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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Families, students can experience the symphony for free

Eckart Preu conducts the Spokane Symphony during the annual Labor Day concert in Comstock Park in 2018. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Free is the word for the Spokane Symphony when it comes to families. Free concerts in the parks – three of them in the coming week – and free tickets to concerts for school-age children.

All of that free music is part of the symphony’s effort to be more accessible to the community this season, said Jeff vom Saal, the symphony’s executive director.

“It’s a magical experience” to see an orchestra in person, he said. “We want to do whatever we can to make that possible.”

First up are the annual Labor Day Weekend concerts. Morihiko Nakahara will conduct the symphony in a mix of classics, patriotic tunes and movie music, including John Phillip Sousa’s “The Liberty Bell,” Aaron Copland’s Variations on a Shaker Melody from “Appalachian Spring” and music from “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter.”

The concerts are a bit of a preview of the season to come, vom Saal said, featuring music that will be played by the symphony throughout the rest of the year.

They’re also a place where it’s fine for kids to run around so parents can enjoy themselves without worrying about the kids being too noisy or rambunctious, he said.

“I love these concerts,” vom Saal said. “It’s going to be a great opening to the season.”

The concerts are today at Pavillion Park in Liberty Lake and Monday at Comstock Park on the South Hill. Both start at 6 p.m., but people are encouraged to arrive early and bring a picnic. Monday’s concert will be preceded by the Spokane Folklore Society’s Fall Arts Preview, and there will be an instrument petting zoo.

Then, Sept. 7 the symphony will give another free concert at the grand opening of Riverfront Park’s Pavilion, and it’ll be the first concert directed by James Lowe in his new role as symphony music director.

The concert will feature classics like Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, as well as more movie music from “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter,” James Bond and “Back to the Future.”

New this year is the symphony’s FAST program – Free Access to Student Tickets. Through FAST, students in kindergarten through 12th grade can get free tickets to the symphony’s 10 Masterworks concerts and three Coffee & Classics events.

Tickets will be available starting one week before the concert. (The first Masterworks concerts are Sept. 14-15.) Reservations can be made in person at the Fox box office or by phone. Students ages 12 and younger must be accompanied by an adult (who must buy a ticket).

Vom Saal is hoping the program makes it easier for parents or grandparents to bring children to the symphony. He also thinks it might be a fun opportunity for high school musicians to go to a concert together. And for parents unsure if their child can sit through an entire concert, the Coffee & Classics is a great option, he said.

Those events are the symphony’s final rehearsal, so audience members can come and go. They’re also a cool, behind-the-scenes glimpse of the orchestra, he said, where people can see how the conductor, musicians and guest artists work together.

Another tip from vom Saal: If you have a student musician, look through the Masterworks options and find one with a guest musician who plays the same instrument.

Most of all, vom Saal wants students to take advantage of the opportunity to see the symphony.

“The whole point is to make it easy and accessible,” he said.

“We want to show Spokane that we are of our community.”

Family Fun is a weekly feature highlighting local activities for children, teens and parents. Let us know about your events by emailing