This pandemic has already shifted the arts landscape dramatically. Canceled concerts have all but eliminated work for most musicians. As you can tell, I haven’t written much in 2020. I want to make this blog something valuable to all of you who have founded and lead musical ensembles. Consequently, I’m planning on shifting this blog to ask “What’s next?” It’s on all of our minds. The nonprofit I founded, Project: Sound, brings musicians from around the world into rural areas. I don’t have any idea when we’ll be able to do another tour. If you lead an arts organization, shoot me an email. Let me know what you’re doing to adjust to the new reality.
We’re all in this together.
This pandemic has been catastrophic for arts organizations--and it looks like things will only get worse. Some have said that concerts and sports events won’t happen until 2021. What will arts organizations do?
We innovate. Now is the time when we need to change the way we do business, to use all of the technology we haven’t, and to move into the present. It’s no longer an option.
As we enter the final month of the year, it’s time to reflect on 2019. What lessons did we learn? What didn’t we finish that we can finish next year? Yet, we don’t have to wait until next year to generate a resolution and then seek to do something. If you haven’t finished something, you can start today, set a resolution to finish this month or even this week. No need to wait.
The holiday season is a time to remember the people we’re thankful for and for the time, the money, and the help they’ve given us. The classical music ecosystem can’t function or even exist without many people putting in a lot of effort. It’s also a time to remember that the field should have joy and life. Our music must have it--and we must have it in our lives. So, take some time to be thankful and merry.
It takes a lot of work just to do a small concert or tour. When you think you’ve done everything you can do to reach an audience, you’ve probably only just scratched the surface. Asking other people--your audience, your musicians, your friends-- can help push you in directions you didn’t previously realize were possible. Because of your own background and habits of thinking, you didn’t see them. Once you do see them, you can be reminded of how much is still out there. Keep looking.
As we study music, we study ourselves. Music is really just sounds, or during study, just notes on the page. Yet music is never merely sounds nor merely notes. It speaks to us. It moves us. It takes us on a journey. Where we go says as much about us as it does about the music.
Composers write symphonies and other beautiful music out of notes. They make a decision and they write a note. For those of us in the founding community, we write symphonies with people--with the relationships between audience members, arts support staff, and performers. We must engage each note--we can’t make them do anything. Through crafting a vision and working to build relationships and getting people on your side, however, the people-notes will work towards your vision. One great thing about people--and notes never will be able to do: people bring their own initiative and creativity to the ensemble and the work. People take the work and run with it. The most beautiful symphony we can write is one where the notes take it and make it their own, turning it into something more beautiful than you could have ever envisioned.
Sometimes you don’t know. You don’t know how to do it. You don’t know what to do. You have a few options: 1) take a wild stab at something 2) ask someone who does know 3) do some research so that you start to know or 4) do nothing. The last option goes nowhere. With the others, mistakes pave the way to a better understanding.
You will never be good enough for someone. Your overbearing mother, that snippy colleague, your teacher with students much better than you, maybe even yourself. At the same time, you will always be good enough for someone or for some group of people. They want what you’re working on. They support you. They want you to succeed. Work for them.
It’s simply impossible to do everything that you want to do. We have to make choices, decide on what is essential and what can wait for a rainy day. We can either deliberately choose those things or we can let our subconscious and the rest of the world make the decision for us. We just never seem to get around to that thing that’s really important. If you’re going to avoid something, consciously decide to avoid it. If you’re going to do something, make the decision to do it. Be the kind of person who mindfully and carefully selects what to do with the limited time and cognitive room we have. That important thing that you never get around to doing is probably really important.