Music a la Carte brings diverse music selection

Courtesy of Zachary Person
Director Sandra Babb conducting the OSU University Chorale at a Music a la Carte session in the Memorial Union lounge. 

Caleb Chandler, News Contributor

The music department offers members of the community the opportunity to explore various genres of music in a convenient setting.

The sound of music begins to take over the crowded concourse of the Memorial Union. Students and community members look up from their busy work, discussions quiet as all ears are directed to the performers. The show has begun. 

Music a la Carte is a concert series put on by the Oregon State University Music department. Every Friday, musical performers play for about an hour for students and members of the community in the MU lounge, according to Zachery Person, the music marketing and events coordinator. It offers a unique way for people to relax at the end of the week and be exposed to new music. 

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“Music a la Carte, for someone who has never heard of the concert series before, is an eclectic chamber music concert series featuring a bit of everything from classical music to jazz to world in an informal setting designed for new concert goers and people who have been attending concerts their entire life,” Person said. 

The musical ensembles include a wide variety of professionals from across the world, as well as regional performers, OSU’s talented music faculty and even some student groups, according to Person. 

“It’s literally a little bit everything, a full range of performers in the series,” Person said. 

Marlan Carlson, a music professor and founder of the series, said that Music a la Carte was created to bring music to people in a convenient location. He founded the series in 1969 with his wife, who is also a musician.

“We thought that we would like to liven the campus up a bit by taking music to people rather than expecting people to come to music in concert halls,” Marlan said. “We looked over the MU ballroom and thought it would be a cool place since a lot of people are over there anyway. We decided to start a weekly series of concerts for about 50 minutes at 12:30, so we went over there and offered a concert every week, the two of us.”

Since its inception in 1969, Music a la Carte has grown in popularity. Angela Carlson, a senior instructor and cofounder of the concert series, wishes to see it continue to expand. 

“It caught on fairly quickly as we recruited other people to perform and has been going continuously ever since,” Angela said via email. “It has not changed much since 1969, except that it used to be on Thursdays.  I hope it will keep on going.”

The concert series is in a public area where individuals can bring their lunch, their friends and enjoy music, free of charge. The concerts last for about 45 minutes to an hour. A typical performance consists of some informational speaking during the concert about what is happening. This adds an extra layer of information for regular concert-goers and provides context for people who have never been to a concert before, Person added. 

A la Carte is a french term that refers to the idea of pick and choose, according to  Marlan. 

“We like the idea of ‘a la carte’ because people can pick and choose,” Marlan said. “They come in, if they like it, they stay. Five minutes later they don’t like it, they can leave.”

Angela added that the diversity of the concert series and laid back atmosphere creates a welcoming mood to those wanting to watch the performers. 

“It is less intimidating for those unfamiliar with concerts than formal events,” Angela said via email. 

According to Person, Music a la Carte is a chance to try out something new and to explore new things and likings.

“I would say for every single student on campus, come and checkout a concert,” Person said. “If you have your student I.D., walk down to the MU or go to the LaSells Stewart Center and go to a concert and see if you like it. It’s a way to further enrich your college experience and they are soothing for everyone out there in the creative arts.”

According to Marlan, Music a la Carte can be a relaxing time away from academics to allow students to explore what the university has to offer. 

“I hate to see people totally buried in their academics,” Marlan said. “OSU is a fabulous university for students that want to start to experience all of the varieties of activities. It’s like being at a huge banquet where there are hundreds of dishes, many of which you will not like, but you might find a dish that you try and like. It (Music a la Carte) exposes people to maybe some music they have never heard before which could be good.”

Besides Music a la Carte, there are many other free music performances put on each year, with most being free to students with an I.D., Person added.

“Its principle value (Music a la Carte) is that it is again, convenient and accessible and it is like many of the hundreds of non-curriculum opportunities on this campus,” Marlan said. “Get exposed to something maybe they have never been exposed to, and that’s one of the great things about this university is that there’s so much to experience that’s not in the classroom.” 

Music a la Carte takes place every Friday throughout the year, with the exception of holidays, at noon in the MU lounge. For further information on performers and other interests, Zachery Person is the event coordinator.