Carpe Diem aims to teach Columbia residents about music

Monday, June 8, 2009 | 5:00 p.m. CDT; updated 5:15 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 8, 2009
Alex Inneco teaches the first in a series of music history classes at Carpe Diem on Locust Street on June 1.

COLUMBIA — Musical impresario Alex Innecco has given Columbia another one of his original recipes — a mix of coffee, cookies, music and art.

Carpe Diem, a new business Innecco owns with Dianna Long, was designed to serve the Columbia community with music appreciation classes, private lessons, and gallery and recital spaces.

Classes Offered at Carpe Diem

There are two four-week classes for June, both located at Carpe Diem, 807 Locust St.

Bach, Beethoven & The Boys: Music History

June 1, 8, 15 and 22

7 to 8:15 p.m.

Screaming Divas: Opera Appreciation

June 2, 9, 16 and 23

Noon to 1:15 p.m.

Each course will cost $59 for all four sessions, or $99 for two people.

You can register over the phone at 268-5989, by email at or in person weekdays, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. at the Law Office of Dianna Long, located at 806 Locust St.

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The small building at the corner of Eighth and Locust streets sports bright blue trim, a cheerful yellow bird mascot and charming window boxes. It’s hard to believe the space used to be a tattoo parlor.

“I want this to be Columbia’s living room. I want people to know they can come here to chat and that there will always be coffee and cookies,” Innecco said. “We want to make art, discuss art and appreciate art."

He has already scheduled a month’s worth of music history and opera appreciation classes, as well as a few “soiree” or recital nights. Innecco said he wants to start slowly as a test before scheduling more events.

“I really want to be able to cater (the schedule) to whoever shows up,” he said.

A class called "Screaming Divas: A Weird History of Opera," for example, began June 2 and continues for three additional Tuesdays at a cost of $59. In a marketing brochure, Inneco described the class: "Enjoy a funny four-session introduction to this incredible art, where plump 70-year-olds play roles of adolescent butterflies."

Also running this month is a class called "Bach, Beethoven and the Boys" on Mondays and Soirees, which are miniature recitals, at 6 p.m. Sundays with coffee and refreshments.

Eventually Innecco hopes to arrange private lessons, music, theater and art appreciation classes, recitals, pre-concert lectures, art exhibits, poetry readings, film viewings and children’s summer camps at Carpe Diem.

Innecco said he wants people to learn that they don’t need to understand everything about art and music to enjoy it.

“People ask, ‘Why is Picasso famous? My 5-year-old can do this. Why is it special?’ I want to tell them why it’s special,” he said.

“You don’t need to be dressed up (to enjoy concerts),” Long said. “People avoid (classical music) because they don’t know about it. They feel intimidated.”

Innecco said he hopes to accomplish this in a fun and entertaining way that engages people and creates relationships around an interest in music and art.

“I have to call it a class because that’s what it is, but I don’t want it to feel like a class. I want people to meet each other. Music is a great excuse to talk,” he said.

Innecco taught the first music history class last week to an audience of 11 adults, most of whom know Innecco from the church choir he directs at Missouri United Methodist Church.

He greeted each person at the door with a hug and a smile. Inside, Long made the rounds, asked students if they wanted a Diet Coke and offered them a cookie or a brownie. Despite covering music from 1000 B.C. Greece to Gregorian chants, the room was lively with discussion and laughter.

Some may call the space cramped, but Innecco finds it intimate. It really seems like a living room.

His comedic methods of teaching included demonstrations of the two types of operatic singing (recitative and aria), comparisons of second-century Paris to modern New York and parallels between French composer Perotin and Elvis.

Gene Ridenhour, a Columbia resident, was in the audience because he loves music and Innecco.

“Columbia is so fortunate to have Alex,” he said. “He has so much knowledge and he’s a wonderful teacher.”

Ridenhour used to teach band and now sings in the church choir that Innecco directs.

Janice Gaston, another Columbia resident, came to give him her support.

“I can always learn something from him,” she said.

The idea for Carpe Diem came from a business he owned in Brasilia, Brazil. The Brazilian version of Carpe Diem reached the goals that Innecco set and served more than 100 students. They watched movies, discussed operas, went to see the operas together and participated in other activities and classes.

Innecco and Long discussed opening such a business in Columbia and kept tabs on available spaces downtown. One day he came across the tattoo parlor on Locust, across the street from Long’s law office. With the idea of checking out the place, Innecco stopped in to visit Long at work.

“I told her I wasn’t sure if it was what we were looking for, but that we should check it out," he said. "Of course she had already made an appointment to see it."

In the current economic climate, Innecco is stepping carefully into his new business venture.

“I’m scared because the start of a business is always scary, but I’m confident," he said. "I’m scared, but it’s time for me to do this."

Innecco hopes news of Carpe Diem will spread once people come and tell their friends about it.

“I’ve had a business before and I know word of mouth works,” he said.

Innecco also started a Web site and an online mailing list to spread the word.

Columbia resident Rochelle Parker heard about the class from Innecco  and came to his class to expand her knowledge of her first love: music.

“It’s a little sanctuary from the day-to-day stress,” she said. “I really think young people could benefit from it, too. If we could expose the troubled youth to more music, the world would just be a better place.”

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