Beethoven's Night of Fashion

Project Beethoven's contemporary touch makes symphony experience exciting and accessible

On February 3 at Symphony Hall, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) will be showcasing works by fashion students from around the Boston area. Project Beethoven, the BSO’s third annual fashion contest, is a part of Symphony+, which features pre- and post-concert events for patrons of the symphony. Last year, the fashion contest was called “Project Tchaikovsky;” in its first year, it was named “Project Mozart.”

Each year, contestants are asked to design a piece of evening wear inspired by the given composer. The selected designs are then featured in a fashion show at Symphony Hall, paired with a performance of the composer’s music by the BSO. This year, the BSO will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with pianist Radu Lupu. “What happens is before the concert on February 3, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., the models stroll through the hall and the public spaces, and the patrons who come at that time can vote for their favorites,” says Sarah L. Manoog, the BSO’s Director of Marketing who developed Project Mozart three years ago. There will also be a panel of judges from various members of the fashion and music community in Boston. The winner will be announced at a post-concert event in Higginson Hall.

Project Beethoven and its past incarnations hoped to provide a large creative space for its contestants. “The assignment is very open and gives a lot of room for interpretation,” says Manoog. “Some people take it very literally, and they really listen to the music and design evening wear that has music notes on it.”

Others, like Maria E. Canada, a second-year student at Rhode Island School of Design, took a more historical approach to Project Beethoven. She chose to focus on Beethoven himself. “The design stemmed from that classic portrait of Beethoven with him in the red cravat and the black coat,” says Canada. “I decided to draw my inspiration for the design from his actual portrait and attempt to put that into the modern-day evening wear.” By providing such a broad creative outlet, Project Beethoven and its predecessors give fashion students around Boston a special venue to flex their creative muscles. “I’m in my first year, so I’m doing a lot of technical training. For me it was a chance to do something that would be more creative,” says Canada.

Symphony+ events such as Project Beethoven also give patrons of the BSO an experience that differs from an ordinary visit to the symphony. “One feedback that we got is that it gave patrons something to talk about one another during the modeling time,” says Manoog. “There’s a great camaraderie and excitement, whereas typically before a concert people are more to themselves.”

Project Beethoven also opens the doors of Symphony Hall for people not usually drawn to the BSO. “We get a lot of students, and friends of the designers who have been selected,” says Manoog. “The people of the fashion community in the Boston scene also really like to come.”

—Staff writer Susie Y. Kim can be reached at


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