Making Connections Through Love of Music Is Goal of Princeton University Concerts’ Series
MUSICAL MATCHMAKING: The stage of Richardson Auditorium, shown here at a performance by the Calidore String Quartet, will be the setting for Princeton University Concerts’ upcoming “Do-Re-Meet” series of social events for music lovers. (Photo by Andrew Wilkinson)
By Anne Levin
During the pandemic, Marna Seltzer and Dasha Koltunyuk had a regular date watching the television series The Bachelor together, from their respective homes. The popular show about looking for love gave Seltzer, the director of Princeton University Concerts (PUC), and Koltunyuk, PUC’s outreach manager, an idea: Why not a concert series built around bringing people together for romance or companionship?
That germ of an idea has morphed into “Do-Re-Meet — Social Events for Music Lovers,” a three-concert series that begins December 13 with an evening geared to those seeking heterosexual connections, including a concert by tenThing Brass Ensemble. It continues March 26 with a session for individuals looking for friendship, and a concert by the Chiaroscuro Quartet; and concludes April 12 with an event for LGBTQ+ music-loving singles at a concert featuring jazz vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant.
“We wanted to make sure the program was inclusive and didn’t leave anybody out,” said Seltzer. “If people from different interests and age groups are looking to connect with others for love, friendship, or making work connections, we want them to be a part of this.”
Once Seltzer and Koltunyuk, who met her husband at a concert, settled on the idea, they started brainstorming. “We began googling around about speed-dating, and we found this company The Singles Group run by Risa Glaser Grimaldi,” said Seltzer. “We called her, and she immediately wanted to meet with us. It turns out she is a music lover. Her brother is the conductor of the Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra. It was just meant to be.”
Grimaldi is enthusiastic about the concept. “I’m so excited, because after 16 years of running all kinds of singles groups, this is the first one that’s music-oriented,” she said. “I’m thrilled, because meeting people with a common interest is the best way to go.”
The December 13 event begins with eight-minute speed-dating and ice-breaker games at the University’s Maclean House. Next is the holiday concert by tenThing Brass Ensemble, part of PUC’s “Up Close” series, next door at Richardson Auditorium. The participants, who are divided into three age groups (“Do” is 24-39, “Re” is 40-59, and “Mi” is 60-plus) will sit together at a special section in the balcony, near the stage.
The March 26 concert will be preceded by Find Your Friends, a “speed-friending” event.
The April 12 performance follows an LGBTQ+ Single Mingle, presented in partnership with the Princeton University Gender + Sexuality Resource Center. In each instance, participants fill out forms expressing interest in someone they have met; Grimaldi hands back any pairings the following day. “Seventy percent of the people who come to my events get at least one match,” she said. “Even if it’s making a friend, that’s the best basis for a relationship.”
PUC is fully back in business since the pandemic. “I was really struck, during lockdown, by the number of people who told me they were missing the people who sat around them at concerts, even though they don’t know them outside the concert hall,” Seltzer said. “I’ve always been fascinated by the simple and beautiful idea that music is a great convener, and it brings together people of all backgrounds and ages. If you’re passionate about anything, you suddenly have something in common. We’re always trying to find ways to explore this.”
While PUC concerts are widely attended by students and older patrons, there is a missing middle that the series hopes to attract. “The hardest group of people for us to get to is the 30-50 somethings,” said Seltzer. “Students come in droves, and older people who are retired and have spare time are always here. But that middle period, when life is really busy — that is a really hard nut to crack. We’ve wanted to have something that gave an opportunity for working people who are busy, and who we don’t see very much in the concert hall. We’re hoping this series will help with that.”
Tickets for the Do-Re-Meet events and ensuing concerts are $50 ($20 for students). Patrons already holding tickets to events of the Performances Up Close series can add the Do-Re-Mi experience by visiting puc.princeton.edu or calling (609) 258-2800.
It was at a PUC Performances Up Close event that Koltunyuk met her husband, composer/pianist Gregg Kallor, several years ago. “We happened to sit next to each other at a performance by the Escher String Quartet, and it was love at first note,” she said in a press release. “I so hope that these Do-Re-Meet events will help others find that same incredibly deep connection – whether romantic or platonic — that music can so magically foster.”
That’s the goal. “Of course, in the long term, we’re hoping to have ‘Do-Re-Met,’” said Seltzer.