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Dialogue: Shaya Lyon and the Live Music Project

Feature | October 6, 2017 | By Jonathan Shipley

We sent Encore Stages contributing writer Jonathan Shipley to meet Shaya Lyon, founder and executive director of the Live Music Project. The Live Music Project (LMP) is an organization that connects people with live classical music, strengthening communities, celebrating listener agency, and amplifying local resources. They talked about LMP's successes, classical music today, and what's coming up in the Seattle classical music scene.

Live musicians seated before a mural of a victorian street. Photo courtesy of Live Music Project.

What is Live Music Project? 

At the core of our work is a comprehensive performance calendar that has been described by one concert-goer as “the overture to the concert experience.” Since we launched it in Seattle in 2014, the calendar has included more than 1,300 ensembles, series, presenters, and individual performers. Later this year we will expand our calendar platform to support communities nationwide.

What else are you excited about in regards to LMP?

I’m excited about our Spontaneous Free Tickets program. SFT offers a limited number of free concert tickets to its subscribers: students, families, and the elderly, for whom ticket prices are often cost-prohibitive; traditional classical audiences cautiously curious about hearing newer ensembles or compositions; and others who leverage the program to explore events in unfamiliar neighborhoods or venues. The tickets are donated by classical music organizations.

How did you get involved in LMP?

I love this question. It takes me back to falling in love with the Brahms double concerto. A few years ago, I came across a video of David Oistrakh and Mstislav Rostropovich performing the Brahms double. I was enthralled. As I scoured the internet for the next performance of the Brahms double in New York City, where I was living at the time, it turned out to be more difficult that I’d expected to find concert listings based on that particular piece of music. I moved to Seattle. With knowledge of the vast array of orchestral ensembles that are so special to this region, and some time in the technology industry, it struck me that tech might be able to bridge the information discovery gap for concert-goers.

What is the state of classical music these days? 

I think the experience of classical music is shifting. The industry once thrived on subscriptions and is now having a more spontaneous approach. It might be difficult for you to imagine, this evening, what will make you feel alive on a given Friday night next April – but you probably have an idea right now what would make you feel alive and complete today. If the trend is toward scanning a list of upcoming concerts and deciding on a whim which concert space will make us feel what we need to feel right now, I see LMP’s comprehensive listings as one way to fill that role.

Are you a classical musician?

When I was nine, a piano appeared in our house. My babysitter taught me the first bars of Moonlight Sonata by ear, and I’d play it over and over again in the dark of night. I loved that.

Who are your favorite composers?

That’s a trick question, right?

What are you excited about on the Seattle calendar in the next few months?

So much! The Seattle Symphony and Everett Philharmonic are both performing Elgar’s Enigma Varations. Early Music Guild is premiering a work for electric theorbo – sort of a cross between a lute and an electric guitar. Thalia Symphony Orchestra will bring us Vaughan Williams. 

What are some ways locals can listen to contemporary classical music?

How to narrow it down – Seattle is teeming with new music. The Seattle Modern Orchestra is solely devoted to the music of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Wayward Music Series at the Good Shepherd Center presents works by living composers frequently. Seattle Symphony’s [untitled] series is rich with contemporary works. KING FM’s Second Inversion is dedicated to contemporary classical music. 

How can someone help LMP?

We’d love your help. Whether it’s submitting your organization’s events to our calendar, hosting an event-a-thon, writing code for our new nationwide calendar platform, making a donation, or partnering as a sponsor, community participation makes the world go ‘round. Your readers can learn more at livemusicproject.org.