Tone to Table Dinner in Traverse City

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Music and food are the newest pairing in the Northern Michigan food scene. Taking place on Thursday, November 20, 2014, Tone to Table is the result of a collaboration between Black Star Farms and Interlochen Arts Academy. The dinner will feature five courses, each course paired with a piece of music selected specifically for the food and performed by students from Interlochen Arts Academy.

“It’s new and different and it touches on the idea of people looking for an experience,” Stephanie Wiitala, Event Manager at Black Star Farms says. “It’s not only fun but memorable. You can go out to eat all the time, but that feeling doesn’t always last. With this dinner we really wanted to offer an experience.”

The idea originated with Matt Schlomer, conductor of the Academy Band and a Saxophone Instructor at Interlochen Arts Academy. Stephanie says that when they met she was immediately on board with the idea.

“‘He said what do you think about pairing food with music?’ and that was all he had to say for me to take it and run with that,” she says. “We are comparing the ingredients that the conductor uses to what a chef does in the kitchen and the two of them [chef and conductor] have pulled different things together to make a finished product.”

Matt has been teaching at Interlochen for a couple of years and holds a doctor of musical arts degree and master of music degree in instrumental conducting.

“For most of my career as a musician I have approached music a little like a menu,” he says. “I choose pieces that are a main focal point or a main course and pair that around other ingredients and music to reveal that main piece in a fresh way. If there are all desserts at a concert isn’t appetizing, but too many courses is too heavy.”

Matt says that the planning for this event has been a three way collaboration between himself, Stephanie and Chef Jonathan Dayton. He began the process by picking out the pieces of music and then sitting down with Jonathan to work out some ingredient ideas.

“As you know from a kitchen standpoint there’s a lot of choreography. We [Chef Jonathan] sat down with each piece of music and I explained to him that we have complete leeway and we could change anything. We would listen to a piece and then look at the ingredients and then we let that kind of percolate,” he says. “He’s been living with the music and developing those ideas and now we are starting to assemble the ideas. It’s been incredibly fun to collaborate with him.”

Tone to Table will take place in the newly renovated Kirkbride Hall at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. The seating is limited for 104 guests so that everyone can fully enjoy the experience.

“It’s brand new, totally beautiful and in the heart of Traverse City,” Stephanie says. “It’s a really nice fit, acoustically it will work well and there is a lot of intrigue and excitement around it. We wanted to keep the seating to a minimum because in a larger venue we were afraid we might lose some of the beauty and intimacy of the group.”

Stephanie says that guests will enjoy a meal, but will also be challenged to think about each pairing.

“Everyone is doing wine and beer pairing dinners. We do that, we have Harvest Dinners, but we thought why not appeal to the senses? We are not only hitting that sense of sound, we are being more intentional about the musical component. We are inviting people and challenging them to think about what the chef and conductor thought about—we want audiences to find a deeper relationship with music.”

There will be breaks between the music to allow guests to discuss the previous course.

“It’s important to socialize and to debrief on their thoughts,” Matt says. “We [Jonathan and Stephanie] will never get to experience our creation. Our satisfaction is what the audience feels.”

The theme of the dinner is landscapes which goes hand in hand with local agricultural products that will be used.

“A large component is working with what is available locally and what is in season now. We feature our local agriculture community as much as we can,” Stephanie says. “Matt has chosen music that is centered around landscapes and thoughts of landscapes. The music will make you think about a vineyard or flowing water— the music and food play off of each other.”

Stephanie says that this will be the first Tone to Table dinner, but not the last and that they are still working out the schedule for a continuation of this series. She also adds that this is an all age dinner, with different pricing for those under 21.

“We really wanted to create an experience that the guests will walk away with. Number one we want them to be blown away and of course we also want them to tell their friends. There are a lot of arts that you can attach to food and in this event we are really making them think outside the box,” she says.

The performers are students ranging from 9-12th graders and according to Matt, are looking forward to performing at the event.

“For the students it’s been fun as we prepare. They say ‘I am so curious what he’s going to make with this.’ It’s causing them to ask questions,” he says. “Artistically we are being backed into a corner. Our music has to be just as flavorful as the food and it has to be distinct. It forces us to get past everything and really go for the artistry which is what we are supposed to be doing anyways.”

 

For more information check out Black Star Farm online.


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