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By Liz Warren-Pederson

Two doctoral students in the McGuire Entrepreneurship ProgramKevin Chau (Piano Performance) and Juan Gonzales (Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering) — started off working with a third team member on a venture that didn’t stand up to feasibility tests. So they pivoted.

Kevin Chau and Juan Gonzales
Doctoral students Kevin Chau and Juan Gonzales have teamed up to deliver multimedia program notes designed to enhance the classical music concert
Photo by Sarah Mauet.

“My research interest is in contemporary music and audience experience,” Chau explained. “Juan has always been a big fan of classical music and is a frequent concert-goer. We brainstormed a couple ideas from our respective expertise until we decided on making a new version of program notes with team mentor Jim Jindrick’s input.”
The concept? Multimedia program notes designed to enhance the classical music concert experience and connect audiences more deeply to the musical repertoire.

“We envision this replacing traditional printed program notes,” Chau said. “Ticketholders will be granted access to the multimedia content when they buy the ticket, so they can watch it at their leisure prior to or even after the concert.”

The concert hall, he adds, may broadcast the program notes in the lobby prior to the concert. “By helping people understand the music better, and become more engaged listeners, our program notes will help enhance the concert experience,” he said. The pair do not see their program notes platform as accessible during performances, during which time it could be distracting to other patrons. “We are still playing with different ideas, which includes turning our concept into a smart phone/tablet app, which would link to more information.”

As part of their research, Chau and Gonzales have talked extensively with regional performing arts groups, including UApresents, Tucson Symphony Orchestra, and Phoenix Symphony Orchestra. “From our understanding, artists and agents have mostly stopped providing program notes to concert venues, and concert venues have problems coming up with quality program notes with their in-house resources,” Chau said. “We are engaging all the performing groups directly, hoping to strike up partnerships with them. We have currently produced a prototype for UApresents for their March 5th Academy of St. Martin in the Fields concert.”

The video content will be hosted on the UApresents website, and all subscribers and regular ticketholders will have access to it. “In return, we hope we’ll get positive data from the audience that will help us sway our other potential clients,” Chau said.

The venture is still very much in formational stages. “There is nothing exactly like what we are doing out there,” Chau said. “Although everyone sees the value in it, no one is sure what price they would pay to utilize it. We are hoping we will find an answer to this question via our prototype.”

He and Gonzales ultimately see the venture as a way to engage more people with classical music. ”From our research, we found that there’s quite a number of people interested in classical music, but who don’t go to concerts,” Chau said. “We assume that it is because they don’t feel comfortable being at a concert, or perhaps they do not really appreciate the music the way they think they should. This is where we come in: by giving them a little more knowledge, we hope to make them intellectually curious enough and informed enough to come to concerts.”

Learn more about the dynamic programs of the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship.