Soft lights illuminate the ground while dark blue dots dance across the ceiling. While flutes trill in the background, students relax on mats on the ballroom floor, gazing up at projected constellations. These sights and sounds were part of one of the Fuse Ensemble’s ‘Ears Wide Open’ concerts.
Fuse, a quintet of USC School of Music graduate students, is a student-run chamber ensemble rooted in a shared passion for classical music.
Their love for music inspired the ensemble group to bring the classical genre to crowds who may never step into a formal concert venue. Fuse takes classical performances away from recital halls and displays them to audiences in more casual settings by hosting pop-up concerts on campus.
This mission of musical accessibility is something Pedro Falcon, an oboist and the creative director for Fuse, highlighted when discussing the reason behind the group’s formation.
“We got into this idea to take the community from our school and try to introduce classical music in a different, immersive way,” Falcon said.
Falcon, native to Venezuela, was an accomplished musician before moving to the United States and joining the university’s music program. While in Venezuela, he won first chair in one of the most prestigious orchestras in the country.
During his time in his home country, Falcon worked with a program called the Orquestas Penitenciarias de El Sistema (OPS) where he taught instruments to prisoners around the country, showing inmates the positive impacts of music.
“I notice how musicals have a really transformative experience for them,” Falcon said.
Highlighting the positive influences of music and showcasing live music to crowds that may never be exposed to classical instruments is something Falcon and his colleagues pride themselves on.
In the group's most recent event, 'Written in the Stars,' which took place on Jan. 23, 2022, Fuse sought to overcome the challenge of attracting younger audiences by delivering its pieces in a more unique and engaging fashion. Performers played contemporary classical pieces based on astrology to a small crowd inside of the Russell House ballroom.
This event featured music from 12 different composers, and each work correlated to a specific astrological sign. The concert included a variety of instruments and genres as members of the Flute Studio, a woodwind group from the School of Music, joined Fuse as the concert gave the audience soft flute ballads as well as some intense cello solos.
The ‘Ears Wide Open’ series, which began late September of last year, was created to open new eyes to the grandeurs of classical music and “to give the audience a more adventurous and exciting experience” compared to a standard classical music concert, according to Fuse’s website.
Roya Farzaneh, an award-winning flutist and founding member and assistant director of Fuse,
"Trying to find music for that 18-25 range and trying to find a way to get classical music engaging and exciting for them, it can be quite challenging, but it's really rewarding," said Roya Farzaneh, an award-winning flutist and founding member and assistant director of Fuse.
Though the process of bringing other ensembles and art groups together for performances is hard work, Farzaneh said that the event still excites her.
Fuse's next concert in the 'Ears Wide Open' series will be a collaboration with UniVERSE, a campus poetry initiative, in March, where it will perform a "lunchtime concert fusing poetry and music."