(Another of my occasional posts about classical music publicity and promotion. It’s so often done badly, with flyers, posters, and press releases that don’t say a thing. How can we do it better?)
I don’t know Laura Seay. But I admire her a lot. She’s a viola student at Juilliard, and gave a recital a month or so ago, joined by three other musicians, all Korean or Korean-American. (Not hard to do at Juilliard, with its heavy Asian enrollment.)
And so she put up flyers for the concert, advertising the show as “Laura and the Koreans.” As if they were a band! There weren’t any other words. But there were pictures. The first poster I saw had, very simply, a fork and three pairs of chopsticks. The next had a photo of Laura holding chopsticks, and the Koreans holding forks. There were more posters, though I’ve forgotten what they showed. But I think this was a triumph. I know that advertising isn’t really needed for a Juilliard recital. Your friends will come, your family will come, a scattering of people from the neighborhood will come (attracted by the free admission). But some students do promotion anyway, sometimes tongue in cheek, and this was the best I’ve seen.
Why? Because it made me want to hear the concert. Laura Seay is clearly smart, fun, and imaginative. Maybe she plays as well as she advertises! Or maybe she doesn’t, but at least I know she’s got some spunk. And what do I know about other Juilliard students, who have barebones flyers, or scholarly ones? Nothing at all. So Laura wins.
Boring footnote: Of course she violated classical music rule 31-B, which says: “The music is what matters, not the performers.” And she also broke rule 6-J: “You have to be serious.”
Believe me, I’m horrified.
By chance, next to one of her posters was another one, which obeyed rule 31-B. It listed (if I remember correctly) the composers the student was going to play, with one highlight in big type: “Including the Kägelstadt Trio!!” Or words to that effect. (And maybe there were more exclamation points.) !! violates the serious rule, I guess, but at least the flyer focused on the music.
But who really cares? (With apologies to the student, who might be well worth hearing.) The Kägelstadt Trio is a Mozart piece for the dusky sound of viola, clarinet, and piano, and sure, you might not run into it every day. But were you dying to run out and hear it right now? I didn’t think so. (And since the flyer didn’t explain what it was, only people who already know the piece would have been likely to respond.) And not many people, surely, care enough about that piece to justify the exclamation points?
But people always care about brains, imagination, and a good sense of fun, no matter what music you play.
(Assignment for anyone who still disapproves: Design a poster that obeys the rules, and still draw people to the concert. Then send it to me. I’m serious. I’d love to see a poster like that.)