Classical pianist Alexandria Le has received many compliments and comments on her playing, but this one was out of the ordinary. After a May piano concert, an audience member told Le her performance was beautiful — made more beautiful by the fact that it was the first time in his life he had ever heard a live pianist. “That was really meaningful to me,” says Le. “Most people take that kind of experience for granted.”
Le was performing at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter and soup kitchen downtown. It may seem like an unusual venue for live classical music, but not when you consider Le’s philosophy about the role of the arts in society. It’s more than a philosophy, in fact: In June, she launched Notes With a Purpose, a nonprofit whose mission is to bring classical music into homeless shelters, schools, senior centers and other unconventional settings. “People have certain expectations when it comes to experiencing classical music,” Le says, citing the concert hall as the stereotypical venue for the genre. “But not everyone can get to a concert hall, so it’s important for us to go out into the community, and make the music experience more fun, accessible and engaging.”
The organization may be new, but Le herself is a veteran when it comes to playing unorthodox venues. As a student at the Las Vegas Academy, she performed in urban schools. As a member of the resident ensemble of Carnegie Hall in New York, she performed for inmates at Rikers Island, and at assisted living facilities for the blind. The goal, she says, isn’t just to change people’s perception of classical music, but to give a musical shout-out to human dignity by spreading a little beauty around.
The mission-minded earnestness is rounded out with a sense of fun, too: One of Notes With a Purpose’s programs is the Las Vegas Wine & Music Festival, which marries live classical music with fine food and wine flights — complete with a sommelier chatting it up about tasting notes. “People relate to classical music a lot more than they might expect,” says Le. “It’s just a question of how you package the experience.” And packaging it with food and wine doesn’t just make the music more approachable, Le says, but more sensuously alive. It becomes music you can taste and smell as well as hear.
Leading up to the Las Vegas Wine & Music Festival in May 2017 is a series of pop-up concerts. The next performance is this Saturday Nov. 5 at Artisanal Foods. In this Russian-themed program, Le will perform Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” for solo piano, and join cellist Lee Duckles in the Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata. Sommelier Jaime Smith hosts the wine-tasting, and Artisana Foods will serve up cheese, charcuterie and, of course, caviar.
Notes With a Purpose’s “Pop Up Wine and Music Concert” is 2p Nov. 5 at Artisanal Foods, 2053 E. Pama Lane. Tickets $49-$85. Info and full schedule: noteswithapurpose.org