‘Music Under Glass’ offers concerts in floral setting

Hovering just beyond the edge of Marquette’s campus, the domes of the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory have long faded against the Milwaukee skyline. It’s likely many students have never ventured out to the city landmarks, or even know why they ever would.

Yet the Domes have found a renewed sense of growth beyond their tropical orchids and arid shrubs — and with it a new sort of purpose for the Milwaukee community.

Desiring to reach out and expand its business to a broader demographic, the Mitchell Park Domes, 524 S. Layton Blvd., started an evening concert series called “Music Under Glass,” now in its second year, that has swept up the city.

John Baudry, head of marketing for the Mitchell Park Domes, said his team initially thought of creating a fresh business plan to give people more opportunities to experience the domes, specifically those who work all day and cannot visit during normal hours.

After renovating its Floral Show Dome with the addition of over 400 LED lights, the Domes hosted their first concert in January 2009, featuring light shows alongside with the music.

“We wanted to add a little splash to it — a little more color and make it an event-type thing,” Baudry said.

It added much more than a splash, however. Baudry described that first night as a “smashing success,” and since, the concerts have continued to surge in both attendance and energy.  The success of the first season even prompted a second concert series last October, and Tuesday nights were added to the calendar to join the original Thursday nights that instantly became popular.

This season, Baudry said a typical night garners anywhere between 500 and 700 people — from toddlers and children to college students and recent grads, and even senior citizens.

“We try to make sure we have something for everyone,” Baudry said.

Baudry and his team have aimed a substantial portion of their publicity efforts directly towards college students, tapping into both Facebook and Twitter along with radio ads and billboards.

“College kids love it because it’s a cheap night out — and it’s close,” Baudry said.

When recruiting bands, the Domes can wait for groups to come to them.  With its reputation gaining steady momentum throughout Milwaukee, Baudry said at least two or three bands contact them each week with an interest in performing.  The music varies, so each night seems to feature a different genre, with everything from bluegrass and polka to R&B, jazz, classic rock and music of the 1980s.

Patricia Kay, 45, has attended nearly all of the “Music Under Glass” concerts and marvels at the medley of entertainment that the Domes offer.

“The variety of music is just excellent,” Kay said.

She highly recommends a concert as the perfect event for a first date.

“If I’m going to have a first date, this is where I’m going to go,” Kay said.

Between the Floral Show Dome, where all the action takes place, and the Tropical and Arid Domes, which stay open during each performance, the venue presents a convenient balance between high-energy entertainment and relaxation.

“It’s a very unassuming, comfortable place to be,” Kay said.

It also remains an ideal escape from the arctic conditions of Milwaukee.

Peter Lepkowski, who works with Baudry in the marketing department, compares the temperature and feel of the domes to the tropics.

“In the winter, it’s a nice cozy place to go for entertainment,” Lepkowski said.

“Music Under Glass” concerts run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  Tuesdays and Thursdays through March 18 and cost $5 with a student ID.  The Domes cater food and alcoholic drinks for those of age as well.