Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
February 22, 2021
Joshua Axelrod

Classical music in Pittsburgh has gotten way more cinematic during the pandemic.

With live concerts silenced, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has engaged its audience with “Front Row,”a six-part digital concert series that combines music, cinematography and some of Western Pennsylvania’s most iconic landmarks.

Since the series began in the fall, PSO boosters have enjoyed seeing symphony musicians in both familiar and unfamiliar places on the PSO’s website and its new digital platform. Fans of these performance-film hybrids can thank Flying Scooter Productions, a Pittsburgh film studio owned by two local women who partnered with the PSO to create the first half-dozen Front Row episodes.

“We wanted to bring joy and give an idea of wonderment,” said Jennifer Schlieper, Flying Scooter’s co-owner and creative director. “We wanted everyone to be close to the musicians and for it to feel very intimate.”

Schlieper has been running Flying Scooter for four years with co-owner and executive producer Courtney Gumpf. The two are both Pittsburgh natives who worked together at a previous job and left on the same day to launch Flying Scooter.

It turned out that Schlieper’s background in branding and business was a perfect match for Gumpf’s production work on local commercials and a stint freelancing with Mosser Casting in Lawrenceville. Other projects included an April PSA about the importance of staying home with cameos from many Pittsburgh celebrities.

Flying Scooter became part of the Front Row team via their connection with board member Bob McCutcheon. Their final episode in the series will premiere at the PSO’s 125th-anniversary celebration on Saturday and will be available publicly March 11.

“This has been an amazing partnership with them,” said Aleta King, PSO’s vice president of marketing and sales. “Heart, soul, everything put into this. This is a group that brought it all to the table and then some. I was blown away by that.”

King praised Flying Scooter’s “documentary-style presentation of our music.” The episodes feature PSO musicians playing in Heinz Hall, the Andy Warhol Museum, August Wilson House and Fallingwater. Performances are interspersed with interviews with prominent folks in the local arts scene.

PSO’s goal was to “to be out there for our community and lift up other voices in our community,” King said.

“I think what I learned was the sense of community and pride of being from Pittsburgh for everyone,” Gumpf said. “Mister Rogers just loved it. Andy Warhol had such a connection here. So many people sometimes forget that all these greats come from Pittsburgh, but they have such a pride for it.”

Schlieper hopes Front Row can serve as a teaching tool.

“If you don’t know classical or pops or jazz, this is a place to learn about it and also learn about all these other incredible people around our city that make this city a beautiful place to do art and be a part of culture. I think that was the intent and we accomplished it.”

PSO officials said they hope to work with Flying Scooter post-pandemic.

“This has been a fantastic partnership so far,” King said, “and we may definitely see a Flying Scooter-PSO collaboration in the future.”