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.