Why Classical Music in Colorado Owes Marijuana a Big 'Thank You'

After watching their audiences shrink in recent years (and donations along with them) the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) decided to capitalize on the state’s burgeoning industry that’s been raking in cash by the bundles in the last six months: recreational marijuana.


“Here was a newly legalized industry that’s growing very rapidly that came to us and said, ‘We’d like to support you,’” CSO’s CEO, Jeremy Kern told the NonProfit Times in a recent article. He added that the orchestra isn’t ashamed to partner publicly with the pot industry.

“We’re not endorsing marijuana use, we’re accepting support from the cannabis industry, which is absolutely legit, the same as alcohol," he said. "[T]wo states legalized recreational marijuana, and I don’t think any performing arts organization can turn away any legitimate supporters.”

Vendors from across the cannabis industry teamed up to help support the orchestra by sponsoring their new endeavor: “Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series.”

The series, focused on fundraising, launched its first invitation-only event in May. Two more are scheduled for this and next month, and in September, the concert venue Red Rocks will host a fundraising concert to conclude the series. According to the NonProfit Times, officials expect the concert to raise roughly $200,000, which will help CSO make up for significant budgetary issues.

Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the New York-based League of American Orchestras told the NonProfit Times that symphonies and orchestras nationwide have seen dwindling audiences. A survey by the National Endowment for the Arts shows that the number of American adults who watched a classical music performance of any kind dropped from approximately 9.3 percent in 2008 to just 8.8 percent in 2013.

Kern told the NonProfit Times the future of classical music will depend on partnerships within local community organizations and corporations.

“If you’re not creative in today’s environment, you’re going to die,” Kern said. “No doubt about it.”

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