Monday, December 15, 2008

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story, as told by Nathan Pawelek at Quadre's "Horns for the Holidays" CD Release Party (12/14/08)

My dad takes on many responsibilities during the holidays at church. There was one Christmas Eve service that had me clutching my pew cushion, two-handed, and looking at my shoes. Was I the only one embarrassed? I think he was at the peak of his energies, or the last reserves of his multi-tasking faculties before the onset of his post middle-aged years. He doesn’t take on quite as much these days. Part of me is relieved about that, but I do sometimes miss the vigor with which he handled his roles.

He has many abilities—cellist, tenor, playwrite, teacher. He also has plenty of ambition. He sees a way to doing all, and all is spurred on by the prospect of public approval. He seems busy to the point of frazzled, yes, but always with good intentions and always with a logical, if spontaneous, plan in his mind. He is not a delegator. If I can only move quicker, he must tell himself, as he run-walks from place to place with conviction. But for the most part it goes off okay, whatever it is.

For this particular Christmas Eve service, though he was not the minister, my dad had gotten himself in charge of delivering the main message. How could he present a fresh perspective on the holiday season, something new and transformative that congregation members would go home pondering as they lit their candles and prepared for their own family traditions?

Initially, he planned to write his own sermon, but he instead decided on a personalized version of Christmas in the Trenches. This is a true story about a brief unofficial cessation of hostilities between British and German troops on Christmas Eve in 1914. They emerged from their trenches along a front in France, exchanged gifts, food, cigarettes, song and camaraderie, and may have even played soccer. (Paul McCartney made a video about it on MTV years ago called Pipes of Peace).

My dad painstakingly adapted the story into a neat little piece for narrator and pantomimes. The senior high youth group, of which he was the leader, would dramatize the action. He thought it would be spectacular to have special lighting, real gun-fire sound effects, army uniforms, and wooden rifles that clicked (quietly) when you pulled the trigger. He spent a lot of time locating and renting the props and lighting, and then installing the lights himself.

As I recall, there was little rehearsal. I think he just sort of explained the basic idea to the teenagers, and that they should essentially improvise their blocking. He gave them their rifles and uniforms and told them to show up a little after the service started. Meanwhile, he had the choir and the orchestra to worry about. He was in both. Plus, he had the lobster dinner to prepare, which is a tradition in our house on Christmas Eve.

There was a lamp by his seat as cellist in the orchestra, one of ours from home. He said he couldn’t see his music. The church had only one music stand light, which was the organist’s. It must have looked like mood lighting to the congregation, adding a certain living room ambiance to the pulpit area, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, just…different. But no one else in the orchestra had a lamp.

When the service started, my dad was seated in the orchestra, a piece-meal ensemble including a tenor sax and a baritone. He was the only cellist, and there beside him was that big lamp. The first few carols medley of the prelude went off pretty well for a group of amateurs. Then there was the first reading from Luke, another orchestra carol, and now it was the choir’s turn to sing. I wondered how he was also going to get up on stage? Space was tight and he seemed pretty well boxed in.

I watched as he hurriedly clunked down his cello and stepped over the lamp cord to the stage stairs. The choir was already assembled, waiting for him to join the tenors. Once the choir was finished singing, he quickly returned to the orchestra for the congregational hymn, where he carefully stepped over the lamp cord again and picked up his cello.

Maybe because I am his son and as such, overly critical, I found myself focused entirely on my dad that evening. To me, he was the side-show of the service. Once the hymn was done, dad got up to leave his orchestra seat, but not to join the choir this time. He wanted to make sure the teenagers were dressed and ready to go. He clunked down his cello again, and this time he didn’t step high enough over that cord. The lamp jerked off its pedestal, crashed to the floor barely missing his cello, and the light went out. Some people reacted with gasps. He picked up the limp lamp and tested the switch unsuccessfully, unmindful of the people watching him. It still didn’t work after he tried tightening the bulb. All this happened while the minister delivered the second Luke reading.

Leaving the lamp, he walked straight down the middle aisle, the same one the clergy used to process, to his army of teens in the back of the hall waiting with helmets and rifles. He’s a tall man, hard to miss. I thought he should have been more inconspicuous and ducked around to a side aisle. I remember he wore a cream-colored sweater, gray high-water corduroy pants, and brown zip-up boots that were trendy in the 1970s. This was the 1990s.

Just before the narration of Christmas in the Trenches, a competent soprano from the choir, Peggy, began singing O Holy Night with the organist accompanying. While she sang the first verse, my dad thought it wouldn’t hurt to quickly test the spotlights he’d installed, and they suddenly shined in Peggy’s eyes. She recoiled at the abrupt brightness, and her vibrato briefly widened. She blinked rapidly but kept going.

Then, during the second verse, unbelievably, as she approached the dramatic high C, we all suddenly heard gunshot. I knew what it was. He was now testing the sound effects. Peggy paused, calmly looked at the ceiling as if someone were up there banging around. I watched as she kept smiling, her hand poised in front of her like she was a conductor holding a fermata. The organist held the chord. And when the shots subsided, she took a huge breath and resumed like the machine gun fire was a natural part of the piece, hitting the high C boldly, exasperatingly, the way only a soprano would handle such a moment.

Christmas in the Trenches that followed was powerful, but it might have been more dramatic had the gunshot sound effects actually worked. When it was time, he pressed the button on his remote control to a Bose CD player in the back of the hall, but there were no sound effects. The teens, assembled impressively in uniform on stage with their rifles and helmets, suddenly had nothing to authenticate the pantomimed firefight. My dad furiously worked the remote like a joystick, holding it up over the congregation and pointing it to the back. The youth began doing what anyone would do, I suppose. They battled on, now making their own sound effects—explosions with their mouths, and pulling their triggers to steely soft clicks. They hunted each other, and I think I actually heard one whisper, “You’re dead. Hey I got you!”

During the candle lighting, dad’s role in the service was done, except for the orchestra’s Jingle Bells to close the service. I relaxed. When my candle was lit, I looked out across the congregation, a packed house with extra chairs set up in the lobby area, candles all ablaze. It was beautiful. I had forgotten about the rough moments of the service. And I did go home imagining those soldiers in WWI, despite having to look at my shoes in embarrassment. Those soldiers had the courage to come together in an absurd moment of good will. That was the fresh perspective on the season, successfully, if chaotically, imparted. And we, the congregation, who had come seeking renewal, were fulfilled. The music and the message delivered.

Our family lobster dinner was scrumptious. But dad was afraid he might cut himself on the shells so he came to the table wearing thick blue surgical gloves. He also complained of a cold coming on and had a dust mask on to protect us, “Like the Japanese do,” he rationalized.

While we ate he reflected in muffled voice, “Well the service wasn’t so bad, was it?” No. But that’s when we gently advised that he not take on so many roles in future Christmas Eve services. He didn’t make any promises that night, but he seems to have internalized the advice consequently. Those services, however, have not been as exciting in recent years. There is something to be said for the nuance of imperfection in the context of a genuine good effort to follow through with some pretty darn good ideas.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How to give successful chamber music outreach presentations

Hi everyone. This week our topic is all about an online interview I recently had with Tasha O'Neal, a masters student in horn performance at Louisana State University. I thought she asked great questions about the chamber music outreach experience. What follows gives you an idea for what Quadre has done over the years to connect to our audiences. Enjoy.

By Tasha O’Neal
Student, Masters in horn performance at Louisiana State University
November, 2008; Interviewing Daniel Wood of QUADRE

Question 1: Do you think it is important for musicians to go out into the community? Why?

Answer 1: I think it is absolute essential for musicians to go into the community to perform, educate, train, and share their art. I feel music making is an experience that should be shared with others. When we limit ourselves to traditional venues such as concert halls, clubs, and churches under traditional frameworks such as concerts, we create an environment where it is expected that the audience come to us. I feel it is a two way street where we, as artists, should make equal efforts to meet our audience on their turf whether it be a coffee house, school, park, or transit station. Additionally, I think it is important to expose people to great art and sometimes that requires us going to them so that they know we exist.

Q2: Why are you involved in Chamber music outreach?

A2: Our ensemble, QUADRE - The Voice of Four Horns, has been involved in chamber music outreach since we got started in 1998. This is due in large part to the fact that very few people were seeking us out in the beginning. It was a way for us to do audience development. It is also a large part of our mission as a not-for-profit music organization due to our experiences in residence in the state of Alabama in our third year. During that season we visited people in almost every environment you can imagine and were amazed at the enthusiastic response we received. We began to realize that we could make a real difference in people's lives if we broke down the barriers that can exist in a traditional concert setting. We have been hooked ever since.

Q3: Do you believe there is anything specifically unique to a chamber ensemble like a quartet or quintet doing outreach? What are some advantages or disadvantages of community engagement through these types of ensembles?

A3: I think chamber music can be a unique experience in outreach settings due to the intimacy of the performance and the variability of potential performance spaces. One huge advantage of being an acoustic chamber music ensemble of 2-10 people is that you can perform most anywhere. You don't need power hookups. One can memorize repertoire so that stands aren't necessary. And one can even learn how to stand and move about so that chairs become superfluous as well. Admittedly, certain acoustic instruments are hard pressed when it comes to these sources of strength. A cellist almost always needs a chair and an acoustic piano isn't exactly portable. However, by in large, the flexibility of a small ensemble is a huge plus. Another advantage is that most small groups can easily adapt to their changing environments by changing repertoire quickly, moving about, changing their banter, etc. These quick changes can be challenging for larger ensembles and more scripted acts.

In terms of disadvantages, I'm probably the wrong person to talk to since I don't think there are any. However, going out on a limb, I'd say that sometimes it is challenging to convey ones art in outreach settings. Given all the media that our society is bombarded with daily, a chamber ensemble can seem rather tame. With adequate training though, I think chamber ensembles can learn how to adapt to this shortcoming.

Q4: How do you accumulate the funds to partake in community outreach? Does your group actively seek grant money or are your services only offered to places that can afford to pay you or both? Do you believe all Chamber music outreach should be a free service paid for from an outside source or is there a give and take to this depending on the situation?

A4: I do think that is always important to place a value on what you are providing. Artists work hard to do what they do and should be compensating fairly for providing their services to the community. That said I do realize that there are many people who can’t afford our services at what we are worth, so–as a not-for-profit organization–we write grants to help subsidize our work. The artists donate their services for worthy causes on occasion. And our organization provides free tickets to our concerts to other not-for-profit health and social service organizations.

In terms of raising money for these kinds of activities, we also seek and receive funding from individual donors, corporations, and the local, state, and federal government in addition to grants from family and civic foundations. Service Clubs like the Kiwanis and Rotary have been supportive as well. Most of our funding comes from individual donors who serve not only as our audience, but help provide volunteer support at our events and outreach activities.

Q5: How important a step is it for you in choosing whom you provide outreach for?

A5: If an organization is interested in having us, unless it compromises our personal beliefs, we will do everything we can to provide them with our music. For unsolicited outreach, we consider who we wish to share our art, why we wish to collaborate with them, and whether it is feasible. What also comes to play is whether they are equally interested in having us. The best outreach is when both sides feel they have something to offer each other.

Q6: Who do you do outreach to? Do you only go where you have been invited or do you take an active part in where you perform?

A6: We have performed outreach everywhere including malls, retirement centers, schools, museums, gymnasiums, movie theaters, parks, beaches, amusement parks, churches, bridges, town centers, universities, libraries, concert halls, hotels, community centers, private homes, clubs, coffee houses, convention centers, restaurants, commercial high rises, planes, and trains. And I’m sure I’ve forgotten some. The populations of all these places are as varied as the places are. We are interested in connecting with people so whether we are invited or not, we do our best to forge this link.

Q7: Do you think chamber ensembles involved in outreach should be active in expanding their audience and whom they do outreach to? Have you done anything to expand the demographic of the outreach audience by playing in seemingly obscure places such as prisons?

A7: We have not played in a prison yet. Although, I’m not sure we would be able to expand our audience there. They are kind of limited in their ability to get out. Joking aside, I think we view all of our outreach experiences as ways to connect to a new population. They may choose to come to subsequent concerts or buy our CDs. They may just stay in touch via email, our blog, or one of our online social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace. Whatever way we can help society to get in touch with their humanity through what we do is a wonderful thing.

Q8: Through your experience in community engagement, what have been some observations as far as audience response to your service? (Who is receptive to the outreach and how? Do you see a greater interest in instrumental music from your interactions? Etc.)

A8: I suppose the observations of our audience is based on their comments after the performance in the Q/A sessions, their enthusiasm during the outreach presentations, and notes that we receive in the subsequent weeks. I don’t believe that any one performance that we have done has had a lasting effect on an individual. But I do believe that our repeated performances in schools and community centers have given our audience a new perspective. Here are some sample comments from letters and emails we have received:

"Your four horns were truly one voice that drew pictures in each piece for me. Thank you for that evening!" (Audience Member)

"What a wonderful series of concerts you presented! The interactive program you designed was engaging and informative, and students and teachers alike were fascinated. It is a pleasure working with your group." (Arleen Pickett, Music in the Schools Director, Community School of Music and Arts)

“Chamber music is always a hard to ‘sell’ outdoors and the venue for your concert was a particularly difficult space. But Quadre managed to pull off a first-rate event that appealed to both families with young kids and seasoned chamber music aficionados.” (Jeffrey Sykes, Music in the Vineyards)

“The children learned lots while hearing beautiful music, and they are still talking about the experience. The classroom teachers have also expressed their appreciation for a program that was so educational.” (Kay Newman, St. James School)

Q9: What type of music do you perform for different outreach situations and why? Does the repertoire span time periods and genres?

A9: We perform a wide variety of music that spans time periods and genres. Unless we are asked to stick to a particular theme (e.g.: Romantic Music) or genre (e.g. American Music), we generally play what shows us off best and is able to connect the audience with us. Every work needs to be set up differently. For example, playing a Baroque fugue is going to require a certain amount of explanation and metaphors so the audience can appreciate what goes into it while a spiritual may be best explained by a poem or reading from a work of the time. Knowing your audience and their background is key in providing an outreach presentation that is successful.

Q10: How drastically or not at all do you change the repertoire and presentation style for different demographics? What are some examples in how you have done this?

A10: Our outreach varies dramatically based on the age group of the audience. The younger they are, the simpler the words and more interactive the program. The repertoire needn’t change although we would be more likely to play only 2-3 minutes of a complicated 20th century piece versus 5-6 minutes that we might spend with a older group. Concepts also needn’t change, but the way you engage your audience has to be sensitive to their current understanding of your art form. For example, we were engaged to perform 100 concerts in the San Francisco community for 1st and 2nd graders by the San Francisco Symphony. For that program we kept all our selections to 2-3 minutes, used a lot of interactive movements and questions, wove a plot into the presentation that included props and outfits, and made sure the program wasn’t longer than 30 minutes.

Q11: Specifically, how does your group present their program and how does this change depending on the audience?

A11: Our group presents different programs all the time. However, there are certain key aspects that we make sure to include in all of our outreach presentations. They are 1) telling our audience our names, 2) introducing every work either before or after they heard it so they have context, 3) keeping each work between 2-6 minutes in length, 4) making sure everyone in the ensemble speaks so that each of our personalities come through, 5) having a question and answer session at the end, 6) sharing what we do enthusiastically, 7) including interactive elements like clapping rhythms, singing, or call & response, and 8) giving them ways to get in touch with us later if they want to ask more questions or just stay connected.

Lengths and timings may change depending on the audience, but these core elements stay the same.

Q12: When interacting in a community, what are some things in your presentation have you found to work and be useful? What have been some failures in your presentations if any?

A12: I think it is always important to set the parameters of the outreach presentation and be very clear about what you do with the organizer. That said, it is also very important to be flexible when you arrive with a willingness “to go with the flow” as necessary. We always make sure we have access to the space prior to the presentation. We make sure to understand with time limitations they may be under. We make sure to get everything in writing with signed contracts. We also always go in with the attitude that the audience is going to be educated, respectful, and receptive. Until they prove us otherwise, we approach them like we would any other group. We also make sure to set limits and expectations as any teacher or speaker would.

The failures we have learned from would be a very long list! You don’t do this for over ten years and 700 performances without a lot of failures. In short, we have learned everything prior to this sentence by doing it. We would present an outreach performance and then talk about what worked and what didn’t. We would then sculpt a new strategy for the next time. There was no book to tell us what to do or teacher to guide us. We learned in trial by fire. Thank goodness individuals like you are taking the time to research what the experience is like so that others may benefit. My hat is off to you.

Q13: Can you give me some specific examples of positive and negative experiences you've had in the outreach process in general?

A13: In general, it has been a very satisfying experience. We have made new friends, touched the lives of many, and perhaps changed the lives of a few. Every time I see an audience member laugh, cry, or clap during our performance I’m touched and motivated to keep doing what I can to connect with them.

On the other side of the coin, the outreach process has been a hard, long road to success. It hasn’t been easy and has been very frustrating at times. Nothing is worse than playing for an audience and getting no reaction when you finish. No applause. No comments. Nothing. It makes you question what you are doing. However, you learn from the experience and figure out why it happened and what you can do better next time so that it is more successful.

Q14: Is being involved in outreach something you enjoy doing? Do you enjoy executing community engagements to some types of people more than others? (For example, do you enjoy working with children more than adults or does this not matter for you?)

A14: It does not matter whom I perform for. I honestly enjoy it all.

Q15: What have you learned from community interactions with chamber music?

A15: I’ve learned that no two schools are alike. I’ve learned that everyone’s perspective is meaningful on some level. I’ve learned that there is nothing more difficult or more enjoyable that pulling off the “perfect” show. I’ve learned that the community will respond if you give them something to react to (e.g.: if you are fun and engaging, your audience most likely will be receptive and inquisitive.) I’ve learned that there is a huge world out there with a lot of different opinions and that music and the arts in general can be a wonderful unifying conduit for meaningful dialogue.

Q16: Do you think outreach training or experience should be implemented in college level study? Why or why not?

A16: From what I can tell, it already is. And I’m very happy that is the case. I’ve given talks on audience engagement at the Eastman School of Music, which has a very exhaustive Music for All program that teaches students how to give great outreach presentations in the Rochester community. I’ve also heard and interacted with other schools with have similar programs such as: Julliard, Peabody, San Francisco Conservatory, UCLA, and the University of Oregon to name a few. I definitely think more can be done. And I do think that the expectations for successful outreach presentations should be much higher than they are currently. However, I do witness throughout the industry a willingness to actively engage in conversation about the topic and make changes in how we reach the audiences of tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nonprofit Accounting for Music Groups

Hello. This week I wanted to write about accounting. I'm by no means an expert, but I've picked up a few things along the way running our nonprofit organization. Most important lesson I've learned, make sure you have more coming in than going out. Here is a run down of how we do it plus a list of things I've come to realize in the last decade.

In the beginning, we operated as a sole proprietorship. Essentially I had a separate bank account that I used to have money come in and out, but everything we did showed up on my tax return. This is certainly the easiest way to manage finances for a music group. Everyone is a subcontractor. Clients pay you, you pay the artists, and whatever is left (if anything) goes towards operating the business. Back then, we often didn't make enough money to pay everyone a decent wage, so I went without any pay for a while. That is when I began to understand that important lesson above, make sure more comes in than goes out.

After a couple years, we decided as an ensemble to become a more established entity so we reorganized as a nonprofit corporation. Words to the wise on this decision - it is not for everyone. I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of starting a nonprofit in my blog entry dated 12/19/06. Click here to see it. For us, it was the right decision. It allowed us to apply for grants and make donations to our organization tax-deductible. Also, given the amount of work we did in the schools back then, it made a lot of sense.

However, once we were a nonprofit corporation, our accounting become much more complicated. We had to start filing three tax returns a year, provide a detailed narrative of our activities each year, and start doing payroll, deductions, social security, medicare, etc. And that was just for the government. Needless to say, an activity that once was pretty straightforward become much more complex.

The load of managing our accounts falls mostly on one fabulous volunteer (aka Mom) who used to manage the accounts at a local bookstore. Imagine that, a bookkeeper at a bookstore?! For my part, I handle the payroll, pension, and budgets. We have learned through the years and now use the following system which is relatively easy to maintain.

1. We use accounting software. Right now we use MYOB. It is a great product with fabulous support. It updates our tax tables and allows us to operate under the fiscal calendar (July-June) very easily. With artists in four states, it is really helpful to have the computer calculate everyone's deductions for you. It is simple to print checks/reports and everything is customizable. It still takes a lot of time to enter everything - all sources of income and expenses need their own ecard. However, given everything we do, it makes life much easier.

2. We have an accounting firm handle the three tax returns. As a nonprofit, there is a lot of paperwork. All meetings have to have minutes. And every year we need to file returns to federal, state, and state charity registries. This doesn't come cheap, however it does offer us peace of mind.

3. We make sure to do the following monthly: a) pay bills [see expenses below]; b) deposit checks [see income below]; c) send thank you letters to donations made that month; d) file state and federal taxes with a quarterly reconciliation; e) pay pensions and associated union work dues; f) do payroll; and g) reconcile statements (credit card, bank, etc.).

4. We make sure to do the following yearly: a) send W-2s and 1099 forms (January); b) close out our payroll year (January); c) close out our fiscal year (July); d) send residuals/statements to artists and composers (July); e) send our tax return information to the accountant (October).

5. We have a savings account that we use for restricted funds. Anything we receive that is earmarked for a particular activity is placed there until we do that activity. For example, a grant designated for our education program, Toot your own Horn goes there until the funds are needed.

6. We review our profit/loss statement and our balance sheet every time we have a board or musician meeting. This insures that we are aware of our current situation and aren't met with any big surprises.

7. We have a chart of accounts. This is a list of all our assets, liabilities, and income & expense sources. Our bank accounts, petty cash, and property falls under our assets. Liabilities include our credit cards and payroll deductions & expenses. I've broken down our income and expense below.

Performance Income: Recitals, Outreach and Self-Produced Concerts
Donations: Government, Corporate, Private Donors, and Foundations
Other: Merchandise, CD Sales, Interest

Salary & Related: Wages, Payroll Taxes, Penions
Travel & Related: Lodging, Meals, and Travel
Office Related: Dues, Photocopying, Postage, Supplies, Telephone, Internet
Professional Services: Independent Contractors, Insurance, Legal & Accounting, Photography, Professional Development, Rent
Advertising & Promotion: Ads, Conferences, Literature Printing, Recording Projects

1. Make sure more money comes in than out. At the very least, break even.
2. Seek funding from a variety of sources (eg: ticket sales, CDs, grants, private donations)
3. Be realistic about your financial goals.
4. Always get multiple quotes for large purchases.
5. Always create an annual budget along with individual tour budgets. (See number 1)
6. Keep a detailed history.
7. Be economical without sacrificing your artistic product.
8. Spend money to get your name out there.
9. Set targets for your annual appeal with more people donating small gifts and less people donating big gifts.
10. Always have a back up plan for the inevitable. (eg cash reserve for low cash flow, secondary budgets based on less income, etc.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Inner Workings of QUADRE

Patrick Rappleye got in touch with me in April. He is a masters student in horn performance at the University of Iowa. He was asked to put together a presentation on a brass ensemble and he chose us! What follows are the interview questions he sent me along with my answers. You can also see this interview along with other interesting tidbits that involve brass ensembles from around the world by going to Patirck's blog here.

PATRICK: How do you book concerts? Do you have a management service or do it on your own and what are the main difficulties?

DANIEL: QUADRE is a self-managed ensemble. Our strategy for booking concerts is two fold.

First, we have a series of home concerts we produce in the San Francisco Bay Area where we are based. We usually present 3 to 4 home concert series a year. Venues for these series include one or more of the following: performing art centers, community music schools, churches, and private homes. These events give us a chance to regularly connect with our local supporters. They also give us the opportunity to try new things out programmatically.

Second, we set up tours around the country. They usually last from 7-10 days although we were once on the road for a whole month. We find presenters – those that book us for concerts – through booking conferences and associations (Western Arts Alliance, Chamber Music America), our online research of venues in different geographic areas, and our own personal contacts.

Both of these strategies take a great deal of work. We are a nonprofit organization with 4 artists, one paid staff-person (myself), 4 volunteers, and a board of directors made up of 7 citizens from the community. In regards to booking concerts, the volunteers and I construct the tours (contracts, travel), manage the books, and handle the fundraising/development. The board helps ensure the long-term health of the organization and maintain its financial stability. Administratively, the artists organize and decide the programming, contribute potential leads and contacts, and help out as needed (grants, artistic partnerships.)

Of the two strategies above, the first one is contingent on being open to potential partnerships and collaborations. Most of this work is made possible due to revenue from contributed (grants and personal appeals) and earned sources (ticket sales and performance fees.) For the second strategy of tours, most of our revenue comes from performance fees with a little supplemental income coming from merchandise sales (sheet music and CDs).

The main difficulty with both of these core activities is finding the partners and clients to make them possible. After ten years in the business, it is easier although it is still a constant challenge.

P: What different players have you had in the quartet?

D: Here is the list of the primary horn players involved in the group since 1998. There have also been substitutes, associate members, and extra horn artists (aka 5th and 6th horn players.) For the purposes of not making this list too ridiculous, I have left them out. However, I do feel strongly that everyone who has been involved in QUADRE has made it what it is today.

1998-Now, Daniel Wood
1998-1999, Harold Aschmann
1998-2000, Eric Thomas
1998-2001, Melissa Hendrickson
1999-2002, Armando Castellano
2000-2005, Carrie Campbell
2001-2006, Meredith Brown
2003-2005, Mathew Reynolds
2005-2006, Alex Camphouse
2005-Now, Nathan Pawelek (Subbed from 2003-2005)
2006-2008, Jessica Valeri
2007-Now, Lydia Van Dreel
2008-Now, Amy Jo Rhine

P: Do you have a member who is the leader/decision maker?

D: Being the only member that has been with the group since the beginning, I act as the leader and decision maker for most of the artistic and management decisions. However, no artistic decision is made without all the artists in the group being informed and providing input.

P: How do you solve artistic differences during rehearsals?

D: Everyone in the group respects the talent and insight that we each bring to the ensemble. We handle all issues professionally giving each idea a chance to be heard. When we have a disagreement about which idea to do, we usually go with the consensus or the idea felt most passionately. We have also tried out multiple ideas in several performances. Audience reaction can be a great way to measure the success of an idea.

P: How many concerts do you perform a year?

D: This has varied considerable over the years. We have performed full-time during two seasons (1999-2000; 2001-2002). Each of those seasons had over 250 performances. Other years have had as few as 15 concerts. In the 2007-2008 season, we performed over 30 concerts with approximately 100 services total (concerts, rehearsals, outreach, and lectures.)

P: What made you want to create a horn quartet and what do you like about chamber music?

D: The inspiration for starting QUADRE comes from the male vocal quartets of the 50s and 60s. I am a huge fan of the Four Freshman, The Four Aces, The Four Lads, and in particular, the Hi-Los. The sound that those groups got in their recordings was fascinating to me. I wondered whether it would be possible to do something similar with a group of like instruments.

With chamber music being my favorite class in college, I helped put together a variety of ensembles: brass quintets, woodwind quintets, and horn quartets. I really liked the sonic potential of the horn quartet. After leaving college, I started a horn club so we could play new music for the genre. After a few months, it became clear that four of us wanted to make a go of it as a quartet. The rest is history.

As for why I like chamber music, I think the ability to make music in a small group is exhilarating. The four of us get to make all of the artistic decisions. And you know that each of you account for 25% of what is happening on stage. It is also a medium where there is nowhere to hide when you perform. I also really enjoy how we can connect so personally with our audience. They get to know our personalities and we, to a degree, get to know them as well through after concert discussions, home-stays, and communications (email and letters).

P: What rehearsal techniques do you find most useful when learning new music?

D: Individually, we study the scores, work a great deal with the metronome and, if available, listen to live recordings / computer renditions. In the group setting, we find singing our parts very useful and being sensitive to all the markings the composer has written (tempi, articulations, dynamics, etc.)

P: What are the future goals of Quadre?

D: In the short term, we intend on recording two more albums in August. We have two recordings currently: The Voice of Four Horns (2000) and Citrus (2005). We will build on the success of our domestic touring and home concerts by continuing to collaborate with different musicians and artists. We also plan on touring internationally more in the future.

P: What has been the most rewarding aspect of being part of Quadre?

D: For me, it is getting my music performed at such a high level by my fabulous colleagues. It is also very rewarding to see the group continue to thrive after ten years.

P: I noticed you have a blog and myspace page. How important do you think using the latest communication outlets is to being a viable quartet?

D: Connecting with our audience is a critical part of our organization. Our blog and myspace page is a part of our overall marketing and communication strategy which includes: conferences, advertisements, merchandise (CDs, Sheet Music, Posters, Apparel), newsletters (email & mailed), our website, online networking (myspace, blog,, etc.) and so on. Having a strong online presence is another way to get your message out about who you are and what you do.

P: Anything else you would want me to know/present about Quadre that is not on your website?

D: I consider and think of the other members in the quartet as family. I care deeply for each of them and their well-being. We are all very interested in what each of our families are up to (especially the kids) and talk to each other regularly about all sorts of things above and beyond the artistic and management concerns of the quartet. Because we have a strong bond with each other, I think our music is always very present and in the moment. We feel passionately about each other and bring that same passion to our music.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Marketing Music Groups

Hello everybody in internet land. I hope your web surfing is going swimmingly. I, myself, and me have returned to type away after some reflection as of late on the direction of our industry: chamber music; more specifically - touring brass groups; and even more specifically - horn quartets involved in regional outreach and nationwide touring. This week's blog is dedicated to the marketing that revolves around this industry from a local and national perspective.

I went to a conference in the Fall dedicated to marketing for arts organizations. It was called ArtsEnhance and was sponsored by the Arts Council Silicon Valley. It was fantastic. It had a lot of great tips for how to get your word out about your organization from web sites, blogs, podcasts, radio, newspaper, video, video (it's so important I said it twice), etc.

What was particularly cool was the hands on training in the computer lab at Foothill College where, as participants, we got the chance to work in video, digital photography, and audio. Plus, if you go to this conference, you are in the running for applying for a marketing grant to help pay for your efforts. When September rolls around again, I'm definitely going back.

I know that we have found articles in the local papers really helpful in terms of exposure. Concerts, CD releases, anniversaries, etc. are all great "hooks" for these media outlets. For example, we are doing a concert with the percussionist, Jim Kassis, in a couple weeks and the local paper, Palo Alto Weekly, interviewed Jim and I about the collaboration and our experiences working with students. Combine that with the photos we sent the reporter and the fact that it is the group's tenth anniversary, and you have a nice piece for the paper and us.

I've been told that our group does a good job about getting our name out there around the United States. I'm not sure, really, what that means, but I do know that there are a bunch of horn players that have heard of us while they may never have HEARD our music. And I can credit our specific service organization, the International Horn Society for that. They publish a magazine three times a year called, aptly, the HORN CALL. We've been consistent about advertising our organization since 2000 in the periodical and submitting news items on our latest concerts and projects. While I can't say that we have monetarily broken even on the affair, I do know that this exposure has been invaluable for our growth.

Coupled with the advertisements, we make sure to be involved in as many regional and international horn workshops as we are able. And there are a lot of ways to be involved. For example, ads in the program book, booths/tables in the commerce area, workshops/lectures on topics like the "Business of Music", and of course, performances as part of the symposium. Each of these "strategies" is another way to get the word out on our organization and what we do.

And it is equally important to make sure you have created ways to reconnect with your fan base over time. Social Networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, and the list goes on and on. Just check out Hilary Clinton's website for a list of every possible avenue for connection. A very user-friendly website is a must. As is email blasts and e-newsletters.

Of course, in the end, all of these methods for delivering your message require highly visual and engaging collateral: nice photos, interesting video, compelling audio, superbly written press releases, unique stories, engaging bios, etc. This is where the most money can be saved and wasted.