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So does TLC. The organization began as a preschool program for troubled kids in 1987 and became a full-service counseling center in 1991. Pam Schneider says she spoke to the mayor's office in January, when she was asked to raise funds for the Peace Initiative independent of the city. "I guess [the city's] just slow at raising funds, so they asked us to do it ourselves."

That's when TLC looked to that great black velvet painting in the sky. TLC knew last year's event had great fund-raising potential but thought that with additional advertising and a little patience the Elvis occasion could grow -- like the King himself -- into something even bigger. A couple hundred people are expected.

Just be leery of anyone in blue suede shoes. You know what'll happen if you step on one.

X Marks the Bard

What better way to turn young people on to classical music than by using a little cross-marketing to get them to listen to it.

Getting twenty- and thirtysomethings to, at least, hear Mendelssohn et al. is the mission of Orchestra X. Generation X's answer to classical music in Houston will come into its third season full of unstuffy, T-shirt-and-jeans programs. First of its offerings is "Shakespeare in Love with Orchestra X," named after the 1998 Oscar-winner for best film. Among others, another is "Amadeus, Madman for the Millennium," and another is "Once Upon a Toon."

Notice anything unusual?

Sure. Even though the music is from the days of carriage-buggies and knickers, the program titles are all in some way tied into the culture of this century and the next. But that's not where the tie-ins stop.

Take this weekend's "Shakespeare in Love with Orchestra X." Orchestra X will be performing at the atrium of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture on the University of Houston campus. For the two nights of the performance, the atrium will be Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Period design and interior accents will mark the transformation.

Also during performances, UH's theater program actors will play out scenes from some of the songs, which are based in title and composition on Shakespeare's work. There's Otto Nicolai's "Merry Wives of Windsor Overture," Mendelssohn's "A Midsummer Night's Dream Overture," Dvorak's "Othello Overture" and Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture."

So there you have music, most of which attempts to translate Shakespeare's words page by page into something auditory, the setting and the visuals. It's classical timelessness in a youthful wrapper.

That's not to say Orchestra X may not have its naysayers. Some say if you need to use gimmickry to attract an audience, you may not attract the audience you want. To this, Orchestra X founder/conductor/artistic director John Axelrod says: "Anyone who says a young audience doesn't have the attention span has dug a grave for classical music. We have an attention span. We just get things quicker. That's it.

"Traditional purists say, 'We're not giving you the opportunity to educate people in a way they'd appreciate, and you're not willing to appreciate it on our terms.' They won't bend, and classical music's in the middle. Their audiences age, the young ones don't get interested, and it dies.

"We don't want that last option to happen."

Cross-marketing is, in Axelrod's opinion, a great way to get new ears.

"In our generation, with all the information we receive, our processing is made up of context," he says. "We see an image, we associate that image with a word. We see a word, we associate that with a feeling. We get a feeling, we associate that with a smell. It allows for a greater processing of information. We're just trying to be more practical."

"Shakespeare in Love with Orchestra X" will be this Friday and Saturday. UH's School of Theatre and College of Architecture scholarship funds will be featured charities.

E-mail Anthony Mariani.

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