By: Drew Henry
With a dream to blend classical and modern music for new audiences, Elizabeth Fildes partnered with a Clemson graduate and the Peace Center to host a pop-up concert spanning 200 years of music.
On Saturday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m., the historic site of Greenville, South Carolina’s Southern Weaving Company — and current campus of RingoFire — opened its doors to over 75 guests for an intimate pop-up music experience, blending the beats of a lively nightclub DJ with the notes of a classical pianist. The unique event was titled “Common Thread.” The idea came to Elizabeth Fildes, a Clemson MBA in Entrepreneurship & Innovation student, during one of her first cohort classes with Professor Gail DePriest and was brought to life with support from the Clemson network.
“The evening was simply magical,” Fildes explained. “There was a moment when it all just hit me that this was really happening. You can visualize a concept, but you don’t know how the energy will feel until people start showing up and engaging.”
The historic mill was transformed into a lively, speakeasy-style nightclub, setting the stage for the cohesive yet unexpected mix of modern DJ remixes and a classical piano concert by award- winning musician and Steinway Artist Henry Kramer. Guests had the opportunity to mingle, dance, imbibe and appreciate a span of music genres side by side.
“The intent was for guests to connect to, rather than categorize, music,” added Fildes. “We tend to box ourselves into genres, and many younger people don’t approach classical music outside of Spotify playlists for studying or clips they use on social media. This event broke down some of those barriers to take attendees on a journey.”
The event’s “common thread” theme went well beyond finding the connection between musical styles. The concert title also honors the ties of the Clemson network and Greenville’s interwoven history with music and arts.
“I had visualized this concept a couple of years back upon first moving to Greenville and starting the Clemson MBA program,” explained Fildes. “I was inspired by the city’s deep music culture and how it related to my own background in classical music. I felt the community would embrace an event like this, and I was able to lean on my professors and classmates for support to make it happen.”
Through professor introductions and cohort networking events, Fildes met the two key players she could partner with to make her vision a reality: Brian Stearns, Clemson graduate and founder and CEO of RingoFire, and Megan Riegel, president and CEO of the Peace Center. With a shared love of music and community, the team set out to create the experience together.
“The RingoFire team came up with the event’s title,” said Fildes. “We hosted it on their campus, an old weaving mill. Common Thread honored the history of the space, the connections of the music and also our goal to weave together the community.”
The event title also acknowledges the “common threads” of the Clemson network and what can be created when a talented group comes together.
“The support of RingoFire and the Peace Center made this event possible,” Fildes added. “I drew upon lessons from the Clemson curriculum, introductions to community leaders by my professors and the encouragement of my cohort. I remember Matthew Klein, Ph.D. telling us not to wait until after graduation to stand something up but rather to start now while we can lean on our professors and classmates. That was inspiring advice that pushed Common Thread forward for me.”
With a welcomed response from the community, Fildes hopes to build upon Common Thread and host new concert events in the future. Until then, she has another exciting opportunity on the horizon. Before MBAe completion, she was offered a chief marketing and communication officer position with Ravinia Festival, a nonprofit concert series based out of Highland Park, Chicago. This new position blends her love of music, business and community. She looks forward to creating even more memorable music events with the organization.
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