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Octave 9: a cozy, high-tech place for kids and families to learn about music



Seattle Symphony’s new venue Octave 9 hosts an instrument "petting zoo" that’s always a hit with the littles.

PHOTO: CARLIN MA

 

In its opening week, Seattle Symphony’s Octave 9 hosted a family open house, a banquet dinner, a lecture, a chamber concert, rehearsals — even a nightclub complete with a DJ.

Octave 9 replaces the Symphony’s beloved Soundbridge, a space dedicated to teaching kids about music. Soundbridge closed in June 2017 and reopened as Octave 9 this March, a $6.7 million redesign four years in the making. Located in the lower level of Benaroya Hall, kitty-corner from City Target, it’s a cozy space tricked out with super high-tech audio-visual equipment.

When you walk into Octave 9, the only clue that it’s not just any ordinary room is the honeycomb design on the ceiling. Disguised inside that felt structure is a whole lot of technology: 10 projectors, 62 microphones, 10 subwoofer speakers and a circular track that can hold 13 big projector screens.

The system uses a network of computers to alter sound digitally, so what you see isn’t what you hear. Put it on “sacred setting” and instantly, sounds reverberate as though you were in a cathedral, with the ceiling lifted 100 feet up.

“It’s been fun to put together,” says Laura Reynolds, vice president of education and community engagement. “What I love about this room is we can be flexible. And while we have incredible technology powering the room, the purpose of the space isn’t about showcasing technology, it’s about creating shared musical experiences together.”

Soundbridge focused on early childhood education and community engagement. Octave 9 will continue everything Soundbridge did, plus give the Symphony flexibility to reach different audiences. One new function is serving as a performance space for younger composers, whose work isn’t heard on the main stage yet.

At a recent family open house, Octave 9 was set up for kids to explore. A long craft table flanked one side of the room, and volunteers on the other end invited kids to try out the violin and cello. At the front, the score to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” lit up on the 8-panel LCD screen. Most of the kids were eager to compose their own works on marimbas and boomwhackers.

“It’s exciting that we can create this beautiful home for our community to welcome families, schools, and nonprofits,” Reynolds says. “And when we think about the future of music, all the kids here are part of that future.”

 

See it for yourself: Family programming at Octave 9

Open houses following Tiny Tots and Family Concerts. Free RSVPs online (you don’t have to attend the concert first).

First Concert series, a 30-minute performance geared toward kids ages 3-5. Concerts held Saturday mornings, tickets $12.

Sensory-friendly concerts designed for kids on the autism spectrum, hosted by music therapist Mike Thomas. June’s performance will feature the horn section. Concerts held Saturday mornings, tickets $12.

 


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