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Miami's New World Symphony

How a South Beach orchestra is ushering classical music into the future.

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Symphonies around the world are fighting against the pernicious notion that classical music is stuffy, elitist, roped off. It’s hard to think of an institution that does a better job of combating that idea than Miami Beach’s New World Symphony.

The elimination of barriers begins before you even enter the New World Center, Frank Gehry’s $160 million building inaugurated in 2011. Boxier than a lot of the architect’s work (at least on the outside), it features a 7,000-square-foot wall against which concerts are projected live in HD, free to the public, several times a year as part of the symphony’s popular “Wallcast” series. The impression that you are not in a typical concert hall crescendoes as you progress into the asymmetrical theater, with 14 screens suspended overhead to broadcast multimedia accompaniments to the music.

“NWS was a classic start-up,” says Michael Tilson Thomas, who founded the orchestra in 1987, when nothing of its caliber existed in the region, and serves as its artistic director. “We had to create and define everything.” To that end, the symphony includes in its schedule both traditional fare, such as the season’s opener on October 11, featuring works by Stravinsky, and less-expected offerings, like Wallcast concerts for cycling and yoga aficionados. Then there’s Pulse, an evening in which an electronic-music DJ performs alongside orchestral players and audience members can dance and drink. This is Miami, after all. At 500 17th St.; nws.edu.

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