EPO’s Bourbon Series pairs spirits with an orchestral chaser

When Roger Kalia was appointed Music Director of the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra in April 2020, he wanted to “dive into the community and reach out to new audiences,” he says. This desire, combined with a love of bourbon, drove him to conceptualize the Bourbon Series for EPO’s 2021-22 season.

The Bourbon Series promises an intimate musical experience, featuring pieces of music that connect to bourbon tastings. The series includes three unique events, the first of which was held in October 2021 at Dusty Barn Distillery in Mount Vernon, Indiana.

The next event, a jazz night at 7 p.m. March 24, will offer dinner and bourbon drinks at Evansville Country Club, 3810 Stringtown Road. The final Bourbon Series event of the season is called “New Perspectives,” and at 7 p.m. on May 26, guests will have the opportunity to hear a new piece of music the EPO has never before performed.

Kalia compares the atmosphere at the Bourbon Series events to being at someone’s home for dinner. At these events, the audience is seated right around the musicians, as opposed to the more traditional seating arrangement at the Victory Theatre.

“It’s very informal, and I did that on purpose,” says Kalia. “I don’t want people to be intimidated by going to a symphony concert show. And I love speaking to the audience, so I always make it a priority to talk to them about the music.”

The events are an educational opportunity as well, as the distiller or bartender discusses different bourbons with guests. After the concert portion, Kalia says the evening becomes conversational and interactive.

The March 24 jazz night will feature a jazz quintet — as opposed to a full orchestra — to further the relaxed environment. The quintet will feature Monte Skelton playing saxophone, Nick Recktenwald on trumpet, Tom Drury on piano, Jon Hyneman on bass, and Todd Sheehan on drums.

Kalia says another programming consideration is how to best showcase the EPO musicians, as they appreciate the opportunity to play with a smaller group.

“This is something completely new and different for the EPO,” he says. “Our audience will have the opportunity to not only listen to great music, but also to meet our wonderful musicians, and I look forward to meeting as many people as I can.”

Interested in attending the Bourbon Series? Tickets can be purchased on EPO’s website. If you can’t make it this season, have no fear: Kalia says the EPO intends to continue the series in the 2022-23 season.


Photo by Daniel Knight, Studio B Photography.

Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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