On Sunday, I'm participating in University of Hartford's President's College Showcase 2010. Dean Aaron Flagg of the Hartt School is convening a panel to focus on the future of orchestras. (We start at 11:30am) He asked each of us to submit a written response to this question for publication in the program.
The orchestra field includes school, community, youth, collegiate, semi-professional, and fully professional orchestras. Describe your ideal future for the American Orchestra. What part of it do you think will actually take place? Why?
I was asked to further comment on these questions related to youth symphonies and university orchestras.
What is different about the young performers in youth orchestras today than 20 years ago? What experiences might higher education be surprised to realize youth orchestra members have and therefore want from a collegiate experience? How might colleges and the professional world adjust to maintain their long-term interest? Having advocated for funding at the county and state-level, what are some of the perceptions of the orchestra field in the public sector and how might or how are they impacting the future?
Here's what I wrote. If you're there please come say Hello!
Orchestra music is inherently a community created art form, yet it is dependent upon the excellence and dedication of each individual participant. Understanding and working with this duality is essential to successfully advancing orchestral music into the future. Inspiring individual musicians to commit themselves to enthusiastically pursuing the goals of the ensemble consistently results in the most successful orchestral experiences for musicians and audiences. Sustaining this enthusiasm in musicians over a lifetime, particularly professional musicians, is a challenge.
Enthusiasm is not hard to find in student musicians. And, we have clues as to how their youthful enthusiasm may be extended beyond their current experiences. The majority of students participating in youth orchestras today don't have the same school orchestra experiences their counterparts had twenty years ago. Unlike in the past, most are receiving their musical instruction through private teachers and spending much more time focused on individual repertoire. As a result, orchestral and chamber music repertoire is novel to them, as is the group experience of an ensemble. This is particularly true of string players whose parents started them in lessons at an early age without giving them an ensemble experience in their musically formative years.
Universities have the opportunity to tap this limited exposure to ensemble. It can actually be the source of ongoing excitement and growth in students. Framing the university music experience as a venture where each student is charged with growing their musical skills in order to prepare for playing repertoire alongside their peers and colleagues would communicate the value of the orchestra as a community project. Instead of viewing their progress as an individual concern, students would understand they are first and foremost contributing to something larger than themselves. We might even see the end of the senior recital.
In addition to focusing on the students' own discovery and embrace of orchestral repertoire, universities have the opportunity to teach them how to share their passion for the repertoire with their wider community. There is little doubt students will continue to come out of college with the musical skills to perform amazing orchestral repertoire. But will universities commit to giving them the skills they need to share their love of the music with friends, family, neighbors, and strangers?
Twenty years from now our nation's college, community, and professional orchestras will have to relate to their communities dynamically to be valued widely. Giving today's student musicians the skills to lead that dynamism will be good for them, good for orchestras, and good for our nation.
This week a consortium of California artists, arts organizations, arts educators, and arts coalitions launched the Arts in Governors Race project. The basic goal is simple. We want to make so much noise about the importance of the arts to California's future that the gubernatorial candidates announce their support for arts-friendly public policies such as:
The Steering Committee needs arts supporters from every California community to get involved. We've identified three simple things you can do to advance the arts during this important election. (And you don't have to be from California to participate!)
- Increasing public funding for nonprofit arts organizations in order to better serve their communities
- Ensuring that every child has the opportunity for a comprehensive, high quality arts education in grades K-12
- Nurturing an environment that allows individuals and families affordable access to all forms of the arts
1. Endorse the campaign - It is a non-partisan effort that doesn't support one candidate or the other. Instead, we need a list of millions to show these candidates the arts matter to people's lives in California. The online form will take less than a minute to complete. While your at it you can start following the effort Facebook and Twitter.
2. Invite your friends and colleagues to become involved in all the ways you are. Send them to the website and encourage them to be part of this exciting statewide effort. If you want to volunteer even more time then let us know.
3. Donate! Money is the life blood of every political effort. Ours is no exception. Your contribution can be of any amount. $5, $20, $50 and larger contributions will deepen the pool of resources we have for engaging the candidates and building momentum for this effort. Every dollar makes a difference so add yours to the cause right away.
Californians have two months to put the importance of the arts on the radar of their next governor. Adding your voice is the only way we'll create enough volume to make that happen.
Do your part today!
San Diego is hosting the first of a series of events across California to bring attention to the importance of the arts and arts education to candidates for elected office. If you are in San Diego for the day on Friday, join us at 5pm for our 2010 Arts and Culture Election Mixer at the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park. Get the event detail here.
We have candidates for City Council, School Board, County Supervisor, and State Assembly all expected to attend. With 100 of San Diego's arts and culture leaders along with the board members from California Arts Advoctes surrounding these candidates at the mixer, we think this will be the first step to building relationships with the eventual winners of these races.
If you haven't started planning an election event focused on the arts in your community I encourage you to get started. The election is less than three months away. It really only takes a commited group of people to use their networks to distribute invitations, follow up with campaigns and secure a cultural location. Americans for the Arts Action Fund even has tips and tools to help you.
There is no more fun way to build relationships with candidates than by throwing a party to impress them with the crowd you draw, the calibre of leader in attendance, and the power of the arts as a backdrop. Post info about your party in the comments below!
I've had the good fortune to participate in a variety of state and national gatherings focused on the future of the arts, arts advocacy, and non-profit advocacy since May. This week, I attended a Nonprofit Advocacy Policy Roundtable organized by the Nonprofit Listening Post Project based at Johns Hopkins University's Center for Civil Society Studies. If you aren't familiar with the Listening Post's work, it is worth checking out. I'm particularly impressed by the data and analysis they provide in their three advocacy communiqués. These (numbers 9, 13, and 18) formed the starting point for the all day conversation.
Being immersed with non-profit agency, coalition, and funding leaders from across all sectors helped me see that arts and culture advocates are basically in the same position as their colleagues in other sectors when it comes to advocacy - only worse. Facts from the Listening Post reinforce this experience. Arts organizations under participate in advocacy with only 59% of theaters and 46% of museums claiming to advocate or lobby compared to 89% for elderly service and 80% for children and family service non-profits. All non-profits primarily focus their advocacy on funding for their organization's programs, less on policy issues of relevance to the people they serve, and all are basically absent from policy conversations about the larger governmental and regulatory structure that surrounds us.
The vast majority of non-profits' absence from policy discussions about what structures define the world we operate in was evident in the Creative Rights and Artists discussions last week on Arts Journal. What I've missed in the forum is a mention that this is endemic to non-profits across sectors.
At the Advocacy Policy Roundtable, we attempted to unearth factors that contribute to this state of affairs. The one that is most fascinating to me is related to how non-profits seem to downplay their inherent private/pubic nature. Government as a social concept has taken a beating over the past 30 years and is no longer viewed as a source of solutions nor quality services. Yet non-profits are providers of services handled by government in other countries. Because of the non-profit tax status, receipt of government dollars and common use of government facilities, non-profits' success is inextricably bound to the success of government at all levels.
Instead of clearly defining to the public and policy makers that we are partners in creating and serving the common good (does anyone even know what this is anymore?) we spend our time fighting to retain what we have and avoid becoming responsible for more than we are already doing. We aren't functioning with a big picture perspective that could result in substantial change if we orient ourselves to the task. Instead, we seem to believe we can't make a difference on such a scale and shouldn't even try. We are passive on the most substantial issues like the majority of the population.
I learned at the Roundtable that the non-profit sector in whole is the fourth largest industry in the U.S. economy, I think by employment but I don't remember if this is the exact measure. We're bigger than the lobbying powerhouses of banking and construction. But we don't operate with the same commitment to advocacy or lobbying as these other sectors. We limit ourselves through a belief in lack of resources. The Listening Post found that the two greatest reasons organizations site as inhibitors to advocating is lack of staff time and training. Yet, as organizations grow they don't prioritize advocacy enough to overcome this barrier. In fact, 85% of large organizations site lack of staff time while 72% of medium and 65% of small organizations give this same answer.
People do what they want, what they like, and what they know. Advocating for more than their organization or program is clearly not what leaders of non-profits are doing. This is entirely by choice. If non-profit leaders begin to recognize that because of the goodwill and trust people have for non-profits, they can positively affect policy and governmental functioning that will in fact advance their own work and success. It just takes making it a priority and slowly building it into the character and culture of an organization.
If people with enough generosity of spirit to dedicate themselves to a career in the non-profit world don't expand their efforts to include advocating for the greater good then I'm not sure who will. And arts organizations seem to me the best to start this effort since they are community gathering points already.
Update: The staff at the Listening Post has just confirmed that their research shows the non-profit sector is the 4th largest employer in the United States.
Dalouge Smith is President & CEO of San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory and serves as Chairman of the San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition. more
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-National Dance Association
-Americans for the Arts
-Association of Performing Arts Presenters
Keep Arts in Schools
-National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
-Performing Arts Alliance
-Western States Arts Federation
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-Screen Actors Guild
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Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
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Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
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Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
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Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
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Fresh ideas on building arts communities
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Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
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Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
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Joe Horowitz on music
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Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
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