WMS Announces The Block

West Michigan Symphony Moves, Opens “The Block,” a New Concert Space in Downtown Muskegon

Muskegon, Michigan, May 22, 2013 – The West Michigan Symphony has unveiled The Block, the new name and identity for its new concert space in downtown Muskegon that reflects a new way of experiencing music.

On May 16, the professional regional orchestra moved into its new headquarters on the second floor at 360 W. Western Avenue—and ushers in a new era of music as The Block prepares to debut a few weeks later. Secured by a lead gift from longtime Symphony supporters Mike and Kay Olthoff, the Symphony completed a successful capital campaign in 2012 that financed its move to the newly developed Russell Block building.

The new facility will allow WMS to increase its presence in downtown Muskegon by expanding its ticket operations, establishing flexible administrative offices and presenting The Block, an intimate concert and education space with flexible seating for up to 150.

Starting June 2 with a solo performance by pianist Alessio Bax, The Block has confirmed 16 concerts over the next 12 months, welcoming artists in genres from classical to cabaret to alternative. Bax performs with the Symphony in the Frauenthal on May 31 and June 1 for the finale of its regular 2012-13 concert series.

“Our vision is to bring music of all kinds to The Block—an intriguing, cross-pollinated mix of music that can be intimate or explosive, but always entertaining,” said Carla Hill, WMS president and CEO. “With the digital availability of music anytime and anywhere, we are trying to reach a more empowered customer who has a wide range of music interests.

“Our programming will reflect that, allowing us to present timpanists who perform on cardboard boxes and terra cotta pots to klezmer-meets-Bollywood-with-a-splash-of-bluegrass to jazz and Broadway-influenced cabaret performances. The Block will be a simple, accessible, inspirational space where honest music can happen—not to you, but with you.”

The Block concert space is 1,800square-feet, plus a lounge and dressing room area, that is perfect for smaller concerts and programs. The two-story space features a small balcony, windows facing Muskegon Lake and a future outdoor deck. The Block will also be a used for WMS educational programs including Debut Strings for budding string players and the newly formed WMS Children’s Choir.

Concerts at The Block will feature a wide-ranging mix of performers and performances designed with small venue, experiential listening in mind. While still a work in progress,highlights of the new season will feature:

•A casual, cabaret-style performance by soprano Marcy Richardson, who is a “a true stage animal with a passion for sophisticated musical theater and contemporary music,” according to “The New York Times.”
•12-string guitarist, Neal Jacobs, who performs an exotic hybrid of gypsy jazz, flamenco and Eastern European folk that allows his music to sound like everything from a guitar to a symphony orchestra.
•Kathleen Supové, who is one of America’s most acclaimed and versatile contemporary music pianists, known for continually redefining what it means to be keyboardist and performance artist in today’s world.

West Michigan Symphony musicians and guest artists from the2013-14 season in the Frauenthal will perform at The Block, giving them a chance to shine on a smaller and more intimate stage. These will include:

•Principal timpanist Andrew Spencer, whose music features interactive computer programming, a new work for five cardboard boxes and a Homeric ode recited while accompanied by four terra cotta pots.
•Principal English horn Phil Popham and his Los Angeles-based ensemble Helix Collective presenting its World Dance Club of Bollywood, Renaissance, salsa, klezmer, bluegrass and rock.
•Concertmaster Jennifer Walvoord and husband pianist Andrew Le who will showcase works of young, contemporary composers who have an accessible and fresh feel.

Guest artists from the upcoming season will also play solo concerts at The Block, including:

•Pianists Gabriella Martinez and Yuri Rozum
•Violinist Chee-Yun
•Vocalists Martha Guth and Terri Lynn Hansen

Detergent Design and Brand Development created the identity and branding for The Block.

“The Block is a space where music pushes the boundaries of tradition and expectation and encourages investigation,” said Damion Van Slyke,owner/designer of Detergent Design.“Inspired by the lines on sheet music, the new identity reflects experimentation and inspires a sense of play by interweaving two pieces together.

“The new brand will morph just like the space will morph and change with each musician helping to illustrate the exciting and layered live experience audiences will have at The Block.”

Hill explained: “The new identity is all about edges, which truly define our spaces. For some of us, edges should be rigid, while for others, they are more fluid. It is the tension between them that forms limitless ways to define our spaces. The edge is a time and place of transformation and movement – exactly what The Block is meant to be.

The Block is available to lease by businesses and individuals for meetings and social events and is fully equipped with a sound system, theatrical lighting and technology equipment.

General admission tickets for the June 2 concert at The Block are $30 and available by calling the WMS ticket office at 231.726.3231 oronline at www.westmichigansymphony.org. Ticket prices will vary by performer and be announced in advance of upcoming shows.

Additional artists and concerts will be announced throughout the year. Complete bios and concert information is available at www.westmichigansymphony.org. Follow The Block on Twitter @AtTheBlock and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AtTheBlock.

About West Michigan Symphony
Asa professional regional orchestra in Michigan, West Michigan Symphony has played a leading role in the region’s cultural community for nearly 75years. Founded as the West Shore Symphony Orchestra, WMS now serves a regional audience with eight pairs of concerts annually, along with dozens of educational and outreach activities for children and adults. For more information, visit www.westmichigansymphony.org.

Michigan Arts & Culture Council
National Endowment for the Arts