It’s a little hard to know what to put on a pay-it-forward sleeve at A Cup of Common Wealth, where patrons are encouraged to buy something for a deserving future shopper, to ensure the coffee will get to Richard Young.
He is executive director of the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, in the midst of the festival’s two weeks, so maybe it should say “Tireless arts administrator.”
“I think I would prefer ‘arts facilitator,’ because … I think there’s really something to be said for facilitating other people’s ideas,” Young said over his cup of coffee, which was ultimately designated for a “tireless arts promoter,” another title he said he likes. “I guess I don’t like the word administration, because it’s not creative. It’s like, ‘the administration,’ that word all Millennials are told to not like.
“My favorite part of doing what I do is the creative side.”
For example, Young cites the festival’s ensemble-in-residence program, which had its second outing Aug. 13 to 18 with the quintet WindSync playing pop-up concerts around town, from street corners to West Sixth Brewing and the Morris Book Shop.
“Figuring out what locations to go to and how to tell people about it, and then seeing people that come out and are excited is so rewarding,” says Young, 24.
What’s even more rewarding for Young and the Chamber Music Festival, which has its final performance Sunday, is who is coming to the shows. With the pop-up concerts in particular, and increasingly with performances by its primary ensemble, the Chamber Music Festival is attracting a holy grail of the arts, and classical music in particular: Millennials, the generation of people roughly in their 20s and early 30s.
The Chamber Festival is one of Young’s endeavors, along with his career as a bassist and music teacher and working on the North Limestone Cultural Development Corp., which counts the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra’s Music Works after-school program and the recent Night Market on Bryan Avenue among its projects.
Orchestra was his introduction to music, initially playing violin in fourth grade and then switching to bass in sixth grade. “There were no bass players, and when they said, ‘Does anyone want to switch?’ I said, ‘Sure, I’ll try,’ because I was really bad at violin.”
Young continued playing bass at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, though his focus was writing, and then went to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music to study double bass.
As he was winding up his college career, Young began working with the Chamber Music Festival in a role that developed into executive director.
The 7-year-old festival started with Lexington native Nathan Cole, then a violinist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, pulling together a group of friends for a weekend of concerts and events at the Fasig-Tipton Horse Sales Pavilion, which has become a much-appreciated chamber music concert hall.
That same group has stayed together as their stars have risen. That includes Cole, who is now the associate concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and pianist Alessio Bax, who is building a substantial recording career. Each subsequent year, the festival has brought in a guest musician, tenor Nicholas Phan this year, and a composer-in-residence, Raymond Lustig this year. Then, last year, it added the ensemble-in-residence.
“One of the great things about our chamber music festival, is that it’s so unexpected, like you don’t expect to see great musicians like Nick Phan and Nathan and Alessio here,” Young says. “And so we wanted to get rid of those expectations of a place with the ensemble-in-residence week, but in a much more visceral way.”
Young says chamber music is rooted in the same thing that has fueled the growth of numerous organizations with which he has interacted and events he’s helped launch like the Night Market, which he and partners expected to attract 150 people but brought in 400 to 600.
“There’s a huge sort of billowing up sense of community here,” Young says. “If you look at places around town people like going to, they’re based around community, like Morris Book Shop has a really devoted community, West Sixth has a really devoted community. This movement toward localism is based in community.”
And chamber music, Young notes, is about friends coming together to make music as and for a community.
Increasingly, he also sees a virtual community getting behind it.
“Instagram is amazing for getting buzz going,” Young says. “I can put up a wall of text saying, ‘We’re giving away tickets to a concert,’ and a few people will be interested. But if I put up a picture of the wind ensemble in a bar, suddenly 20 people like it. It makes it feel really personal.
“Arts organizations using social media can go really well, or … not. It can fall really flat if it’s forced.”
This gets back to the administration-versus-creativity thing.
“If you look at it as, ‘Oh, I’ve got to do marketing through social media,’ that could be so boring,” Young says. “But if you think, what’s the coolest way I can take an Instagram photo that will get a lot of people to like it? Then it’s fun.
“There’s room for creativity in everything.”