Colorado Symphony hopes to capitalize on cannabis culture

The Bartels BrassThe Colorado Symphony will try to attract new crowds and money this year by targeting cannabis consumers.

The organization announced Tuesday it will hold a series of benefit concerts this summer called Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series. The symphony will work with a pro-pot event promoter and other businesses to do this.

The symphony, which has struggled financially, continues to pursue partnerships to try and reach younger and more diverse audiences.

"The cannabis industry appeals to that audience more than it does to the traditional classical music audience," Colorado Symphony CEO Jerry Kern says. "The issue always is: how do you expose people to the music and get them to return?"

The series, which begins May 23, will include three fundraisers featuring performances by smaller ensembles at the Space Gallery in Denver’s Santa Fe arts district.

People can bring their own marijuana to the events. Tickets cost $75 with all proceeds going to the Colorado Symphony. No pot will be sold at the fundraisers.

Kern says promoter Edible Events Co. first approached the symphony about a partnership, and the collaboration met little resistance within the organization.

"It’s very clear that we, like all cultural performing arts organizations, need financial support, and here was a growing industry," Kern explains.

A recent report by CPR revealed emergency room visits to one Denver hospital are on the rise because of edible marijuana.

But Kern says this new partnership should not reflect negatively on the symphony.

"This is a legal business. All events will be conducted in accordance with legal requirements that govern the cannabis industry," Kern says. "We’re not engaged in telling the cannabis industry how to educate the public. We play music."

The series will end with a concert featuring the full orchestra at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on September 13.

Smoking marijuana is prohibited at Red Rocks, which is a public, outdoor venue run by the city of Denver. Officials say they will enforce the no-marijuana policy during the event.

"Characterizing this as a bring-your-own-cannabis show at Red Rocks is inappropriate," Denver Arts and Venues communications director Brian Kitts says. "Possession of an ounce is legal, but we don’t allow it in the venue if we find it."

Red Rocks began its 2014 concert season with a couple pot-friendly concerts, including Snoop Dogg on April 20, a day considered an unofficial holiday for marijuana users.

Kitts says the city will work to strike a balance between enforcing policy and allowing concert-goers to enjoy their experiences following the legalization of recreational marijuana in January.

"Obviously with 9,000 people there (at Red Rocks), it is a challenge,” Kitts says. “I think we will be more aggressive if we get more complaints."