Time, admission, education, culture, age, pre-conceived notions, listening experience: as you’ll read below, these are just a few of the boundaries that we are working to break down at Rush Hour each week.

Common boundaries and barriers that people have shared with me about coming to Rush Hour appear below, paired with Rush Hour’s approach to addressing them.

Please share your thoughts with us about barriers to attending classical music concerts – and what you think of our approach to breaking them down – in the comments.

— Julie Hutchison, Managing Director

RH crowd1. I don’t have time.
Known as “Great Music for Busy Lives,” Rush Hour was designed with your busy lifestyle in mind. With a thirty-minute reception and thirty-minute concert offered at a convenient after-work time, you can get a burst of culture and refreshment in an hour or less every Tuesday throughout the summer.

2. I can’t afford to go to concerts.
Rush Hour is FREE. We work to fundraise year-round so that the Rush Hour experience is accessible to everyone. We hope you will take advantage of one of the best values in the city each week during the summer!

3. A free concert? That must mean it’s not very good.
Actually, some of the best musicians from Chicago (from the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera, and Music of the Baroque, to name a few) and around the world perform at Rush Hour. Rush Hour’s artists are committed to the mission and philosophy of Rush Hour and work to make every concert sensational.

4. I’ll be too hungry/thirsty to listen.cake & cookies
Our pre-concert reception offers sweet and savory bites and refreshing drinks every week from 5:15 to 5:45 p.m. to tide you over from the end of your workday through the concert. After the concert, you can head out for drinks or dinner. (We highly recommend our community sponsors Argo Tea, who offers 10% off by mentioning Rush Hour, and Bijan’s Bistro, who offers 20% off with a coupon from the day’s program).

5a. I don’t know enough about classical music… I’m afraid I won’t enjoy it.
– OR –
5b. I attend concerts all the time – this sounds like it might be “dumbed-down” to try to appeal to new people.

Rush Hour was designed to be accessible and relevant to all audiences – new and experienced listeners alike. We strive to provide useful information that enrich your listening experience, regardless of your classical music experience level. We’ve heard from:

  • seasoned concertgoers who make time in their weekly schedule for Rush Hour, telling us they learn something new each week;
  • attendees who haven’t had much experience with classical music for two to three decades (since their college years), for whom Rush Hour lets them pick up their classical music listening journey;
  • twenty- and thirty-something audience members who discover that Rush Hour is so fun and welcoming that – much to their surprise – they’re hooked and coming back each week.

Enrichment materials are available here, on our website and blog; in our weekly email alerts; and in our program booklets available at the concert. The musicians also share their insights and discuss the music before the concert, at the pre-concert reception; on stage, during the performance; and after the concert.

piano trio6. Chamber music? That sounds boring…
We’re not entirely sure how chamber music acquired its “stuffy and boring” reputation among some people, but we do know that sentiment is out there. We invite you to read Artistic Director Deborah Sobol’s excellent explanation of chamber music and come experience the intimacy, vibrancy, and excitement of live music at Rush Hour.

7. I’m not sure if I’m going to like the music.
RH offers many opportunities for discovery. We’re confident that you will find something to like about the concert. If not, please keep in mind that it’s only a 30-minute concert, and it’s free. While Rush Hour offers the same format throughout the summer, each week is a completely new and different experience. We hope you will be adventurous and try listening to music outside of your usual tastes, whether it’s a different pairing of instruments, a different style, or classical music in general.

8. People are noisy and disrespectful at free concerts. I want to be able to relax and really listen.
People frequently remark about how engaged Rush Hour’s audience is, commenting that they can “hear a pin drop” during the concert. You will leave refreshed, relaxed, inspired, and ready for the rest of your evening.

9. I won’t fit in with the audience at Rush Hour.

RH audience

People of wildly different ages and backgrounds meet each other each week at the pre-concert reception, fostering a sense of community. Someone who is new to classical music sits next to someone who has been listening to classical music for decades during the concert. Regardless of your age, culture, or listening experience level, you will play an important role in the powerful shared listening experience.

10. I’m not religious / I am of a different faith, and the concert takes place in a cathedral. I’m not sure if I am welcome.
Though Rush Hour takes place at and is presented in partnership with St. James Cathedral, it is a completely secular event and everyone is welcome. There are no special customs that you need to follow – please simply come and be yourself.

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