Colorado Symphony Sparks Up a Concert Series for Marijuana Users

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

 Young men smoke a marijuana cigarette during a 'smoke out' with thousands of others April 20, 2010 at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado Young men smoke a marijuana cigarette during a 'smoke out' at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

When Colorado legalized pot this year, millions of music fans fantasized about the far-out musical experiences that will take place in the "Mile High" city of Denver. Now, the Colorado Symphony may have answered their wishes. In a bid to attract a new and younger audience, the Denver-based orchestra has announced "Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series," four pot-themed fundraising concerts from May through September.

The orchestra has partnered with Edible Events Co., a Denver pot promoter, for three shows of chamber music at a downtown gallery. The series culminates with a concert at Red Rocks, an amphitheater outside Denver where the symphony and pop and rock groups play. Each concert, which is open to audiences 21 and over, will have a special themed program.

Ray Mark Rinaldi, the fine arts critic at the Denver Post, says in this podcast that the orchestra's initiative is less desperate than obvious. "Pot is big money here," said Rinaldi, who broke the story. "For the symphony, which has been struggling, it's a pretty smart move."

Colorado's pot industry has been touted as a significant revenue source for the state, expected to generate $98 million in tax income in the upcoming fiscal year, and helping to balance its budget. The Colorado Symphony is selling sponsorships to marijuana-related companies; in return, they get to enjoy the legitimacy of being associated with the state's only full-time orchestra.

There is also the prospect of luring new audiences, particularly fans of art rock or jam bands who are looking to explore a new musical genre.

But Rinaldi believes that many classical music fans are already marijuana users. "I saw some people getting stoned at the symphony concert last weekend," he noted. "They're already out there." He adds that the Colorado Symphony has previously played concerts at Red Rocks where musicians detected the scent of marijuana smoke wafting in from the audience.

It remains to be seen whether other Colorado classical music organizations follow suit. A local youth orchestra is reportedly pondering a marijuana-themed gala benefit in place of a traditional wine tasting this spring. But so far, blue-chip music festivals, including Aspen and Vail, are keeping their distance: A spokesman for the Bravo! Vail festival told WQXR that "we don't have any plans to reach the marijuana user segment."

Rinaldi says he's currently assembling a "stoner playlist" for the Denver Post. Selections may include Mahler ("his music is such a journey"), Dvorak ("where you can pick out all of those ethnic melodies") and maybe some Chopin ("for the mellow high") or Scriabin ("now that could be a good time"). WQXR listeners have also suggested a few possibilities on Twitter (see below).

Listen to the full podcast and tell us what you think of the Colorado Symphony series in the comments box below.



More in:

Comments [18]

Vic from Brooklyn

Frank from UWS:
I totally agree dude!

May. 15 2014 02:08 PM
Brian Mayor from NJ

I just gave up going to rock concerts a year or so ago because I couldn't stand the stink of marijuana smoke any more. Also my eyes stung so much at a couple of shows I could barely keep them open. This is not a forward step for classical music.

May. 04 2014 02:17 PM

Back to the music: (Much as I dislike it) Ravel's "Bolero." Also, Barber's "Adagio for Strings."


May. 03 2014 01:49 AM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

DavidD, you have a good point; I certainly would be concerned about the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages as well.
As to the operatic drinking songs - there are many other things done by characters in operas that are not to be recommended either (but then, if all the characters were fine upstanding citizens, there would be no story!)

May. 02 2014 04:15 PM
DavidD from Northern VA

I know this is a bit of digression but WQXR published a top 10 list of the best operatic drinking songs. There was no outrage in any of the 24 listener responses that the composers were helping to foster alcoholism.!/story/177756-top-10-operatic-drinking-songs/

May. 02 2014 12:10 PM
DavidD from Northern VA

Aren't there a good number of outdoor classical music concerts in the U.S. where beer or wine can be purchased and consumed? Do the people on this forum who say they are appalled about an event promoting marijuana use have the same level of concern over having to share the road with intoxicated drivers after those performance?

BTW - The CDC reported in March of this year that 88,000 people die each year in the U.S. because of alcohol.,0,6081694.story

May. 02 2014 11:14 AM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

I agree with M. Alexander and Rose Marie. In fact, Rose Marie, I had the same thought as you did when I read this article - I would not want to be driving anywhere near this venue when these concertgoers are leaving!
Shame on the Colorado Symphony Orchestra for promoting something so unhealthy and dangerous just to make a few bucks.

May. 01 2014 07:56 PM
Zak44 from Philadelphia

If it gets people to discover the power and beauty of classical music, how bad is that?

Back in the '60s, one of the things I liked best about getting high was listening to music—just about any kind. Two of my classical favorites were the third movement of the Mahler Fourth and the Solti recording of Das Rheingold at the "Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla" with that shattering hammer strike and the thunder that followed. The Bach Sixth Brandenburg also got a lot of playing time.

May. 01 2014 05:42 PM
John Doh

There will always be people who oppose change, as you can see in this message board.

I, for one, am very grateful to Naomi Lewin and Brian Wise and WQXR for making this story available. I missed it when it aired. Now that I know that this awesome get together is happening, I'm going to make sure I don't miss it!

I look forward to attending this punny event: Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series

May. 01 2014 05:18 PM
Rose Marie from Wantagh, NY

I have to agree with M. Alexander. Besides hating the stink of marijuana, I wouldn't want to be driving on the same roads with the stoners after leaving the concert. Nothing good can come out of legalizing that crap, and it sets a horrible example for children!

May. 01 2014 05:16 PM
Kara from NJ where 41% of the people want to move from the state

M. Alexander: I understand that you may not agree with what they are doing in Colorado or at that specific Symphony, but I think WQXR should have reported on this because it is news in regards to classical music and it is sparking debate if nothing else. It is something that should be discussed like people here are now doing. We can talk if we agree with it, if we don't agree with it, but if we don't know about it we will never discuss it and we cannot ignore changes that are happening around us.

May. 01 2014 04:50 PM
Frank from UWS

@M. Alexander, you're harshing my buzz, man!

May. 01 2014 03:30 PM
M. Alexander

I am absolutely shocked. First of all, how can the law makers of Colorado legalize marijuana (I don't mind people who are ill smoking pot). Don't they worry what this will do to their children? We barely get people out of rehab and now we have another plague. I am dismayed that WQXR would even give the concert the Denver Symphony is planning any publicity. It is a sad world where money is the main motivation, where words like responsibility, ethics, decency, honesty, caring mean nothing.
I am appalled.
M. Alexander

May. 01 2014 02:08 PM

Steve Reich's Music for 18 musicians would generate lots of pretty colors, and big orchestra showcases - Stokowski's transcription of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, or Scheherazade, or any Strauss tone poem- would be knock-outs. It's genius of the Colorado Symphony to make the concerts for 21 and over - it will be BYO for sure.

May. 01 2014 08:10 AM
Alex Grimley

Perfect opportunity to perform a long late Morton Feldman piece -- something from the '80s! I'd fly up from Austin to see it ! Or Steve Reich !!

Apr. 30 2014 10:10 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

@The Truth from LES~
Your selection of composers for this event suggests a real pot-pourri.

Apr. 30 2014 09:12 PM
The Truth from LES

I'd vote for music by Philip Glass or Ravel's La Valse. Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier also has a quasi-psychedelic quality. Maybe some Henry Cowell or Stockhausen (music that WQXR is too afraid to play on-air).

Apr. 30 2014 07:10 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR 







About Conducting Business

WQXR looks deeper into the issues affecting the classical music landscape. 

Conducting Business is hosted by Naomi Lewin and produced by Brian Wise.

subscribe to Conducting Business

Listen to Stitcher