Symphony Space: The Inside Scoop

symphony spaceSymphony Space really gets it.  They invited a group of bloggers to come inside yesterday for an informational session on what they’re all about.  As a culture blogger who’s more than obsessed with theater and the arts, it was a breath of fresh air.  I feel like an arts organization finally understands what we, as bloggers, are all about and what we are trying to do.  I am a fervent supporter of the arts.  That’s why I blog about theater, music, books, film and television.  I truly love what I’m covering and I advocate for more arts funding and education in my schools.  I also blog because I enjoy it.  It gets my juices flowing and has woken up my creative energies that were dormant for some time after I had kids.  The folks at Symphony Space really get it, and they get me.  It was a fabulous feeling and I feel like I have a true partner in crime as I set out to turn every mom and child in NYC into an arts supporter.

Symphony Space kicked off the session with the writer, Amy Wilson, the creator of the one-woman show, Mother Load.   She also just wrote a book that is right up my alley called When Did I Get Like This, a book I can already tell I’m going to adore and will be reviewing here on this blog.  She talked about how we start out with an idealized notion of what kind of parent we want to be (My thoughts: yes, me, me!).  As parents, we over think (me again, how did you know?).  She said that in NYC, we live in a do more/have more atmosphere and fall short (yes, I feel that way in Westchester!).  I could relate to Amy in more ways than one, and admittedly, when she spoke about her weekends with the kids at Symphony Space, I felt that perhaps I had missed out on bringing my kids up in the city.  They would have made great city babes, but we moved to Westchester when my oldest was in utero.

Nonetheless, I know that I am lucky to live a short drive away from the city, and the theater, and I was eager to hear Madeline Cohen, the Education Director, speak the about the theater’s offerings.  They offer family programming that includes concerts, theater and culturally diverse performances every Saturday.  Upcoming performers include Justin Roberts, Rocknoceros, Suni Paz with Elizabeth Mitchell, Thunderbird Dancers and Sugar Free Allstars.  They also offer the Curriculum Project which integrates the arts with public school curricula, giving thousands of students insight into the social studies curriculum through interaction with the arts and artists.  She talked about the Thalia Kid’s Bookclub which features in-depth conversations with authors, a reading from the book, a writing activity and a book signing.  Upcoming authors include Laurie Halse Anderson, Lincoln Peirce and John Flanagan.  They also offer a Global Arts Camp which invites kids aged 8 to 12 a chance to learn about culture via artist presentations and hands-on activities during spring break and summer sessions.  It all sounds like an incredible way to introduce and immerse a child into the arts world, but in a really fun, easy way.  I also spoke to Ms. Cohen about Theater Education and will be writing an article about what I learned in a future post right here, as well as about my own efforts to obtain support to promote theater education in my own elementary school.

Then Darren Critz, their Programming Director, gave us the inside scoop on live kid’s events: music, theater and dance.  He’s in the middle of planning next year’s events, and has already lined up Billy Jonas, Aga-boom, Elizabeth Mitchell (she is so awesome, they have her every year), Gustafer Yellowgold (with a full orcestra), Justin Roberts and more.  Then he introduced Andrew Nemr, professional tap dancer who proceeded to perform for us.  It was an intimate, classic performance so that we could all experience the magic of Symphony Space.

Lastly, we were taken on a tour of Symphony Space, an art deco  theater built in 1915 by Vincent Astor.  Built as a market to promote good food, it later became an ice-skating rink and later a movie theater.  In 1978, a group of local musicians put on a special performance which paved the way for the new and improved theater.  That particular show was a 12-hour marathon Wall to Wall concert which they’ve continued to keep up today.  From Gerhwin to Sondheim to Miles Davis, they salute a different artist or type of music every year.  This year they are honoring Latin culture.  The Thalia is an old film house.  As I remember it from my first, formative years living in NYC, a foreign film house that I saw Woody Allen and Diane Keaton enter in my favorite movie “Annie Hall”.  Back then, it was a dump.  Since then, it’s been renovated and is now state-of-the-art.  It features films, kid’s shows, recitals and readings.  While we were there, a musical playgroup was coming out.

Symphony Space is truly a theater a that takes kids seriously.

Disclosure: I was not compensated by Symphony Space for this review.  All opinions expressed are my own.






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  1. Congratulations on this blog. It is lovely to see such passionate writing about the arts, and the support for what you believe in. I like to blog to inspire others to create from the heart. I am a visual artist who wrote two books based on my personal research into creative processes and the mind.. Who would have thought… Kind Regards Lyne http://www.artclique.com.au

  2. As the Manager of Education programs, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon escorting Beth Blenz-Clucas to our off site visit at the Brooklyn Museum with a sixth grade class from IS 259, viewing our Curriculum Arts Project in Asian Studies, with visual artist Lance Paladino in action.
    Her awareness and sensitive approach truly captured a moment of true depth and willingness to go the extra mile in understanding all the dimensions of Symphony Space’s children programs.
    I am touched by knowing a writer that took the time to view the whole picture behind the scenes of Arts and Education at Symphony Space.
    Thank you Beth for sharing with diverse communities our endearing programs for students and families.

  3. Your last line — a theater that takes kids seriously — is perfect and what parents should always be using as a qualifier. Wait until you all see Aga Boom next season! Amazing!
    I second Symphony Space as totally getting it — they get the need for quality programming, a range of programming, for integrating curriculum, for providing an engaging experience for kids and families and an educational one. Hell, it’s even worth it for me to schlep from Philly to go there.
    A sure fire way to tell if a theater gets it is to look at their series…is it “safe” programming? One or two programs that are based off best selling children’s books are fine but a theater that gets it will be taking a few risks each season and introducing its audiences to new exciting and imaginative programming and genres. So even if you don’t know the title, the artist…trust the theater, especially if they haven’t let you down artistic wise in the past.
    Then make sure the logistics are covered — like Symphony Space adds age appropriate info to the descriptions, adds value added experiences for kids.
    Go Symphony Space!

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