© 2024 WFAE

Mailing Address:
8801 J.M. Keynes Dr. Ste. 91
Charlotte NC 28262
Tax ID: 56-1803808
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
A skyline that sprouts new buildings at a dizzying pace. Neighborhoods dotted with new breweries and renovated mills. Thousands of new apartments springing up beside light rail lines. The signs of Charlotte’s booming prosperity are everywhere. But that prosperity isn’t spread evenly. And from Charlotte’s “corridors of opportunity,” it can seem a long way off, more like a distant promise than the city’s reality.

Charlotte Symphony's mobile stage meets people on their own turf

A crowd gathers to watch the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra perform on its mobile stage at the Simmons YMCA.
Elvis Menayese
A crowd gathers at the Simmons YMCA to watch the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra perform on its mobile stage.

The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra performs regularly outside of uptown in parks and breweries, and now it has a new venue with wheels. The symphony is hitting the road with its mobile stage — bringing its music to many long-underserved neighborhoods that make up Charlotte’s Corridors of Opportunity. A recent performance took place in east Charlotte.

The sides of a 40-foot trailer were wrapped in a colorful design by a Charlotte artist, Rosalia Torres-Weiner, opened to reveal a stage. The stage was set up in the parking lot of the Simmons YMCA off Albemarle Road, with a few hundred people gathered to hear the music. Among them, was Michael Blanco who was sitting in the front row. He lives just a few minutes away.

"I like symphony music, and I’ve never listened to the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra live," Blanco said. "It’s my first time, and I’m excited.”

Veronica Barreiro heard about the performance in a Spanish-language newspaper and drove in from Waxhaw. She was about to watch the symphony perform for the first time.

"I guess I always thought it was boring,” Barreiro said. “I never thought it would be something fun to do, but I’m very interested to see it now.”

Michael Blanco (left) watches the symphony perform with his father (right).
Elvis Menayese
Michael Blanco, wears a sombrero to reveal a bit of his culture as he and his father, right, watch the symphony perform.

She thought it would be something fun to enjoy with her mom on Mother’s Day. “We love music, and especially (my mother who) loves to dance,” Barreiro said.

The stage accommodates up to 35 musicians. At the live event, there were about a dozen musicians — a mini version of the symphony that included violins, cellos and drums.

The symphony’s resident conductor, Christopher James Lees, introduced the pieces. One piece, “La Bella Cubana,” by Cuban-French composer Jose White, received cheers from the crowd.

The audience listened intently. Each CSO Roadshow performance is tailored to reflect the community in which they are performing.

On this afternoon, there was a wide variety that included Bossa Nova, arrangements of Motown and Bruno Mars, and "Klap Ur Handz," a movement from a piece by Haitian-American composer Daniel Bernard Roumain honoring Rosa Parks. During "Klap Ur Handz," the audience clapped along.

Veronica Barreiro (far right) watches the symphony perform for the first time with her mother and the rest of her family.
Elvis Menayese
Veronica Barreiro (far right) attends her first-ever symphony concert, along with her mother (second from left) and the rest of her family.

The CSO Roadshow mobile stage debuted in April and has made three stops this spring, including this concert and two others — one in the Sugar Creek area and one on Central Avenue. Occasionally, a musician from the neighborhood is invited to perform alongside symphony members. When the stage is not in use, other groups can rent it.

The city has contributed $200,000 toward the project in response to requests from residents in east, west, and north Charlotte — many of which make up the Corridors of Opportunity.

David Fisk, president of the Charlotte Symphony, said the symphony belongs to everyone.

“By bringing this stage into every neighborhood, we are reaching a much more diverse audience than we simply might be attracting otherwise,” Fisk said. “And that's why we're being quite thoughtful about where the stage goes, under guidance from the city, to make sure that we're going to places that might not otherwise have easy access to live performances like this.”

The Charlotte Symphony's mobile stage can accommodate as many as 35 performers.
Elvis Menayese
The Charlotte Symphony's mobile stage can accommodate as many as 35 musicians.

The concerts are free to attend and allow the symphony to bring the music to the people on their turf.

Tyler Spain watched the performance with his family. “It was great! I enjoyed it,” Spain said. “The genre of music wasn’t just one; it was very diverse.”

Spain’s daughter, Savanah Feilds, 14, is part of her school band.

“I liked it! I really enjoy symphonies because it’s a contrast to rap and R&B music, which is what most people my age listen to,” Feilds said.

She said she appreciated being exposed to a diverse selection of music.

“It’s nice to listen to something a little different, and it sounds nice, so yes, I would come again,” Feilds said.

The symphony will wrap up its season next month with one summer performance on its mobile stage at the Ophelia Garmon-Brown Community Center on Freedom Drive on Friday, June 21.

The CSO Roadshow will return in the fall for more concerts on its mobile stage.

Sign up for EQUALibrium

Elvis Menayese is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race and equity for WFAE. He previously was a member of the Queens University News Service. Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.