SECOND CITY CHAMBER SERIES
The Forty-fourth Season 2020-2021
A Vision for the Second City Chamber Series in 2027
About Second City Chamber Series
The Second City Chamber Series—Tacoma’s own award-winning producer of professional chamber music concerts—has been dedicated to the quality performance of chamber music masterworks both old and new since its founding by pianists Willa and William Doppmann in 1977. Each year since, the Second City Chamber Series has brought together many of the finest musicians of the Northwest and beyond to perform interesting, challenging, and entertaining chamber music in an artfully assembled series of chamber music programs for audiences around Pierce County, and with a visibility that extends throughout the Puget Sound. Since its inception, the Series has performed at the Great Hall at Annie Wright School, but has since expanded its operation to include a summer series at Lakewold Gardens, a recital series at First Lutheran Church in Tacoma, and a youth program, open to middle-school and high-school students throughout Pierce County, known as the Young Chamber Players.
Founded by William and Willa Doppman in 1977 and nurtured by its longtime Artistic Director Jerry Kracht from 1982-2007, Second City Chamber Series concerts often combine well-known works of the classical masters with the less known works from cultures and traditions around the world. This deliberate, artistic combination of the old and the new creates a unique programming tradition that is well-known by audiences in the region and respected by critics. Artistic Director Svend Rønning (2007-present) has continued these traditions, while also creating thematic in his programming, designed to educate and to entertain.
By promoting awareness and appreciation of chamber music for its listeners and providing a convenient and ready forum for its performers, Second City has truly become first for chamber music in Tacoma.
Why Chamber Music?
One measure of a community’s “quality of life” is the vitality of its arts scene. In the area of the performing arts, a symphony orchestra, a chorus, an opera company, ballet, and the theater are considered basic necessities for a well-rounded community. Tacoma has all of that and more. One vital link in the chain of artistic riches enjoyed here is the musical enterprise known as chamber music. Chamber music—music designed to be performed in a small room, or chamber—offers a uniquely intimate experience difficult to achieve in the larger, more spectacular genres. And without chamber music, the circle of artistic endeavor would be incomplete.
The Music of Friends
Although chamber music enjoys a rich history and a highly varied and colorful repertoire, it is frequently the last musical genre to be “discovered”—by performers and listeners alike. Perhaps it is the “bigger is better” culture in which we live. Yet, with experience, players and listeners begin to revel in the subtleties and refinements of chamber music, finding joy in its very smallness and intimacy, and in its unique powers of expression.
It may be the very intimacy of chamber music—intimacy both in its mode of expression and in its places of performance—that has contributed to its growing popularity in recent years. To put this intimacy another way, chamber music is often called “the music of friends.”
Chamber Music in Tacoma—Our Mission
The rich history and tradition of chamber music reaches back over 300 years. The Second City Chamber Series has built tradition of its own, now celebrating over forty years of outstanding music making in Tacoma. Over its distinguished history, the Second City Chamber Series has presented more than two-hundred composers, over six-hundred works, and more than three-hundred performers to thousands of audience members.
Throughout this flurry of activity, however, the mission and vision of the Second City Chamber Series has remained constant—to promote live chamber music.
The Second City Chamber Series exists to foster live chamber music in an inter-generational context. Our programs are designed to appeal to young people as well as to their parents as well as the “traditional” audience of classical music.
Second City Chambers Series’ accomplishes these goals by focusing on performance, appreciation, and education:
- Performance: The Second City Chamber Series performs chamber music in year-round concerts that take place at various venues around Tacoma and Pierce County
- Appreciation: The Second City Chamber Series reaches out to audiences by inviting them to different interesting venues around the South Puget Sound that have the potential to foster the appreciation of chamber music. For many, concerts are as much about experiencing music in an evocative context as they are about music
- Education: The Second City Chamber Series carries on an education program for young people called the Young Chamber Players. The Young Chamber Players are selected by audition and are coached by Second City Chamber Series artists. The students perform each Season on one of the Series’ regular slate of concerts. In addition, conversations with artists, program notes, and thematic programming serve to make all concerts educational experiences for all patrons. The Second City Chamber Series also has a policy of admitting all persons eighteen and under to its concerts free of charge.
Chamber Music, Tacoma, and Pierce County—Looking Forward
Since the founding of the Second City Chamber Series, the city of Tacoma seems to be much closer to living up to its name as the City of Destiny. The arts have played a central role in achieving the dream of making Tacoma a city of rich with artistic, commercial, culinary, cultural, and intellectual capital. At the time that William and Willa Doppmann founded the Series, most of the performers on the Series were imported from Seattle, Portland or other major metropolitan areas. This is no longer necessarily the case. Today, Second City Chamber Series performers come from arts institutions right here in Tacoma, as well as Seattle, and they frequently have a presence in other parts of the country. Indeed, several alumni of SCCS’s Young Chamber Players are now distinguished musicians in their own right all over the country and are invited to return to Tacoma to participate in the Series.
Currently, the Second City Chamber Series produces six events each calendar year. Many of them are focused in our traditional venues of the Great Hall of Annie Wright School, Lakewold Gardens, and First Lutheran Church, but increasingly our concerts are proving to be more nimble. House concerts are becoming a regular part of our offerings, as are concerts in other venues around the South Sound.
Looking forward, it seems likely that this trajectory will continue as Second City Chamber Series works to bring chamber music to various regions around the South Sound, especially Gig Harbor, South and Central Tacoma, and Lakewood. The Young Chamber Players has also recently found a new home at Skyline Presbyterian Church in Tacoma where students now receive coachings and give a showcase concert, with attendant run-out concerts at venues such as the Boys and Girls Club of Tacoma, Narrows Glen Retirement Community, and the Museum of Glass.
As Second City Chamber Series looks to the future, our aim is not to increase the number of concert offerings to the community (as they are already very substantial), but to deepen our support in the community by enlarging and diversifying our audiences, increasing the number of patrons who support us, and developing corporate support.
Second City Chamber Series has been able to survive on a less than $50,000.00 budget for the last decades primarily because so many of the administrative duties undertaken by the organization are carried on by a volunteer working board and a significantly undercompensated staff. Accordingly, there simply are not enough man-hours to appropriately fundraise, advertise, develop patron support, and network in the community at a level that is consistent with the number of events that we offer.
As Second City Chamber Series looks to 2027 and beyond, we see Tacoma growing into an even more sophisticated arts community than it already is. There will be a ready market for all of the arts, including chamber music, and we would like to develop the Managing Director into a bona fide half-time position that is able to effectively manage our concerts and community offerings, while at the same time be able to enlarge our audiences and deepen our penetration into the community. We aspire enlarge our budget from $50,000 to $100,000 annually, partly to support the Series administratively in the way it should be supported, but also to develop a large-enough musician’s budget to occasionally attract the highest profile chamber musicians to our Series. Second City Chamber Series already attracts the best in the Northwest and occasionally the best in the world, but we aspire to be more widely known for this and to raise the profile of both our Series and the name recognition of the artists we offer to the community, thereby enlarging our audience and reach. We see this as becoming especially relevant as Tacoma increasingly becomes a destination city unto itself, and not simply a “second city” to our neighbor to the north.
Another reason to enlarge our budget is that we recognize that in order to diversify our offerings, more of our offerings (especially those geared towards young people) will need to be free or nearly free. We recognize the wealth and opportunity are not spread evenly in our community, and for populations who may not have the opportunity to learn about music in general and chamber music in particular, we will aim to bring these experiences to them.
Second City Chamber Series has had informal partnerships in the past, partnering with organizations as diverse as Fircrest Fun Days, the Museum of Glass, the Northwest Sinfonietta, Symphony Tacoma, and the Working Waterfront Museum to produce concert and events that are beneficial to both organizations. We want these collaborations and partnerships to continue into the future and envision broadening and deepening these opportunities as opportunities arise.
COVID-19 has also taught the Second City Chamber Series how important an electronic presence will be for us in a future media landscape. While formal (and informal) live concerts will continue to be part of our future, there is every reason to suppose that the marketplace for the arts of the future will also include an online media presence, and one of our first steps for this goal must be to develop a media-friendly web-space that promotes our artists, archives some of their performances, and educates and entertains our patrons online as much as we do in live concerts.
Looking forward, Second City Chamber Series imagines a bright future for arts and culture in the Southern Puget Sound. We recognize that Tacoma and Pierce county are increasingly seen as a cultural and economic zone in their own right, independent of our northern neighbor, and we intend to continue to be a part of that development, as we have been in the past. As we bring people together through the music of friends, we recognize and celebrate the diversity of our community, both historical and emerging, and strive to poise ourselves to bring music to neighborhoods rich, middle, and poor; black, brown, and white; urban, suburban, and rural; young, middle aged, and old; and to people sophisticated in music and those searching for new experiences.
Unlike many classical music organizations that present travelling artists (who may play the same concert in Seattle, Spokane, New York, and Tacoma, the Second City Chamber Series has a tradition of producing concerts that are individually developed for Tacoma audiences.