultural plan, the BSO aims to partner with various neighborhoods to develop cultural activities. The orchestra has been working in conjunction with JP community creative center Spontaneous Celebrations, which runs classes and events at its Danforth Street building and organizes the annual Wake Up the Earth festival and Jamaica Pond Lantern Parade. Founder Femke Rosenbaum observed that in her years living and working in the neighborhood, she hadn’t noticed many of her neighbors taking advantage of the BSO’s offerings despite Symphony Hall being a few short Orange Line stops away.


“By coming out with free concerts for the community and really reaching out to connect with different groups . . . we’re hoping that will bring more of an awareness of what the Boston Symphony could offer to the community, especially with our young people,” she said by phone from Cape Cod.

The program’s launch will be celebrated at this Sunday’s concert in Franklin Park, which will feature performances by the BSO and the Boston Pops led by Wilkins, Boston Pops music director Keith Lockhart, and BSO music director Andris Nelsons. Pre-concert programming draws from groups that reflect the diversity of the neighborhood, including Castle of our Skins and BalletRox. In the weeks and months to come, BSO players will visit a library and multiple schools and participate in community events, and high school students in the neighborhood will be offered a card that grants free admission to multiple Symphony Hall concerts.

Zoë Madonna can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten. Madonna’s work is supported by the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.