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.


JIm Hirsch said...

Hi Daniel,

It was fun and interesting spending time with you and the other participants in Detroit. Your blog captures the highlights of the two days and serves as a good summary of the discussions that took place, though I see nothing from our dinner at the expensive, but mediocre Italian restaurant we dined at! Oh well, what happens in Detroit must stay in Detroit, I suppose.

Jim Hirsch

QUADRE - The Voice of Four Horns said...

Oddly enough the over-priced Italian place seemed like heaven compared to the Mediteranean restauarant I went to the day prior at Greek Station - Detroit's downtown casino. Food & drink wise, the highlight for me was the drink att he top of the Marriott. Nothing like being 72 floors up to give you some perspective on your thinking.

And back to the Think Tank, what do you think we could do to keep the love alive?