Conductor-less orchestra Kaleidoscope redefines how classical music is made

Kaleidoscope plays symphonies without a conductor

Kaleidoscope plays symphonies without a conductor

A conductor-less orchestra?

That may sound like an oxymoron, but there are actually a handful of musical ensembles around the world that play without a conductor.

One of them is right here in Los Angeles and plays at Santa Monica’s First Presbyterian Church on Friday.

Kaleidoscope, explains founder and president Benjamin Mitchell, is a collective of musicians that play together rather than under the direction of a conductor.

“As classical musicians, usually when you play in an orchestra you don’t get much say in how you play your music or what you play,” says Mitchell.

But in Kaleidoscope, “everyone takes equal ownership for how people make music,” he says.

The group of almost 50 musicians recently played a free late-night concert for a standing-room only crowd of twenty and thirty-somethings in downtown L.A.’s historic Union Station. Approximately 1,000 people attended, including this reporter.

At First Presbyterian about 15 musicians will play for a more intimate musical event, featuring the West Coast premieres of compositions by up-and-coming composers Saad Haddad and Julia Adolphe, the world premiere of Korean composer Jee Seo’s “4 Pieces for 2 Violins” and Czech composer Leos Janácek’s woodwind quintet “Mládí.”

Such a program might ordinarily demand a high ticket price, but this season Kaleidoscope is instituting a new way for patrons to show their appreciation: pay-what-you-can.

Sounds like music to this millennial’s ears.
— Christina Campodonico

Kaleidoscope plays at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct 7, at First Presbyterian Church, 1220 2nd St., Santa Monica. No RSVP required, but seating is first come, first served. Pay what you can. (323) 795-8001;