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July 1, 2005

Total Experience with the Students

Dear Doug,

In the late 1990s, while studying at Gallatin College of New York University, I was greatly inspired by a performance of the Iphigenia Cycle, directed by JoAnne Akalaitis at New York’s American Place Theater. From the moment the audience entered the theater, we were immersed in the theme of the Trojan War. From the hallways to the bathroom walls, the entire building was arranged in such a way that everything suggested the world of the classical Greek story. It was the importance of the theme that impressed me most, rather than the star actors. This was a very powerful feeling and, when I left the theater, I felt I was stepping out into a completely different world.

After that experience, I tried to think of ways in which similar "theme saturation" might be used to present musical events, including concerts. At the same time, I determined to try to make my concerts into more personal or "individualized” experiences that would link the audience, the presenters and the performers.

As you know, there is background information about the Total Experience Project on my website. The first round took place in Japan in 2003; this is also documented on the website.

This year, for the second round, we chose "Wa" for our theme. “Wa,” roughly translated, means circle, round, cyclic, link, (of a wheel) connection, etc. We decided to work with students of arts management at Niigata University and at the Showa Music College in Atsugi, the first school in Japan to establish an arts management curriculum. The students were initially provided with a description of the concept, the program of my recital and access to background about the Total Experience concept on my website.

Interestingly, students at both schools chose to interpret “Wa” as a “link” or “web of communications” rather than simply as a circle or cycle. Each group of students decided independently to create closer links with their surrounding communities.

In Niigata, which is north of Tokyo, and is where the large earthquake took place last year, students prepared a newsletter called “The Link” that they circulated to members of community, through local amateur orchestras and choirs, to publicize the events leading up to my recital. They held a musical walkathon (Walk-Rally), set up a cello seminar in which they offered a free lesson to those who attended and held a listening session tied to violin repertoire, among others. They asked members of the community to draw on pieces of paper their interpretations of the theme of “Wa” and they linked all the responses in a circular display in the lobby of the recital hall. The students at both schools were responsible for preparing program notes, sending out tickets - only those who participated in the community-based events could apply for tickets-, doing all related artwork, and arranging post concert receptions.

At Showa Music College, the students arranged for their instrumentalist colleagues to give community concerts in shopping malls and other public spaces. They also held a session in which they encouraged participants to explore the acoustic differences between various instruments. Like their Niigata counterparts, they asked members of the community to contribute something showing what “Wa” meant to them and displayed the responses on a bulletin board in the concert hall lobby.

The students at both schools were quite shy at first, but I sense that they got a sense in the process of the project the importance of taking action. The challenge of involving everyone and facilitating communication required more energy and effort that they initially expected. I am hoping that they learned something they can take with them in their future endeavors--as arts managers, presenters, and administrators.


Posted by at July 1, 2005 5:06 PM