In the Spotlight: Zachary Reaves
“You start setting these expectations of your audience, and they don’t always live up to them because they don’t know. It’s not their fault.”
Have you ever been to the symphony and someone
applauded between movements – a cardinal
sin of concert-going? While the veteran classical
music aficionado knows to wait to clap until the
entire piece is done, and not during the first silent
moment that arises, someone new to such concerts
might not know exactly how to act in what
can feel like a very foreign environment.
The accompanying sense of intimidation can keep
a person from ever setting foot inside a symphony
hall – during a time when new patrons are more
precious to arts organizations than ever before.
As a music student at SMU Meadows, Zachary
Reaves (B.M. Cello Performance, ’11) began to
notice that not everyone had an innate comfort
with the classical music environment.
“I grew up in a musical family – my parents are
violinists. So I’ve been around orchestras for my
entire life,” Reaves explains. “As an adult, I realized
it’s not really the norm – which was so strange to
me, because it’s completely different from how I
Reaves hypothesizes that the phenomenon of
cultural intimidation might be a factor slowing
“We’ve read so much about how a lot of orchestras
are struggling because of the economy. But I’m not
convinced that the economy is the entire problem.
I think a lot of the time we, the artists, are the
problem,” he says.
“Classical music is a very complex art, and it’s amazing
what composers and performers do. But I
feel that we often expect our audience members
to understand that innately. We expect them to
know that you don’t clap between movements.
We expect them to know all these things – turn
off your cell phone, turn off your baby – and that
scares people. You start setting these expectations
of your audience, and they don’t always live up to
them because they don’t know. It’s not their fault.
And it has led to an elitist perception that turns
Reaves wasn’t content to write off the problem
as one for the large arts organizations to solve,
however. Instead, he set about creating “Bridge
the Gap,” a series of chamber music performances
intended to figuratively bridge the gap between
formal and informal music settings by introducing
audiences to classical music in a more relaxed
atmosphere. His hope is that the variety of musical
styles presented by the chamber group will help
turn new audiences into dedicated arts patrons.
The group’s most noticeable targets for demystifying
the arts have been price and venue choice.
The performances are always free, so there’s no
financial risk involved to the patron. Moreover,
Bridge the Gap eschews concert halls and instead
plays bars and other informal settings. The group
was even a part of the crowded opening festivities
at Klyde Warren Park, the new Dallas showcase
that sits atop Woodall Rodgers Freeway just outside
of the Dallas Arts District.
“SMU Meadows professors Sam Holland and
Alan Wagner helped me get in touch with the
event planners for Klyde Warren Park – and they
really liked what we were all about,” Reaves says.
“They felt that our mission statements were very
similar in trying to create a cultural hub.”
Bridge the Gap differentiates itself in other ways
as well. Performers are encouraged to create a
social atmosphere in which audience members can
get to know the musicians (who include other SMU
students, alumni and faculty), and the musical choices
are always explained so that the audience can understand
them rather than just have music “thrown
at them,” as Reaves puts it. And those choices
aren’t always Beethoven or Bartok; Jimi Hendrix
and other popular music are fair game as well.
“We feel great music is great music, regardless of
what era or style it was written in,” Reaves says.
Bridge the Gap continues to perform and grow,
even as Reaves wraps up his Performer’s Diploma
at SMU and prepares for the possibility of leaving
Dallas. He is currently in the planning stages of an
annual Bridge the Gap music festival to be held in
early May. But because of the unique spirit of
Dallas and SMU, Reaves has no plans to end or
move Bridge the Gap if he does leave town.
“So many people have offered help in one way or
another,” he says. “The use of venues, the advice,
spreading the word – people who believe the
same thing want to help sustain it. Our musicians
come from all over Dallas – the Dallas Opera, the
Dallas Symphony, the Plano Symphony. It’s not an
exclusive club. Everybody has come together for
the same cause.”
Bridge the Gap will be performing at its annual
festival and at Klyde Warren Park this spring. Visit
bridgethegapchamberplayers.org for dates and