Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Private Music Lessons: Albert & Alice

I want to thank guest writer, Wen Chung for today's submission. Wen volunteers in our office every week for a couple hours. When he is not volunteering his time, he's often teaching local clarinet, saxophone, and piano students. This is his story.

"Over years of teaching private music lessons to kids, I have met quite a few interesting students and parents. I thought it might be fun to share with everyone since I was honored to be invited being a guest writer for Daniel‘s blog. Here is one of my favorite (or not) family. They are definitely not a typical Chinese family.

"Albert started his saxophone lessons with me when he was 11 years old. I was teaching at one of the local music studios at that time. He had taken some piano lessons, flute lessons at the same studio before he came to me for saxophone lesson so some other teachers knew about him. At first I thought he was just a child who liked to have fun, joking around. He was a little weird but nothing serious happened during the lesson back then although his former flute teacher told me that she thought Albert had some mental development problem.

"One day I was teaching a student who came before Albert’s lesson, someone was hitting the wall outside of my room. I opened the door and found that Albert did that. I asked him to stop and he agreed. Moments later, he did it again. I tried to be nice the second time. By the third time, I couldn't stand it anymore. I yelled at him to stop him from doing that again. I wanted to kick his butt, but I couldn't because I didn't want to be sued. I told his mom what happened but she did nothing about it. The same thing happened for a few more times and finally he stopped because he didn't think it was fun anymore.

"After about a year, his mom asked me to come to their house to teach because Albert’s sister Alice who was in high school would like to take piano lessons. I thought it would be worth it to make a trip for two kids so I agreed. Alice was a very rebellious girl. I think the problem was how their mother treated her. The mother favored Albert a lot. She treated Albert like a 5-year-old boy even though he was in middle school then but she always yelled at Alice for anything she did. So mother and daughter yelled at each all the time even in front of me. Once during the piano lesson with Alice, she was arguing with her mom as usual. Alice was so mad and she said “Screw You!” to her mom. I couldn't believe Alice actually said that. But the even more shocking thing was that her mom didn't say anything and didn't look any more upset. After the lesson, I thought to myself maybe Alice‘s mom didn't understand what that meant. Her mom is from Taiwan. I guess she didn't learn that expression before.

"After we finished the piano lesson, Alice went into her study room where her mom was there doing some stuff. I started the saxophone lesson with Albert in the living room. Not long after that, they started screaming at each other again. Alice started crying and screaming like her mom was torturing her. It was so scary I thought she might have killed Alice. I almost called 911. Strangely enough, Albert seemed to be used to this kind of screaming.

"During one lesson with Albert, he spat on my face. I was furious and asked him why he did that. And he was just smiling at me like it was funny. He probably thought that he was just playing with me. I told his mom about it but all she did was asking Albert not to do that again in a very soft voice.

"After three years, they finally decided to discontinue the lessons. I felt so relieved when their mother told me that. I never found out what Albert’s problem was but I am just glad that I don’t have to deal with them anymore."

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Board Retreats & Mountain Men

My desk serves as the inspiration for my news today: an excellent article from Barry Hessenius about board retreats and the story of a couple men that went up a mountain.

Barry’s Blog is an art policy and administration blog, written and sponsored by Barry Hessenius, former Director of the California Arts Council. He has a keen insight for what is happening in the arts today. More on him here.

It is always comforting for me to read about other non-profits and realize that we all face the same issues. Reading Barry's Blog helps to remind me of best practices that are put into use in the arts industry.

By the way, his blog is hosted by the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), a 501(c)3 organization located in Denver, Colorado dedicated to the creative advancement and preservation of the arts. In this issue, he discusses his experiences with board retreats. You can read it by clicking here.

Two men climbed up a mountain to settle an argument. Each was convinced of their point of view. While it is true that music depends greatly on the perspective of the listener, they were able to come to a consensus.What do you think? Does it "sound better rolled up?"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Collaborations and Space

Howdy to everyone out in internet land. Once again, I took a little break from writing. Glad to back to it though. Just moved last weekend to a new apartment in Mountain View. That–along with QUADRE's recent concert with Richard King–has inspired the topics today: Space and Collaboration.

Never can have enough space, can you. As I emptied my 5x10 storage space and moved into my new place, I came to wonder how I had acquired so much stuff. Do I really need six ponchos? When will I ever come to need a double cassette player again? And who had the bright idea of starting a hat collection?

In terms of the group, we've gathered our fair amount of stuff over the years. With our tenth anniversary coming up this February (this won't be the last time I mention it-get your balloons ready!), I have seen the ensemble buy all sorts of things over the years. Our collection of stuff includes: 3000 of our albums, 100 demo cassette tapes, 10 music stands, 4 stools, dozens of various percussion, embroidered apparel galore, videos, posters, cups, plates, napkins, and a lifesize cut-out of Nathan Pawelek (don't ask.) Add on top of that my music library that includes all our horn quartet repertoire (over 200 titles) plus various other combinations (over 200 more), and you have a lot of stuff.

This week we were considering moving all of it into a storage unit. (Currently it occupies the basement at my parent's house - Thanks Mom and Dad.) The cost - $83/month for a 5x6x10 space with a light. If you're interested, they have 6 units available at Stowit Mini Storage in Mountain View. However, it looks like it is going to stay in the basement for now which saves the group $1000/year.

However, one must ask why? Why do we seem, as a society, in love with our stuff? We gather up stuff every chance we get only to have to find a place to put it. And we seem to be getting more enamored each decade. Back in the 1960s, storage facilities didn't exist. In 2001, Public Storage which operates over 2000 storage centers nationwide posted sales over $800 million. Along with its competitors, that is over a billion dollars spent to store extra stuff!! Where is the fun in it all.

I'm afraid I don't have any answers. However, I, for one am going to try and eliminate the clutter by giving my stuff to other people. I figure why deal with the problem when you can just pass the buck, right? It will all work itself out in land fills and incinerators I'm sure. Until then, do you have any free space? I got a bunch of great hats and ponchos that you would love.

Over the years, QUADRE has had the opportunity to work with some truly amazing artists. These enriching artistic endeavors help to give your art context. For instance, working with a dance troupe makes you understand the relationship between your music and their movement and, in turn, gives you a chance to reflect on how your music is expressed by itself. Additionally, the talents and different perspectives that collaborators bring to the table is immense.

Our organization has primarily had other horn players as collaborators. Some of the individuals that we've had the pleasure to work with include: Michael Thompson, Richard Watkins, Bill Bernatis, Douglas Hull and Robert Watt. Most recently, Richard King joined the ensemble for two works as part of the Music in the Vineyards summer festival in Napa, CA. Each of these experiences has been completely unique and enriching. The group dynamic of a chamber music ensemble can be a delicate thing at times, so adding another person to the mix can be a challenge. However, we've been fortunate not to have any jerks work with us yet. (Keeping my fingers crossed on that one.)

In addition to horn players, we've worked with vocalists, pianists, tuba players, symphony orchestras, jazz bands, and wind ensembles as well as a couple dance companies. The most important thing is to keep the lines of communication open and be willing to embrace a new artistic viewpoint. Half the fun is enjoying the shared moment of mutual creativity. Even if you have no idea how the product is going to turn out.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Perspective and Polygamy

Hope everyone is having a good week. I took a little break from the writing. Been crazy busy the last couple weeks. This week I introduce some musings of my own.

I've come to believe that most of the problems in the world today could be solved with perspective. Now, I'm not talking about a perspective where everyone sees their environment as it relates to chamber music. I may be optimistic, but I'm not nuts. While I love what we do, I recognize that it is a small niche in the grand scheme of things. No, the perspective I'm thinking of is where everyone is always aware how truly vast the universe is.

The fact that the hunk of rock that we are on called Earth is the only hunk of rock we have at our disposal should make some people think a little before they act. It appalls me to no end at how short-sighted us humans can be. "Let's toss junk in the water. Nature will fix it." "Let's go to war, because war always solves problems." "Let's spend money on the latest gadget and gizmo. We'll just throw away our old gadget we bought 3 years ago and have it join millions of other gadgets in landfill."

The funny thing about perspective though, is that we all have at least one. And even if we all used them from time to time, none of our perspectives are going to agree most of the time. That's why I say that we focus on just the "vast universe" one. We may not get anything done and just lie down in despair. However, we'll definitely kill less and ruin our planet more slowly. Just a thought.

In my effort to have alliteration in the title, this topic popped into my head. Why? I don't know. Needless to say, it has little to do with chamber music or horn quartets. Oh well, it is more exciting than talking about plugs or pebbles.

I don't know about you, but I can barely handle myself - let alone the thought of having multiple wives. How is it done? Well, I have some ideas on the matter:

1. Excellent Time Management
To be a good polygamist, you better have incredible skills at keeping to a schedule.

2. Superb Organization Skills
If you can't keep track of your life, then this is not for you.

3. Amazing Memory
Nothing worse than remembering you did or did not tell someone something after you did or did not tell them.

4. Strong Improvisational Skills
Thinking on your feet would be a must. If you get caught in a weird situation, you'll need to figure out a way out of it.

5. Incredible Stamina
I know what it can be like to be in one relationship. Going for 2, 3, or more must be like professionally playing basketball, baseball, and football every year.

So, if you're considering going this route, take a good hard look at these skills and make sure you're up to the task. Don't say I didn't warn you. Good Night, and Good Luck.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Digital Downloads and Engaging Art

Hello everyone. This week's installment is care of two emails in the inbox. Nothing like electronic inspiration!

QUADRE's music from its latest CD, Citrus can now be downloaded electronically from PayPlay.fm - an MP3 download store that is selling our music as part of CD Baby's Digital Distribution.

They work kind of like Apple's iTunes except that there is no software that needs to be installed. As CD Baby's CEO, Derek Sivers says, "They've got a nice easy-to-use website that is a great no-nonsense place to send fans that want to buy your MP3s. And since they're regular MP3 files, they'll work in every computer, and any portable player."

So if you know anyone that loves to download MP3 files, point them to PayPlay. They have a huge selection.

Douglas McLennan has written a new book titled, Engaging Art: The Next Great Transformation of America's Cultural Life. View abstracts of the book by clicking here. I especially found chapter 4 to be compelling as it discussed how the culture of the arts has changed into passive and active models of participation. I feel strongly that the more one engages with the audience through the given art form, the more connected and satisifed the patrons are. Rather than watch the canvas come alive before my eyes, I'd rather be the canvas.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Music in the Schools and Publishing

This week's tidbits are inspired by the emails I've received in the last 48 hours. Now how did we get on before email came along? I wonder.

Melissa Hendrickson, a former member of QUADRE from 1998-2001, sent me this wonderful link for a blog she frequents. The author who goes by tristero makes reference to an individual who believes schools should do away completely with all fictional content. Tristero's response, I believe, is completely inspired! :-) Another blog that also offers a response is written by Chad Orzel. His blog is here.

You may wonder how the music that gets played in our concerts gets in the hands of the artists. Well, for music that has been written and performed before, much of it is available to purchase from a music store. Like a bookstore, the music store buys their music from publishers. In the case of a lot of the music QUADRE plays though, it is unpublished. We have to call up friends of friends to get music that some woman who plays the horn in Canada has written. Or it is a piece that one of us in the group composed. In the case of the latter, I am starting to get each of them published with Emerson Horn Editions in Colorado.

The first work to be published is Reason to Rhyme by yours truly. It will be available to purchase for the first time at the International Horn Symposium in Switzerland mid-July. After almost ten years, it is nice to see our music make its way into the hands of horn enthusiasts.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Queries and Creation

QUADRE Queries
One of things that fascinates me is how we interpret our world. It seems that there as many perspectives as people on the planet. There are certainly tastemakers that influence our views, but by in large, I feel we each have a source of worldly insight that is unique given our upbringing, milieu, and experience.

For this reason, asking questions about the horn and music seem like a great opportunity to see some of those perspectives come to light. One of the pages on our ensemble's website is dedicated to these questions and answers. It is our QUADRE Queries page. For a laugh check it out here. And I pose a challenge to each of you - think of a question you'd like some perspective on and ask ten people independently. At the very least, it should provide a sense of connection between you and these ten individuals. At the most, you'll gain insights into your character and theirs. Good luck!

Composing for the Masses
Success is in the eye of the beholder. We live in a world where one hit wonders abound. Where the latest and greatest artists on the pop circuit today, may be a distant memory tomorrow. With these high peaks and deep valleys, how does a modern day "classical" composer function?

My first thought as one of those aforementioned composers is to just compose whatever comes to mind and disregard the establishment. However, I think that if one takes this approach a lot of opportunities can be missed. For example, a local brass quintet may want or better yet, need, a new piece for their concert. Do you turn down the work based on the fact that you're in the thick of constructing your requiem?

On the other hand, I think that bowing continually to societal pressures and composing what you think people will want is a recipe for artistic failure as well. While the monetary rewards may be great, I think taking such an approach can prevent the composer from finding their voice and establishing their style.

I think there can be a wonderful compromise in the middle that doesn't impinge upon a composer's aesthetics and allows them to be flexible to their artistic climate. What do I speak of? Why, the village bard of course!

These qualities seem central to the village bard's repertoire:

1. Finding the connections between their art and the community
2. Free expression of their thoughts and feelings
3. Learning to move on if the present crowd isn't into their style

The world has become so large, why not simplify it by bringing back the village bard. I'm all for it. Let the strings be strum.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Artists in Today's World and Momentum

Artists in Today's World
Check out this article forwarded by Derek Sivers of CD Baby. Fabulous piece about independent artists in today's world. Click here to read all about it.

On Friday May 11, I spoke on a panel for the arts in Mountain View. The panel was brought together by Leadership Mountain View and moderated by Patricia Cheng, a local pianist. My hat is off to the great artists and arts organizations we have here in Mountain View. Participants on the panel included Scott Whisler, Executive Director of the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts; Jeffry Walker, Executive Director of the Community School of Music and Arts; Karen Simpson, Executive Director of Peninsula Youth Theatre; Phil Santora, Manager Director for TheatreWorks and Laura Deem, a local visual artist.

I found the discussions and ideas raised from the panel very illuminating. Questions like how are the arts relevant to our community, what would be an ideal future for the arts, and what does it take to create an atmosphere of creativity were raised. We even started a dialogue about the formation of a Mountain View Art Collective. We'll see how that develops.

In addition to the panel in the morning, each Leadership Mountain View (LMV) student chose a local non profit arts organization (either PYT, TheatreWorks, Quadre, or CSMA) to research. In the afternoon, the LMV students went over to Freestyle Academy where they worked with those students to create a public service announcement (PSA) based on the question, "Why is X organization important to Mountain View?".

I got a chance to hear and see the Quadre PSA done by LMV and Freestyle students in the afternoon. (Thanks to Sharlene Gee for getting it.) It went like this: "Caltrain's not the only horn in Mountain View... QUADRE - The Voice of Four Horns." Very clever.

There is an audio clip that goes with the slogan. Be sure to check it out by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Will virtual sounds replace live music?

Last weekend I received an email from a student at Los Altos High School asking me for my thoughts on "digital music." He was trying to figure out if live music will be replaced by virtual sounds. What follows is a copy of the letter on the subject. By the way, this is certainly a great topic to utilize the comments feature on this blog. Hint, hint. :-)

(Written by Daniel Wood to a HS student in Los Altos, CA)
Glad you're taking this topic on. A great many people in the American Federation of Musicians have been talking about this for years. However, some of the recent advancements in technology have created an environment with disturbing trends. Synthesizers have reduced the numbers of musicians in Broadway pit orchestras. Musician unions, under pressure, reduced the minimum number of musicians required for services. Samples of live musicians utilized in notated programs such as Sibelius and Notion now offer the ability to tap a tempo with real-time playback thus allowing one person to literally tap an entire score.

For more information
1. Call the SF Musicians' Union (415)575-0777. Ask them for more resources on this topic.
2. Investigate the software NOTION online. There are higher end products out there that can do the same things with much more realistic results. However, this will give you a feel for it. Scroll down to hear Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker using this software.


Q) Do you believe that digital music can replace an orchestral sound?

A) I feel that, ultimately, digital music can get incredibly close to replicating an orchestral sound. If samples using live musicians are used, it can be very convincing. I heard a score at the beginning of April that sounded very realistic. It was a trailer for a movie. The composer was in Utah and was pitching the idea to a producer in Los Angeles. He did it in one night. It wasn't quite right, but very close. Enough to get the job.

The one thing that digital music will take a long time to do is interpret the same performance differently. Variety is a quality that some of us hold very dear. It will be a while yet until digital music not only replicates the sound accurately, but interprets the music in the myriad of ways that live musicians do.

That said, digital music is already replacing orchestral sounds on albums for rock, country, r&b, classical, jazz, soul, etc. If the audience isn't discerning or doesn't care, it is hard to justify the extra expense of hiring an entire orchestra for a studio session or tour.

Q) Do you think the increase in use of digital music has made it harder for you to find employment as a musician?

A) My focus is on solo performances and chamber music. I have never relied on studio work, musical theater, symphonic work, opera or ballet as a means of income. Also, I utilize digital music technology in my solo shows a great deal, so for me, I've actually seen more opportunities emerge as a live musician with the advancements.

That said, I have noticed trends in the employment for my peers and colleagues. The hardest hit has been studio work. When a visual component serves as the dominant medium of an art form, then all other aspects - such as audio - become secondary. This can also be said for modern-day musical theater.

While there has been a reduction in services and size of the ensemble from time to time for symphonic, opera and ballet work, I do not believe that digital music has been the primary cause for this trend. While opera and ballet do have a strong visual component, I think that since these arts forms are more traditional and fine art in nature the music gets equal footing.

Q) What kinds of new things has digital music enabled to you to do in the creation of music?

A) Live looping. Playing with an accompaniment. Ability to hear ones composition in a way that somewhat reflects how it will ultimately sound. Effects - reverb, delay, distortion, etc.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Grant us this Day our Daily Nuggets

Ah, life in the fast lane. I can tell we are all getting ready to wrap up the spring and head into Summer. The season of barbecues, shorts, and swimming. It is also the season of grants. A time to take a break from the business of the year and prepare for the next. So in preparation for the season, here are a couple of nuggets I learned about the grant-making process after attending the Arts Council Silicon Valley's panel review for their Community Arts Fund.

How you look is so important!! People size you and your organization up first by what they see. The other four senses rarely get the first swing at the bat. So, always have lots of photos (color preferably), video, and text that is easy to summarize from a first glance. Time is such a commodity these days, so it is critical for a company and especially an arts organization that presents musical (audio-driven) performances to display a clean and consistent look that speaks to the organization's quality, mission, and passion. In our YouTube world, the people that evaluate you–reviewers, colleagues, and the general audience–need to see the most compelling visuals possible so that they can break from their routine and pay attention.

"To be a good non-profit, you should embrace your mission passionately and reach your constituents effectively. To be a great non-profit, you should do the same and have the documentation to back it up." I'd say we're right in between. And after seeing the panel at the Arts Council Silicon Valley meeting stress the documentation that was or wasn't provided from each applicant, I realize that this piece of the puzzle is critical to folks that can't be there on the front lines to observe all the good that is happening. After visual aids, this is the second highest item on the totem pole for the uninitiated. Whether it be surveys, first-hand accounts, or reviews, an outside observer needs to weigh in to provide creditability to a project. After all, it makes sense. Think about the last time you saw a movie. You caught an ad on TV, saw a billboard, or watched a preview in the theater. All visual stimuli. You may have read a review in the paper or had a friend tell you how great it was. Both are reviews (documentation). Then you decided to see the movie. I'll bet that 9 times out of 10 these are the two primary reasons we are motivated to go to a theater. Things like subject matter and skill are important, but I think visuals and reviews set the stage. If the visuals and positive reviews aren't there, it is going to be a huge challenge for the subject matter or skill to overcome the first impression.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Systems and Language

Occasionally I muse about curious things. At least, I think they're curious. For example, why do fences matter to some and not others? Or, who was the first person to say "by jove?" This week my thoughts fell upon systems and language.

I've become a big believer in systems. Should you take a stroll by the QUADRE office, you'll notice that my fervor is born out. Major things have binders. To be a major thing, you have to belong to either sales, grants, or general admin. Each binder has a to-do list so I can keep track of everything. And each item on the to-do lists have a priority and ease number associated with it. A 1 priority is urgent, 5 not so. A 1 ease of use is simple while 5 is hard and complicated. Dates are attached to everything as well.

There is also a Macro To-Do List to keep track of the big things that need to be done over the course of the year. This includes conference, major grant and advertising deadlines as well as event details that recur every year. Since every to-do item is associated with something, there are also files to store this information. The files include jobs (past, current, and proposed); marketing; contacts; clients; grants; fundraising; publishing; non-profit governance; resources; and my personal favorite, miscellaneous.

With limited time every week in the office (got to continue to make a living doing other things for the time being), I make sure to tackle all the lists regularly and consistently. As much as I would love to do all the easy things first, the hard stuff is usually what makes the difference in the long run.

I find language to be such a tricky thing. Being as sarcastic as I am, I know I don't help matters. However, with email, phone, and text messaging being so prevalent today, it is so important to be clear in our language to convey accurately what we mean. In my case, I know that I have emailed every member of QUADRE at some point and-in my zeal to express myself completely-have managed to convey the opposite from what I mean.

Why? Because words are tricky. They can be interpreted two or more different ways half the time. For example, let's take the common phrase, "See you later." Do I mean that I will actually see you in the future? And how soon will it be? If I just mean "see" in a figurative sense, how will the communication continue instead? Also, what tone was used? Did I say it with a happy spring to my step or as a depressed and tormented artist? If you type it, one never knows.

To add to the confusion, I suffer from what some of my friends call "Daniel-isms." simply put, I use words that very few other people use or that don't exist at all. Two recent examples that I'm trying to coax out of my vocabulary include "irregardless" and "gals." My colleagues have fun with them and thank goodness they know me. The rest of the public at large, however, probably just think I have a screw or two loose. In turn, when I talk or type to this population, I end up being interpreted incorrectly or get written off as a dodo. Ah, what to do.

So, the moral (or as I used to say, morality) of it all is, speak and type like Ernest Hemingway. Keep it simple. Have a great day. Enjoy your week. Try to use "gal" in a sentence. Cheers.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

By Hook and By Crook, By Bell and Buy Book

This week's focus revolves around two interesting issues that look seemingly unrelated, but have more in common than we care to think. The issues revolve around how philanthropy can change a community for the better while at the same time our society's value-to constantly achieve and want more-blinds us to these positive changes. So I give you a book and a bell.

Another wonderful reference from our volunteer, Sharlene Gee, this text speaks to how donors, boards, and nonprofit organizations can transform communities. Written by Kay Sprinkel Grace and Alan L. Wendroff, you can learn more about the book and order your copy by clicking here.

Mat Croft, one of QUADRE's artists for those not in the know, sent me the following article from the Washington Post. The paper tried an experiment. What if you took one of the world's greatest violinists, Joshua Bell, and had him play for spare change, incognito, outside a bustling Metro stop in Washington DC on a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius. Would anyone notice?

Click here for this fascinating read complete with hidden camera footage of what took place. It is a truly amazing and telling snapshot of contemporary American life. My hat is off to the wonderful writer of this article, Gene Weingarten.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Money, money, money, MONNN-EEEEY

This week's focus revolves around money and how it can make our local economies go round and round. The following articles could be applied to anything. Sharlene Gee, one of our stellar volunteers, is to thank for coming across these gems. Enjoy.

And in related news, last Tuesday marked the first congressional hearing on federal arts funding in a dozen years. YEAH!! Took them long enough! Artists and arts advocates got to explain why the National Endowment for the Arts funding should be returned to its 1994 level of $176 million, up from this year's $124 million. Thanks to Mat for passing that on.

Written by Bernie Ward and Julie Lewis, "Plugging the Leaks - Making the most of every pound (dollar) that enters your local economy" explains in an easy to understand way how keeping your money in your community makes a huge impact. From QUADRE's perspective, this means encouraging our audience members to dine locally and forging relationships with local vendors whether it be a printer, music store, or restaurant. It also means educating our clients like schools, corporations, and performing arts venues the local economic benefit of employing a music group based in Mountain View. This same strategy applies to each community that each of the artists and board members live in - Saratoga, Foster City, Chicago, Sioux Falls, etc. To read the book, click here: Plugging the Leaks.(pp. 9, 15-16, 22)

The second book speaks to how far money can go when spent in the local economy. I'd tell you more, but the link for the text is down right now. Hopefully, by the time you read this, it will work. Go here for more information: Multiplier Effect.(pp. 12-18)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

BEING AN ARTIST: Teaching & Managing (2 of 2)

This week's topics deal with two things that make up a big part of my life as an artist. This is the second in a two part blog about my role in the cogs of classical music and how it is similar to many of my colleagues here in San Francisco and throughout the country.

As with many of my artistic colleagues, teaching is as much a part of our lives as breathing. It offers us a chance to pass on what we know to a new generation and help others realize their dreams as creators of art. Nothing is more fantastic that helping a student "get it" and seeing the realization in their faces when "they've done it." I consider myself a teaching artist - an individual that uses their art to create context for what they teach. So I, like many of my peers, really enjoy relating music to math, civics, history, the language arts, and science. I also think that art can be a particularly potent glue for bringing so many subjects, attitudes and opinions to the table at once. Expression helps foster common ground. I also feel passionately that my role as a teacher is to teach students how to be their own teachers with an emphasis on critique, aesthetics, history and performance technique.

Beyond my philosophies on teaching, I work with the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View, CA. It is a powerhouse of a community school with its own 12 million dollar building and over 100 faculty on staff. I teach roughly 7 hours a week throughout the year. My subjects include private instruction in horn, baritone, and composition and group classes in theory, composition, digital arts, and chamber music. (Not at all the same time every week mind you. It varies over the course of the year.) I also have a modest private studio in Mountain View near the QUADRE office. In addition to these two avenues, I am also fortunate to work with local band programs and adjudicate for the California Music Educators Association's festivals.

Probably the most rewarding thing about teaching is that it has helped me become a better artist. I learn a great deal from how my students see the world. And from a practical perspective, I've found it to be a very flexible source of income which helps when scheduling tours, recording projects, and the like.

In order to do the teaching, composing, and performing of an artist, one has to be organized. This is where that last part comes to play - managing. Some of my peers I'm sure would refer to this as administrative stuff. I think we need to call it like it is though, managing ones career. Most artists are on their own so they have to act as their own agents for their art. If one is lucky enough to find someone who is equally passionate about their art and willing to put in the work to help them succeed, that is wonderful. However, I think that when you're starting out or doing something eclectic, learning the ins and outs of managing is vital for success.

And when I say success I'm not just talking about dollars and cents although that is nice too. I'm taking about the self-doubt that creeps into the minds of almost all artists about whether they're doing the right thing. Receiving reactions for the efforts that are put forth is so vital for the soul if not the pocketbook. It also helps the artist continue to move along their chosen path. Now, notice I said reactions and recognition. Positive and negative feedback can both be equally effective for the artist. They both offer perspectives that can help shape the artist's body of work.

In a nutshell, I think successful managing follows some basic rules.

1. Seek out opportunities; don't wait for the phone to ring.
2. Always communicate with vendors, clients, & donors in a timely fashion.
3. Follow-up with everyone.
4. Be honest with yourself about what you can and can not do.
5. Create an organizational system that works for you.
6. Be consistent - spend time every day/week on your career.
7. Market yourself concisely and professionally: website, fliers, & phone messages.
8. Sell yourself for what you're worth. (You have a lifetime of experience that is worth a lot!)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Artistic Celebrities & License Plates

March is here and with it some Spring time reflection before our clocks get sprung forward this weekend. Since I can never resist the phrase "one good blog deserves another," I humbly suggest you check Barry Hessenius blog this week. He delves into the issues around our celebrity crazed society and its effect on the arts. Some fabulous guest speakers are involved. Check it out here. Also, license plates are on my mind. My two cents on that is included below as well.

The Artistic Celebrity - An oxymoron?
Barry C. Hessenius was the former director of the California Arts Council and is currently the executive director of San Francisco's LINES Ballet. He leads a blog about concerns that affect the arts hosted by the Western States Arts Federation. His latest blog, as I said above, delves into the issues around our celebrity crazed society and its effect on the arts.
Click here.

California License Plates
Have you gotten your CA Arts Council license plate yet? It is - I feel - one of the easiest ways to contribute to the Arts Council which supports every imaginable artistic endeavor in the golden state. And they look cool too! Here is where you can find more information about the program and how to take part. QUADRE has its own CA Arts council license plate. Do you?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Classical Music Thinking

On February 9th and 10th, I had the distinct pleasure of participating in a Classical Music Think Tank sponsored by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. It was held in Detroit at the downtown Marriott. While I was there I also got the opportunity to hear uplifting performances by the Mosaic Singers and Sphinx organization.

Imagine 35 people music professionals from around the country getting together for 2 days to discuss where classical music is headed. Imagine that these people come from large and small organizations and serve as musicians, arts administrators, managers, composers, teaching artists, professors, managers, presenters, record producers and in some cases - all of the above. Now, try to imagine all of these people that span several generations being able to agree on where we're headed let alone what we should do to create opportunities for the future.

Fortunately, this group-for which I had the pleasure of taking part-had the guidance of Sandra Gibson, president and CEO of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters as well as think tank facilitator Richard Kessler who serves as executive director for The Center for Arts Education based in New York, NY. Each of them, in their own way, helped to create an atmosphere where issues were discussed between all of us. In particular, the think tank focused on the present and future climate of: demographics in the United States, the ecology of the "classical" music industry, and the motivations of listeners to be engaged.

After much "thinking", the discussion seemed to become distilled around four major topics: new avenues of participation, new language/lexicon for the industry, teaching & learning, and field capacity to respond and build. Each of these four topics was further explored along the lines of technology, the concept of evolution/revolution, research & development, and passive:active thinking.

I left the think tank 2007 much as I did after the one in San Francisco in 2005, invigorated. I see a gorgeous world of possibility that still is largely untapped. I also see a world where the philosophy that defines our art is very different for a great many people. In fact, how each of the 35 participants viewed their particular slice of the world, seemed to greatly affect their interpretation of risk, programming, and language. Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink would have had a field day with us. We all took part in the ancient silent and not-so-silent ritual of exploring that 'today is just not like yesterday' and 'what will tomorrow bring.' I attribute this to human nature along with the fact that each of us is working incredibly hard at what we do. Nevertheless, we all know tomorrow comes and everything works out one way or another in the end. The boundaries of our industry are continuing to evolve and in many ways, this forum served as a chance for us to help figure out the new borders that will invariably change in the next blink of an eye.

For more thoughts on the think tank, catch Jim Hirsch's blog here. He was another one of the participants at the Think Tank and currently serves as the executive director for the Chicago Sinfonietta.

Like the 2005 think tank, I left with some concrete suggestions for the future while in Detroit. (Where I might add, everyone in that city was absolutely wonderful.) In regards to the following list, certain people should be credited. However, to be fair I will list all these suggestions anonymously since I can't remember exactly who said what. My apologies to the authors for my sieve of a brain. In no particular order:

1. Invest in Research and Development
2. Take Risks with your programming, organization's model, and goals
3. Partner/Collaborate with organizations in mutually beneficial ways
4. Collaboration is communication, creativity, vulnerability, & reciprocity
5. Create ways to enable your art to be active and passive for your listeners
6. Get feedback about your ecology outside of your "world"
7. Go Grassroots (volunteers, listening groups, street marketing teams, etc.)
8. In the role of advocacy, affect change bottom up and top down
9. Shatter notions of exclusivity through marketing and artistic engagement
10. Create avenues for investment & involvement across racial, gender, ethnic, cultural and interdisciplinary boundaries. At the same time, assess where and how these boundaries came to be.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

BEING AN ARTIST: Composing & Performing (1 of 2)

This week's topics deal with two things that make up a big part of my life as an artist. This is the first in a two part blog about my role in the cogs of classical music and how it is similar to many of my colleagues here in San Francisco and throughout the country.

Of all the things I do as a musician, I have probably spent the most time in my life preparing for and doing concert performances. They are the reason I love what I do. They serve to remind me of my role in the grand scheme of things. Performing on stage, in a club, at a coffee house, etc. is an other-worldy experience. You literally transform into another person. All of the time spent practicing and honing your skills on your instrument are realized and you become completely focused in a cycle of creation. On a practical level, it is a natural high to play and hear applause upon your conclusion. And as a student, concerts served as little goals to go after to better oneself. Once you were done with one, there was always another around the corner.

I think the most exciting aspect of performing for me is that I never know what will happen. Silence serves as a blank canvas and the music that I create will never sound exactly the same ever again. The colors, textures, and subject of each painting will also be different for everyone listening to the music. As a performer I get the wonderful honor of creating that soundworld for the audience and interpreting music out of silence.

While my performing may serve as the vehicle for expressing moods and feelings in real time, my role as a composer is one where I attempt to capture my soul in a bottle. The sounds swirling in my head are given a home and my deepest and darkest reflections are brought to life. It is the opportunity where my musical training is brought to bear and society's thoughts and directions get a place to call home.

Composing is liberating. You get the chance to create a work of art that will influence those around you. They may be asked to think. They may be expected to laugh or cry. The composer has the responsibility for seeing the world around them - real or imaginary - and giving others (performers and listeners) the opportunity to experience that world. I find composing the most difficult and natural at the same time. Given the confines of Western classical notation (which is where my training lies) capturing ones soul can be a challenge to realize on paper. Nevertheless, when the act is done, the whole episode inspires and uplifts me in a way that nothing else can.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

California Arts Council Conference

This week I turn TuesdayAt2 over to two of my colleagues: Mathew Croft, associate artist with QUADRE who you all know and love :) and Barry Hessenius, former director of the California Arts Council. They both were at the California Arts Council conference last Tuesday in Sacramento and provide thoughts and a wrap-up on the experience.

CAC Conference Wrap-Up
Barry Hessenius has a blog hosted by WESTAF - the Western States Arts Federation. He has been doing it since April 2005. Click here to read a run-down on what happened at the conference from his perspective.

CAC Conference Reactions/Thoughts
By Mathew Croft
Attending this event was an amazing and eye-opening experience for me. We can't just be in our own little world, making our music, and expect to succeed. We [the arts industry] are a business, and we need to work like a more effective business, getting involved in the political arena, if only on a local level, will be worth the efforts, both long and short term. We also need to seek opportunities to collaborate with other artists of every discipline, to reach more people, not to "prove" to anyone that we are relevant, but to BE more relevant to more people.

A message that seemed rather strong to me was when we were asked how many of us knew our senator and representative on a first-name-basis. I certainly hadn't ever thought of this, but we all know (if we think about it for a second), that people support those that they know and trust. If our politicians don't know and trust us, how are we going to have their support? It's how to get things done.

Arts Council Roundtable notes
The CAC Has 3 Main Missions:

1) Advocacy
2) Public Awareness (Publicity)
3) Programming

The most clear and comprehensive area that they presented to us was in the Public Awareness area. They are trying to educate legislators, on a state level, but with California's term limits they are constantly working with new legislators. They encouraged us all to get involved with our local government leaders, who are usually the pool of future state legislators, to let them know what we are doing, how we benefit the people that they represent, not only for the good it does on the local level, but also pre-exposure to the benefits of the arts if they move on to state level politics.

**Dana Gioia Quotes - more on Dana in Barry's report
"We have an obligation to enter the public conversation about what we are doing."
"Politicians are just doing their jobs-making life better for their constituents. It's our job to create win-win arguments to politicians on how we enrich the lives of all people."
"We need to be positive, not negative; inclusive, not selective, and democratic, not polarizing."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fanfares & Commissions

This bimonthly periodical focuses on reviews of classical and new music repertoire. The latest issue is Volume 30, #3 so I'm guessing the magazine has been going strong for over 30 years which is truly impressive in this day and age. For more information about their most recent tome (the current issue is 352 pages long), click here.

While I was at Eastman last week, I ended up doing a fair amount of waiting. It was no one's fault. It happens when you go to a foreign place for one reason alone. Everyone else is having to worry about food on the table, getting from point A to B, taking care of family and friends, etc. I just had to worry about the seminars and masterclasses I was teaching. No big deal.

Anyway, in my waiting state I read a good deal. One of the magazines I picked up was the arts and cultural council magazine for the Greater Rochester area called the metropolitan. I read about a program called The Commission Project. They specialize in placing composers in public school classrooms for workshops and composer-in-residence programs. This concept is not new, but it has served as a wonderful vehicle for incredible artists like Ron Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Max Roach, and Libby Larsen a point of entry to students living in over thirty-five cities including Chicago, Birmingham, New York, and Vancouver. Check out their web site for more information.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Staying in Touch & Feedback

The first tidbit this week comes from Derek Sivers at CD Baby, the most awesome online distributor ever. He talks about the need to keep in touch with folks. The second deals with something all us artists faces at one point or another - feedback. Whether it is a review, audience member, colleague, or coach, everyone has an opinion about your art.

Derek Sivers
Sometimes the difference between success and failure is just a matter
of keeping in touch!

There are some AMAZING musicians who have sent a CD to CD Baby, and
when I heard it, I flipped. In a few cases, I've stopped what I was
doing at that moment, picked up the phone and called them wherever
they were to tell them I thought they were a total genius. (Believe
me - this is rare. Maybe 1 in 500 CDs that I hear.)

Often I get an answering machine, and guess what... they don't call
back!! What masochistic anti-social success-sabotaging kind of thing
is that to do?

Then 2 weeks later I've forgotten about their CD as new ones came in.

The lesson: If they would have just called back, and kept in touch,
they may have a fan like no other at the head of one of the largest
distributors of independent music on the web. A fan that would go out
on a limb to help their career in ways others just dream of. But they
never kept in touch and now I can't remember their names.

Some others whose CDs didn't really catch my attention the first time
around, just keep in touch so well that I often find myself helping
them more as a friend than a fan.

Keep in touch, keep in touch, keep in touch!

People forget you very fast.

In the nine years QUADRE has been around, we've gotten a lot of feedback and critique from a lot of people. We've heard everything from "you're the greatest" to "you might consider taking up a different career." Everyone has a viewpoint. After working in the business for a while, I have come up with a list of things to keep in mind.

1. Stay true to your art. People like what they like and hate what they hate. You might be doing something that is totally cool for someone and a complete dud for another. No matter what, don't try to start pleasing everyone. You'd start spinning like a top in attempt to make everyone happy.

2. Be objective when someone takes the time to give you their opinion. The fact that this other person is taking the time to tell you what they think is already very cool. Listen to what they have to say. Take away what you want and move on.

3. Put yourself in their shoes. What was their first impression of you? How did you describe yourself? Answering these questions might give you some insight into why they said what they said.

4. Always thank them. As I just said, they took the time to say something, thank them for doing that and stay in touch. You might create a lasting friendship and lifelong fan or give a sceptic the chance to reconsider what you do.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Chamber Music America Findings

The Chamber Music America conference was last week, January 11-14 in New York, NY. I went to several fabulous sessions. Here are two nuggets - findings if you will - from the conference.

When Ronald Crutcher from Wheaton College had to pull out last minute, I thought the "Leadership: Leading by Example" seminar might end up being a dud. Quite the contrary. The staff at Chamber Music America got Philip Coltoff to come in who has just finished a book titled, The Challenge of Change: Leadership Strategies for not-for-profit executives and boards. With over thirty years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Mr. Coltoff provided a wonderful seminar that dealt with the nuts and bolts of moving an organization forward. I bought the book and will bring it to the next board meeting. As Roxanne Spillett, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America says, "every not-for-profit executive director in the country needs to read this book. It's an indispensable guide to the complex art of leadership by a true expert in the field."

One of the ensembles honored at this year's conference was the Kronos Quartet. There was an hour and a half dedicated to a conversation with them conducted by the artistic director to Carnegie Hall, Ara Guzelimian. I came away realizing that every group has to start somewhere and that somewhere is usually close to the bottom of the "proverbial totem pole." The humble beginnings of Kronos (playing restaurants where no one listened; performing in prisons; partnering with colleges that had very different ideas of what is acceptable) gave me and others in the room the sense that going after what is important and meaningful to you is the way to go. They were articulate musicians with passionate perspectives on the world. As individuals and as an ensemble, they are trying - in their small way - to make the world a better place; a more tolerant one. While much of their music doesn't jive with me, I gained a huge amount of respect for the courage and tenacity they have shown to do what they wanted rather than play to the pundits.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Top 10 Ways to Stay Front and Center

Ann F. Mason-the executive director of the Pittsburgh Renaissance & Baroque Society-shares a little list of effective ways to promote ones ensemble with presenters no matter what medium you're in. It was printed in the Winter issue of Early Music America's magazine.

So instead of two items this week, you get ten. Woohoo! For more information on Early Music America, click here.

Written by Ann F. Mason
10. Always send your most recent CD.
9. Proof your press materials.
8. Update your bio regularly.
7. Have a professional group photo.
6. Keep it current.
5. Keep in touch.
4. Do your homework.
For example, don't send horn quartet literature to a guitar club. By the way, we haven't done that yet. ;)
3. Be a promotional machine.
2. Be ready to sell your CDs.
1. Connect with your audience.