Classical music doesn’t have to be expensive. For the communities of Blue Ash and Montgomery, the local symphony orchestra gives both the audience and their wallets a break.

As Conductor Michael Chertock says, the Blue Ash-Montgomery Symphony Orchestra strives “to provide professional symphonic performances to the public absolutely for free.” These performances are held during the holiday seasons of Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Christmas.

Even though the concerts are free, the quality is high. “A symphony orchestra is a love song from the musicians to the audience,” says Chertock.

Emily Van Niman, who plays second chair oboe and English horn, says she appreciates the enthusiasm of the community. “It’s fabulous that we have the support of Blue Ash and Montgomery… that they love to come out and hear us,” she says.

The symphony orchestra is made up of professional musicians gathered from a variety of musical groups around the area, such as the Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Opera and The Aronoff Center for the Arts. “You don’t always see the same personnel for it,” Van Niman says. “It’s a very great group to play with though.”

The Blue Ash-Montgomery Symphony Orchestra opens its stage for musicians of any age, including young professionals. According to Van Niman, BAMSO hosts annual concerto competitions for young musicians and the winners are invited to perform during a holiday concert. Van Niman says these competitions are a great service to the community. “If you’re a young musician it’s nice to have your start somewhere, and with a great group like Blue Ash it’s nice to be able to do it,” she says.

At every concert, the symphony orchestra works to connect with its audience through the musical pieces. “We do some very complex classical arrangements but, at the same time, we’ll do blockbuster movie themes as well,” says BAMSO Board President Michael Batdorf. “We really try to provide something for everybody.”

Chertock says in the past BAMSO has performed many pieces by Cincinnati composers like Frank Proto, Robert Johnson and Evan Mack. According to Chertock, the orchestra played Frank Proto’s “My Name is Citizen Soldier” in 2004 at the opening of the Freedom Center in downtown Cincinnati.

The orchestra sometimes adds interactive components to its concerts. “We’ve done a lot of fun things with our audience,” says Chertock. Past activities include karaoke, an Elvis impersonator and a hula-hoop contest. Chertock enjoys these activities, saying, “Things like that really connect us to the community.”

The symphony orchestra’s next performance will be its Christmas concert. The Kindel Memorial Holiday Concert is Dec. 7 at the Montgomery Assembly of God Church, and this year’s concert theme is A Celtic Christmas. “We’ll be looking at holiday music from Wales, from Scotland. We’re actually going back quite a bit in history to find that music,” says Batdorf.

According to Batdorf, BAMSO offers a unique experience at each and every concert. “We’re providing an incredibly high quality professional music experience to the community at no cost to the audience,” Batdorf says. “We help families create lasting memories and we’ve been doing that for 27 years.”