When Casey Oakes was a teenager in Cape Elizabeth, he considered anything north of Freeport “northern Maine.”
Now the director of marketing and communications at the Bowdoin International Music Festival, Oakes is tasked with spreading awareness of the world-class program back down below that imaginary divide and out to the towns around Brunswick.
In an effort to reach a broader audience, the chamber music festival has expanded its Community Concert series in non-traditional venues, such as breweries and community centers, from Scarborough to Phippsburg, with several in Portland.
“How do we reach as many people and how do we touch as many people’s day as we can? It would be easier just to say, let’s do everything on campus – done,” said Oakes. “But then we wouldn’t ever be finding these new people and exposing them to what we think is this a worthwhile thing.”
The shows, which last about 45 minutes and are free of charge, are happening now through early August. Student musicians had to apply to perform on specific nights. According to Oakes, the Community Concert series aims to introduce classical music to audiences who might not ordinarily hear it, as well as to de-stigmatize the genre as stuffy and to present it as art that’s “not scary.” This year’s unassuming venues include Hadlock Field for the Sea Dogs National Anthem, Rising Tide Brewery, the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine and the Portland Museum of Art.
Though Oakes maintains that Maine boasts a strong chamber music presence, it’s not always readily available or desirable to those who didn’t grow up attending classical concerts. That’s why the festival will travel to public libraries and the children’s theater in addition to adults-only venues like breweries.
“We don’t really have (chamber music) in Maine schools,” he said. “If you’re not exposed to it as a kid, you might not appreciate it as you get older, so that was the big push to get to those … different locations. It’s very much like an outreach series.”
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