César Avila grew up about as far from Philadelphia as you can get in the continental U.S.: the Willamette Valley of Oregon. But he was probably destined to become a Young Friend of The Philadelphia Orchestra. He began playing clarinet in middle school and kept it up through college (he was principal clarinet in the Cornell Symphony.) Graduate school at NYU meant he was a subway ride from Carnegie Hall, which meant that one day, he bought a ticket for a Philadelphia Orchestra concert there.
“Of course it was a fantastic experience!” says César. He was especially thrilled to hear Principal Clarinet Ricardo Morales.
After grad school, he took a job in Philadelphia. Home was now Spruce Street, just a few blocks from the Kimmel Center (a lot closer than the Willamette Valley!) While in school, he’d gotten into the habit of scouring websites for student tickets. Though no longer a student, he figured there’d be some kind of discount for people like him, and voila! He found the Young Friends program.
It’s designed for people just like César, aged 21-40, who live in the Philadelphia area, and love music, arts, and culture … and socializing with people who feel the same way. It’s built around attractive prices for the best seats in Verizon Hall, with social events bringing the Young Friends together with Orchestra members, soloists, and even occasionally Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin or Principal Guest Conductor Stéphane Denève. And membership is free!
“I thought, ‘I’m under 40, this sounds like a great way to go to concerts and meet like-minded individuals.’ Now I go to hear the Orchestra almost monthly.”
One of his favorite Young Friend events began at a Center City beer garden, with drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Then it was off to the Mann Center (transportation was part of the deal, and the socializing continued on the bus) for a wonderful concert under the stars, wrapped up with a ride back to town. “It was the best 25 bucks I’ve ever spent in Philadelphia,” César enthuses. “It’s cheaper than a haircut!”
César quickly became an evangelist for the Orchestra at his workplace (he’s a bond analyst). He connected with another music lover there, and the two of them began touting the joys of Philadelphia Orchestra concerts to their colleagues, especially those who also loved classical music, but had never been to the Kimmel Center.
“I have credibility I think, in terms of my knowledge of classical music, and I would share stories about concerts I’d attended and been overwhelmed by; about the power of being in the audience. I shared reviews from the New York Times and the New Yorker, raving about the Orchestra and Yannick. I mentioned that I’d heard other orchestras, in New York and elsewhere, but hearing The Philadelphia Orchestra at the Kimmel Center is simply an unmatched experience.”
César is a pretty good salesman; his enthusiasm turned into a group ticket buy. “We settled on a convenient date, picked a nearby restaurant, and then went to the concert. It was great!”
César hopes more people take advantage of Young Friends and get to a concert; he predicts it will make music fans out of all of them. “I’m just grateful to be in a town that values classical music. And has a great ensemble performing it!”