New Haven Free Public Library cardholders will soon be able check out free family passes to select New Haven Symphony Orchestra performances.

Last week, the NHFPL and the NHSO issued a joint press release announcing the new expansion of the library’s collection of free passes to local museums and attractions. Cardholders will now be able to check out two-day passes to NHSO performances from any of the library’s five branches. The passes can be used at select 2018–19 season symphony performances and include bookmarks with performance-related reading recommendations, according to the press release.

“I said, ‘let me just ask to see if [the NHSO] is interested,’” said Xia Feng, public services administrator at the NHFPL when asked about how the partnership began. “So, then I started proposing the idea of having the free pass and then [the symphony] said, ‘We really want to encourage literacy.’”

Each library branch will have one free family pass on hand for the select symphony performances, according to the joint press release. Each family pass gives two adults and two children access to the performance space free of charge. Each branch can give out only one pass per concert. Therefore, a maximum of 20 people can use the library passes for any given performance.

The NHFPL serves about 500,000 users every year through its mission of promoting lifelong learning, curiosity and community. The library offers resources including reading materials and computer access, as well as community-based programming. Its system consists of the five brick-and-mortar branches, the Readmobile, a mobile library on wheels that visits community events, and 24-hour online access to media resources.

This season marks NHSO’s landmark 125th anniversary. The symphony plays over 40 concerts a year throughout New Haven and Southern Connecticut. It also reaches more than 18,000 children throughout the region per year with its educational programming, like the Young Composers Project, a program that pairs high school–age composers with professional composers.

According to Carroll, the organizations’ shared appreciation of culture makes them ideal partners for a project such as this one. For the NHSO, the library offers a source of potential new audience members and for the library, the symphony is a local community resource that some of its users may not have gotten the opportunity to experience previously.

“We’ve had an ongoing relationship with the public library for quite some time,” said NHSO CEO Elaine Carroll, alluding to the presentations and small-scale musical programs the symphony has done at the library in the past. “[The library] is a natural partner, because it is such a great point of access for people.”

The NHFPL’s new partnership with the NHSO is an expansion of its already existing museum pass program. The library currently partners with 15 other museums, parks, historic sites and performance venues to offer free admission to its cardholders, including the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, Connecticut State Parks and Connecticut’s Old State House.

“The passes are popular and generate approximately 40 uses a month, a testament to the program’s success,” Peabody Public Relations and Marketing Manager Melanie Brigockas said in an email to the News when asked to evaluate the success of the pass program.

A similar program between the library and the Long Wharf Theatre inspired the symphony to get involved, Carroll said. NHFPL’s partnership with the Long Wharf Theatre started in 2012. In addition to the free passes, the relationship between the Long Wharf Theatre and the library consists of public programming, a micro-branch of the library that operates in the theatre lobbies during shows, and the Community Ambassador Program, a group of 30 community leaders nominated by the library’s partners to increase the diversity of the theatre’s audience. The symphony looked at the Long Wharf program and built from there.

As a bonus, the library will distribute bookmarks with recommended reading materials at each NHSO performance. The NHFPL will also recommend titles for students in kindergarten through 12th grade as well as for adult readers that correspond to the symphony’s featured music and theme for each concert.

The symphony has long been active in the New Haven and Connecticut communities. It hosts many different groups and projects, like the Prelude lecture series, to reach out to both new and old audience members.

The NHSO augments its own community engagement efforts by maintaining 99 other relationships with schools, other performance groups and music institutions. In addition, it supports local nonprofits like the Community Soup Kitchen by doing benefit concerts and allowing people from those organizations to come to the performance.

Yalies can catch Handel’s “Messiah” performed by the NHSO in Woolsey Hall on Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. for $10.

Jose Davila IV | jose.davilaiv@yale.edu