Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Linton Series goal: Grow, retain intimacy

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Barry Evans has a grand plan for Cincinnati's Linton Music Series, which starts its 23rd season of concerts in October.

        As he and his board of trustees conduct a search for an executive director, the passionate board president hopes to make the Linton a major player in the arts in the Tristate.

        “I think there is a renaissance of the arts going on right now, and it is exciting,” says Mr. Evans, president and CEO of Evans Financial Group Inc. He experienced an epiphany the first time he attended a chamber music concert at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C. “We've got to reach the next generation who will be our audience and patrons.”

        He hopes to tap in to that renaissance by — among other things — hiring an executive director (succeeding Anne Black) who will take the organization to the next level. He also plans to expand the board and begin a major push for an endowment.

        His longterm goal is $2 million.

        “My view is to expand ideas and expand the way we operate,” he says. “We are concerned about continuing into the future, and continuing to offer the unique product that we offer.”

Continued growth
        The Linton Series has come a long way since its first season ended in 1978 with $1.78 in the bank. Originally a $20,000 endeavor with four concerts, the budget has grown more than tenfold to $250,000, and the season now encompasses 56 concerts (including its educational programs).

        The Linton's artistic director, Richard Waller, former principal clarinetist of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, founded the series as an outlet for talented musicians within the orchestra. They are often joined by the CSO's guest soloists. The concept was such a hit, the series, now six concerts, has sold out for each of its last 18 years.

        In 1994, organizers sought to replenish its devoted but graying audience by targeting 20- and 30-somethings with the “Mayor's 801 Plum Concerts” held in City Hall's Council Chambers. It also started “Peanut Butter & Jam Sessions,” educational concerts for 2- to 5-year-olds.

        “There is a huge audience, who, if they ever were exposed to it, would love it,” Mr. Evans says. He notes that parents who attended PB&J concerts with their youngsters on Saturdays often purchased tickets to the new Encore Series for themselves.

Series' sold out
        This year, after searching three years for another venue, the Linton expanded to the northern suburb of Montgomery, where it held a three-concert “Encore Series” in the 375-seat Congregation Ohav Shalom. Guest artists included clarinetist Richard Stoltzman and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.

        Next year, that series will expand to four concerts and will feature among its artists two family gatherings: violinist Pamela Frank with her father, the distinguished pianist Claude Frank; and violinist Gil Shaham with his wife, violinist Adele Anthony.

        Subscribers to either the Linton or Encore series will have the option to buy tickets to an extra concert with jazz clarinetist Eddie Daniels and Grammy-winning jazz pianist Roger Kellaway in November. In June, a gala benefit concert will feature Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg and others.

        “My concern is, within a year, we may have another sold-out series,” Mr. Evans says, grinning.

        That's not such a bad problem to have. Still, it is his philosophy to keep it small, to retain the intimacy of chamber music. “I don't want it to get too big,” he says.


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