To advance its mission to make live classical music available to everyone, Si-Yo’s Classically Leonia™ concert series—launched during the 2018–19 season—is free to the public. Co-presented with Leonia United Methodist Church in Leonia, NJ, the series has become an integral part of the Foundation’s programming.
Being free of charge, the series removes barriers that might prevent local residents from regularly appreciating live classical music or from beginning to build a relationship with it. Soyeon Park, Si-Yo’s Artistic Director and the church’s Music Director, conceptualized the series after she and other Si-Yo Artists™ had given well-received performances at the church.
“Leonia has an active arts scene,” says Dr. Park. “We wanted Classically Leonia™ to help strengthen the community by providing opportunities for people to gather in a shared love of music.”
Pastor David Wehrle was very receptive to the idea of his church collaborating with the Foundation, noting the enthusiastic response to previous Si-Yo events. “We wanted to support the arts; it’s part of our mission to serve society,” he explains. “We have a wonderful facility and resources and are always looking for ways to share them with others.”
The series’ concerts—performed by Si-Yo Artists™ and guest musicians—have featured a gathering of internationally-renowned local musicians, a rare six-cello ensemble, international folk songs, a tango chamber band, and a collaboration with New York Classical Players.
Boosted by word-of-mouth praise, the series has been warmly received and has steadily picked up repeat attendees.
“The feedback has been only positive and the attendance has been great,” says Pastor Wehrle. “The quality of the performances has been terrific, and the attendees have really valued the diversity of the programs.”
In addition to enjoying the music as an audience member, Pastor Wehrle has found the series fulfilling from his position as a local leader. “When we can attract people beyond our congregation and serve them in some way, it generates goodwill that can be felt everywhere,” he says.
“Leonia is diverse and each concert has been a reminder of music's ability to unite people of all cultures, ages, and experiences,” says Dr. Park. “We hope that Classically Leonia™ events will continue to encourage residents to feel connected to each other and be inspired to keep supporting the community.”