Boston’s Engagement Center: “We believe in you”

“If you go outside to smoke a cigarette, you don’t get to save your seat.”

That was the opening announcement prior to Me2/Orchestra’s performance at Boston’s Engagement Center this morning.

Me2/ loves playing for our nontraditional audiences! We returned to the Engagement Center this morning to connect with members of our community who are experiencing homelessness and substance use disorders. Many of the 80+ people in the tent this morning were noticeably high (which is not against the rules at this center), but most were in a good mood and ready to grab their seats up front to see and hear the music being made. If anything, the crowd was a bit rowdier than we’ve encountered during past events, but no less respectful once they settled in.

Today we performed music by Faure, Verdi, Vaughan Williams, and Beethoven. Two members of the orchestra spoke briefly about their own experiences living with mental illness, and at one point we opened by the floor to questions from the audience. These were some of their inquiries:

  1. Should the violins all be synchronized like swimmers? (answer: uh, yes…. kinda like swimmers)
  2. How do people playing violin know where to put their fingers without having frets? (answer: tons of practice)
  3. What is THAT?!! (answer: a bassoon)
  4. How does the director know what to do if he doesn’t have any music in front of him? (answer: he memorizes all of the parts)
  5. Do you ever take requests? Like, would you play the 1812 Overture? (answer: that’s a great piece of music, but we left our cannons at home today)
Some final thoughts about today’s performance:

Beethoven is the man, and any time you play Beethoven’s Symphony No 5 you own the room. This crowd was held in rapt attention just like any other audience would be, and their reaction at the end was thrilling.

To the man who kept yelling “mo’ music!” every time we stopped playing: never lose your enthusiasm. Musicians love this.

Finally, in the words of Mario, who was managing the Engagement Center this morning:

“The Me2/Orchestra shows up to play music here because they believe in you, just like I do, and we love you.”


Special thanks to the Boston Cultural Council and Sunovion for co-sponsoring Me2/’s performances at the Engagement Center this season.