BY JULIE GRAY
The theme of the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra (BSO) 2014–15 season is Home Sweet Home, and for good reason. The orchestra has partnered with the Buskirk-Chumley Theater to make the popular, 629-seat downtown venue its permanent performance space. The BSO inaugurated its new home and its new artistic director, Adam Bodony, last September at a well-received opening concert.
Since its founding in 1969, the BSO has been a solid presence but an itinerant on the local musical scene. There were problems with the footloose lifestyle: For example, it’s hard to play a serious concert in a high school auditorium when a basketball game is in full swing across the hall.
“I was finding it very frustrating that we didn’t have a permanent home for the orchestra,” says Donna Lafferty, a trombonist who also volunteers as BSO executive director. Lafferty and the BSO board had considered the Buskirk-Chumley before, but there were two obstacles: The rental fees were high and the stage was small. That’s when Miah Michaelsen, director of the Bloomington Entertainment & Arts District (BEAD), stepped in as matchmaker. Over lunch with Lafferty, Michaelsen suggested that the Buskirk-Chumley might be willing to lower its rent and build out its stage.
Both things happened. The theater did lower its fees, and with a grant from the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Greater Monroe County, the stage was expanded.
Danielle McClelland, the executive director of the Buskirk-Chumley, says that for her, “The partnership was born out of a desire to have a large-scale ensemble in the space.” And, she notes, there are additional benefits. Other ensembles, such as those affiliated with the African American Arts Institute at Indiana University, can use the pop-up stage extension to reach a “new level of artistic expression,” free of the constraints of the original cramped stage. The BSO will benefit, too, because it can use the Buskirk-Chumley’s box office and online ticket sales service.
But the real measure of the partnership’s success will be the music that will pour forth. “The acoustics are magnificent,” Lafferty says. Artistic Director Bodony adds: “What’s not to love about performing on the Square and seeing our name on the Buskirk marquee as we walk in?”