Recess | Campus Arts

Gardens concert series seeks to provide affordable music to students and employees

Music lovers armed with picnic blankets will converge on the Duke Gardens this summer for the weekly series Music in the Gardens.

Music in the Gardens, Duke Performance’s annual concert series in the Gardens, begins June 7. The event features artists who tend to be local to Durham or North Carolina, but have some degree of national prominence. The music performed usually comes from indie rock or Americana genres and seeks to provide interesting music in a laid-back concert venue.

“The music is progressive without being aggressive,” Duke Performances Executive Director Aaron Greenwald said.

The tradition of putting on concerts in the Gardens goes back for many decades, but Duke Performances took over hosting an organized music series around 10 years ago. The series is held on the lawn behind the Doris Duke Center on Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., and it runs throughout June and July. The event space can hold up to 1,000 attendees, who often picnic while listening to the music. Duke students frequent the event, usually making up around one-fifth of concert goers, but the composition of the crowd varies from act to act.

Artists who perform at the event often end up gaining even more national prominence or collaborating with Duke Performances at a later date. The lineup for this year features a number of prominent artists, including singer Robbie Fulks, who was nominated for two Grammys last year, and Loamlands, whose member Kym Register runs the local music venue The Pinhook. Noteworthy artists from past years have included Mipso and Mount Moriah.

Music in the Gardens differs from many other Duke Performances events in its affordability and accessibility. Tickets for the general public are $10, while tickets for Duke employees and students are $5. The event is free for children 12 years and under. Greenwald mentioned that the concert series tends to be well attended by Duke employees bringing their families to enjoy low-cost summer fun.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to come out with their families and get to benefit from their employer,” Greenwald said.

While Duke student tickets for Duke Performances events are $10, prices for the general public are usually much more costly. These high prices reflect the quality in speakers and artists that Duke Performances strives for in its regular season.

“That’s just what’s required for us to make the presentations we make,” Greenwald said.

Music in the Gardens is much cheaper, due to the laid-back style Duke Performances creates. This drop-in ticket prices makes the event easier for more individuals to attend, while still providing the high level of quality found in the regular Duke Performances season.

“We’ve gone a long way towards making it accessible,” Greenwald said.

Duke Performances would love to put on more events in the Gardens, but the lack of infrastructure in the space makes it difficult to put on larger, more complicated concerts. The Music in the Gardens series entices people of all backgrounds to attend without creating a high-stakes, raucous concert.

Jenn Wasner, going by the name Flock of Dimes, will open the music series. Flock of Dimes diverges slightly from the usual indie rock or American folk genres performed at the concert series. Greenwald expects the concert to draw a slightly younger crowd who might know Wasner through her work as a member of the band Wye Oak. Wasner was based in Baltimore until 2015, when she moved to Durham to focus on her songwriting projects. She toured with Sylvan Esso and loved Durham when she visited it on tour.

Flock of Dimes is a solo venture for Wasner, but she will be performing with a full band at the Gardens concert and at a few concerts afterward. The Gardens concert will be the first concert in a long time in which Wasner is not performing solo. The full band allows Wasner to perform differently.

“I feel like I’m a little bit freer to focus on performing,” Wasner said.

Wasner was excited to perform in the more nontraditional, laid-back venue that the Music in the Gardens series provides. She tends to perform at more traditional indoor or black box-type venues.

“It’s nice to step outside of that for a little bit,” Wasner said.

Greenwald appreciates the different performers that take the stage at the Music in the Gardens series. The series allows Duke Performances to take advantage of Durham’s rich music scene, which is often passed over for more nationally or internationally prominent acts during the school year.

“I like the opportunity which we don’t normally have—during the normal season—to present these artists who I think are sometimes as compelling as the artists we present during other portions of our season,” Greenwald said.


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