Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hi everyone. The following are the answers I recently provided a student in Alabama about one of the works Quadre commissioned in 2000, Crazy Rhythm by Michael Kallstrom. I thought you might find it interesting.

1. What is Quadre’s relationship with Michael Kallstrom?

I first started talking to him when Quadre was in residence in Selma, Alabama during the 1999-2000 season. I believe the ensemble met him at the Southeast Horn Workshop in 2000 at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. We stayed in touch during the commissioning process and followed up once after the premieres. We have lost touch since although we still send him updates care of our mailing list.

I might add that this relationship is not unusual. In working with composers and other artists over the years, often there is a very close connection during the project and then everyone moves on afterwards. In some ways, this is probably necessary to give the kind of focus that is required for each new endeavor. That said, please send him my regards since it has been a while since we talked.

2. When and why did you choose to commission a quartet from Michael Kallstrom?
We had played Starflame, liked it, and wanted him to compose a multi-movement work for us. He sent us the final copy in April or May of 2000 I believe.

3. Where and when was the premiere of CRAZY RHYTHM?

The premiere was on Friday, December 14, 2001 at San Jose City College in San Jose, CA. It was repeated on Sunday, December 16, 2001 at Noe Valley Ministry in San Francisco, CA.

4. Was it well received by your audience?
We didn't survey the audience after that concert, so I can't give you specific feedback. Although, from what I remember, I believe the audience enjoyed it.

5. Who were the performers? Do you remember the part assignments?
The performers were Armando Castellano (I), Meredith Brown (II), Carrie Campbell (III) and myself - Daniel Wood (IV).

6. How would you describe each movement of CRAZY RHYTHM?

First movement - Moderato, quarter note equals 88
A rhythm predominants the first movement: 2 sixteenths, eighth followed by an eighth rest and then four sixteenths, eighth. The quartet starts by playing this rhythm together and continues to return to that figure as a melodic device and accompaniment. Energy slowly builds until the quartet plays in unison a triplet passage in m.55. This is followed by a caesura in m.61, the only one Kallstrom employs throughout the work. A short espressivo section follows at m.62 before the movement returns to the opening figure at m.75. A couple bars employ stopped horn, however the color Kallstrom achieves in this movement is mostly from exploring the sonic qualities of multiple players in unison rhythmically, melodically or both.

Second movement - Adagio, quarter note equals 66
With a focus on the low range of the instrument, movement 2 has a murky quality with many low notes occurring in seconds in the beginning. As the movement progresses, a canonic like section begins that rises to an Ab written above the staff for the 1st horn. A bass drum like syncopation supports the very legato texture throughout the work. After the climax at m.53, the movement gets softer and softer until all players are asked to merely whisper their parts. It closes with the same murky seconds from which it began.

Third movement - Allegro moderato, quarter note equals 120
In the third, the opening three bar figure in horns 2 and 4, repeats itself for the entire movement. The figure varies over the course of the piece, gets passed between parts, and switches from a melodic to an accompaniment role from time to time. In contrast, a melodic theme that uses eighth notes and triplets occurs in the other parts with occasional solos, subito dynamics, and very staccato notes. While the metronome mark is 120, the work feels more like 60 due to the ostinato of the opening figure.

Fourth movement - Allegro assai, quarter note equals 144
This movement has a lot of moves from a quarter note to a dotted quarter note feel. For example, the first nine bars change meter until the work settles in common time in m.10. (6/8 to 3/4 to 9/8 to 6/8 to 9/8 to 3/4 to 2/4 to 3/4 to 7/8 to 4/4) These changes of meter continue throughout the movement, but in less frequency after the beginning. There is a great deal of time where all four players play the same syncopated rhythms. The rhythmic opening leads way to a climax at m.37. A melodic section follows until the work begins its trip at m.67 towards the finale with numerous entrances that match the earlier underlying syncopated rhythms. A nice subito forte four player octave slur happens in m.122 that grabs the audience's attention with a build that follows to the climax at the very end.

We did perform the fourth movement on its own in a number of concerts and masterclasses the most notable being the Manhattan School of Music in January, 2002.

7. Besides the obvious ‘crazy rhythms’ found in CR what, in your (or the quartet’s) opinion, were the most challenging aspects of the work?
Despite the name, the piece doesn't focus on 'crazy rhythms.' I asked Michael how he came up with his titles. He said that he just uses the names found on the back of the scratch manuscript paper he uses which is from an old radio station I believe. The title on the back for this piece was 'crazy rhythm.' Nonetheless, the rhythms can be a little tricky to line up at times. Getting all the parts to play in perfect unison can be difficult and getting the seconds in tune in the low range as well as at the endings was a little challenging. However, the piece pretty much played itself. For a quartet that has been together for some time, it would be easy to program it.

8. In your opinion, how approachable is CR (and by what level of playing)?
It is approachable. I believe a talented college group in their second or third years would be able to manage the work with minimal rehearsal. Even a talented high school group with a good deal of practice and rehearsal could do it. The highest note is a horn Ab above the staff. The lowest note is a horn Bb an octave and a step below middle C. These extremes are used sparingly however. The first and third horn are predominantly the high parts while the 2nd and 4th are the low. Adequate break time is given within each of the parts so that no one has to play constantly.

9. How many other original horn quartets has Quadre commissioned?
We have commissioned:
14 original works for horn quartet (includes 1 trio and 2 quintets)
7 original works for horn quartet + soloist/ensemble (flute, percussion, wind ensemble, choir, etc.)
24 arrangements for horn quartet alone
15 arrangements for horn quartet + soloist/ensemble (piano, soprano, handbells, steel drums, etc.)

10. Has Quadre performed any other Kallstrom quartets?
I believe we played Starflame during some of our concerts in 2000 and 2001. Jeepers was also considered for a few concerts, but we have not performed it.

11. CRAZY RHYTHM is Kallstrom’s first 4-movement horn quartet. How else is CR different from the other horn quartets Kallstrom has composed for the TransAtlantic Quartet?
Besides Jeepers and Starflame, I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with Kallstrom's other horn quartets. However, I feel that Crazy Rhythm is more introspective than Jeepers and Starflame.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Should I start a Non-Profit?

First off, I have to confess that I’m not a lawyer. I was the jury foreman once, but I don’t think that counts. So please don’t take my advice and quote me in a court of law. They would probably laugh anyway. However, I did start a not-for-profit performing arts corporation in California and have acted as its executive director for the past ten years so I have learned a thing or two.

With that experience, individuals take me out for coffee asking how to start their own not-for-profits. They want to know:

1) How do I apply?
2) Can I make money with a not-for-profit?
3) Is a not-for-profit time consuming?
4) Is it worth starting one?

For number 1, I tell them to buy a book for the application process. I used the Nolo Press book, How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation. It is available from online retailers and will probably have the latest information on the process in your state.

Number 2 is easy. Not-for-profits can make money. They just can’t funnel that money into employee’s pockets at the end of year as bonuses. They have to use any extra income they make and put it back into their organization. For example, the extra revenue could be used to buy equipment or build up a savings account (read that as unrestricted operating cash reserve in “nonprofit-ese”.)

Not-for-profits are time consuming. You are setting up a corporation. (All not-for-profits are corporations.) You are breathing life into an entity with its own unique tax ID number that can “never die.” More on that later. Any time you start something like that, it is going to take some time to keep it running smoothly.

And finally, given the mission and focus of your idea, a not-for-profit can be well worth it and the way to go. For most people who talk to me, it isn’t. They are doing it for insurance reasons, to get donations, or to apply for a grant. You don’t need to be a not-for-profit to do these things. I explain at the bottom. Hint: fiscal agent.

As most people know, contributions to not-for-profits are tax deductible, but the organization also benefits from a variety of other factors. Simply put they are: tax exemptions, limited liability, perpetual legal existence, employee benefits, and formality.

The first two are pretty self-explanatory. Being tax exempt means that you don’t pay taxes on your revenue. Woohoo!! If you are a performing arts organization that makes a lot of money every year and the taxes would be a big blow to your organization, then being a not-for-profit due to your charitable existence is a very good idea. Many smaller organizations, like chamber ensembles, don’t have that issue of rolling in money so this wouldn’t be a driving factor for them.

As for perpetual legal existence, this can be a really nice thing. It kind of makes you immortal. When you are a not-for-profit, your audience can feel confident that you are going to stick around. Funders and donors are more inclined to invest in what you do too. Of course, if you do go under, there are some legal ramifications with this. Check out the disadvantages for that.

While a not-for-profit corporation can't share profits amongst employees, salaries can and should be commensurate with for-profit organizations. Your organization should make sure to have the necessary funds for administrative and artistic compensation, healthcare, pension, and benefits such as professional development.

Finally, the formality of the organization in regards to its documents (Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Minutes of Meetings, Board Resolutions, etc.) creates a "built-in set of ground rules...that is an important advantage...where the composition of the board includes diverse members of the community with correspondingly divergent interests." (Nolo Press, How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation in California) Without these guidelines, reaching collective decisions that benefit the community at large would be difficult if not completely futile.

Things are not completely peachy however. Not-for-profit corporations have a great deal of paperwork to deal with, the high price tag of incorporation costs and fees, and lots of time and energy to maintain.

And while the rosy gates often are opened to you if you are a not-for-profit in terms of grants, tax deductible donations, rental rates, insurance premiums, etc., two words very often can help you avoid setting up the not-for-profit in the first place: fiscal agent. Another not-for-profit with a similar mission can act as your fiscal agent and be used as a go between you and the grant, donor, insurance company, etc. Arts councils and national service organizations often act in this capacity for their constituents.

And if you form a not-for-profit and it doesn’t work out, all of your assets need to be given to another not-for-profit that does comparable work. Therefore, if all the music you bought for your symphony was paid for by the not-for-profit, every last piece of it needs to go to another not-for-profit group if the bills can’t be paid. Hopefully it will never come to that. In this economic climate though, you never know.

Forming a not-for-profit can really help you organize your mission and get your idea off on the right track. However, it can be a ton of work to maintain. If you have an idea that will keep you working throughout the year and it has a charitable mission, then perhaps starting that not-for-profit is the right way to go. Either way, good luck and make your idea happen.

About the writer: Daniel Wood is an entrepreneurial musician living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2000, he has worked and mentored large and small arts not-for-profits in the areas of management, marketing, development, and board governance. As a founding member and executive director of the horn quartet Quadre (www.quadre.org) and teacher at the Community School of Music and Arts (www.arts4all.org), Daniel publishes his music with Solid Wood Publishing (www.solidwoodmusic.com) and lectures on the business of music nationally as a "Savvy Musician" advocate (www.savvymusician.com)