Imagine sitting in a coffee shop or bakery and suddenly being treated to a “pop-up” performance by some of the best musicians in the world. Well, it’s not that far-fetched if you live in Cleveland. The Cleveland Orchestra believes in taking its music into the community. Orchestra members participate in school visits, perform chamber music and stage frequent pop-up concerts throughout the area.

“We show up in a bakery or a coffee shop, sort of an unconventional venue where we have a chance to meet the people in the community and interact with them,” says violist Lisa Boyko.

The outreach to the community—and to its children in particular—is a core part of The Cleveland Orchestra, now celebrating its 100th season. It launched its first series of educational concerts for children in 1921.

“Every kid should be touched by classical, great music,” says Cleveland Orchestra Music Director Franz Welser-Möst, who studied the violin as a child in his native Austria.

Richard J. Brogomolny, Chairman Emeritus of the orchestra’s Board of Trustees, says one of its earliest aims was to bring in musicians who could teach music to children in Cleveland’s schools.

“We’ve been in the business of education ever since,” Brogomolny says.

No orchestra has done more to foster an appreciation of classical music among Northeast Ohio’s youngest residents, including by creating the Center for Future Audiences. Today, more than 40,000 children per year attend concerts at Severance Hall, the orchestra’s home since 1931.

“With the great legacy that this orchestra has, part of it is that you don’t rest on your laurels,” says Welser-Möst. “When you look at an orchestra that has been recognized as the best in the country, you have to look for new challenges.”

Founded in 1918 by impresario Adella Prentiss Hughes and the Musical Arts Association, the Cleveland Orchestra quickly rose to prominence, playing its first concert at Carnegie Hall in 1922, and making its national radio broadcast debut the same year.

The orchestra has been nominated for 31 Grammy Awards and won eight. In 1963, Time magazine named it one of the top five orchestras in the United States, and the New York Times in 2015 called the orchestra “the finest in America.”

The orchestra’s centennial celebration kicks off with a gala concert on Oct. 7, launching a series of Second Century Season initiatives building on its service to the greater Cleveland community and its longstanding commitment to carrying its performances abroad. The gala program includes works by Verdi, Respighi, Johann Strauss, Johann Strauss Jr. and Tchaikovsky.

“When it’s really together it’s really thrilling, because it’s powerful, it’s immediate, and the effect is astounding,” says Cleveland Orchestra violinist Katherine Bormann.

The orchestra’s influence extends far beyond Cleveland. This fall and winter, it will again demonstrate its global reach, making its 223rd and 224th appearances at New York’s Carnegie Hall and traveling to Europe for performances in Austria, France, Germany and Luxembourg. Later in the season, it will return overseas for a series of Beethoven-only programs in Austria and Japan.

“It’s a real ambassador for our community,” says Richard K. Smucker, President of the orchestra’s Board of Trustees and Executive Chairman of The J.M. Smucker Company, the orchestra’s 2017-18 Second Century Season co-presenter. “It’s the only art form that can travel the world and take the Cleveland name around the world for us, and it does a wonderful job of doing that. It’s just a special institution with a special history and an extremely bright future.”

For its upcoming season, the orchestra will continue a tradition of performances providing access to the greater community, including a concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death set for Jan. 14, 2018. The performance will be broadcast live on two radio stations – 90.3 WCPN and WCLV 104.9 – with a tape-delayed television broadcast airing statewide on WVIZ/PBS.

The orchestra also is scheduled to perform a free public concert, the Star-Spangled Spectacular, in downtown Cleveland in July 2018.

Such performances help underscore the orchestra’s role in Cleveland and greater Northeast Ohio, says Beth Mooney, chairman and chief executive officer of KeyBank, co-presenter for the orchestra’s 2017-18 season.

“A world class institution, the Cleveland Orchestra has long been a cornerstone in the city’s rich history,” says Mooney. “As Cleveland’s hometown bank, we are extremely pleased to support the Cleveland Orchestra’s Second Century season.”

Through grants, sponsorships and employee matching gifts KeyBank and KeyBank Foundation have contributed more than $4 million to the Musical Arts Association since 1999.

As Cleveland continues to re-cast its image through downtown revitalization and regional growth, Executive Director André Gremillet says the Cleveland Orchestra, as an organization, recognizes and appreciates its role in that resurgence.

“I think there is an incredible opportunity with the recent revival of the city,” Gremillet says, “and I think the orchestra can play a role in making sure that we seize the momentum and really shine on the national and international stage.”

View the orchestra’s complete concert calendar and ticket information.

Learn more about the Cleveland Orchestra.