The grant cycle continues—in two weeks a new batch of NEC entrepreneurs will have money in their hands and projects to launch. But first, here’s a glimpse of what is taking shape for Peter Negroponte, leader of the Improvisers Anonymous Series (spring 2011 EM grant). We’re excited to share his most recent success in this crisp little post. Look out for more from IAS in September—they’re taking root at the Piano Factory and carving out a new space for avant-garde and experimental music in Boston.
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IAS concert #1 went extremely well. Not only was the music fantastic, but the show was well attended with over 50 audience members. Jules Vasylenko, with whom I co-organized the event, said that it was the most successful production at the Piano Factory that he had seen at the space since 2008. The performances included NEC students and alumni, as well as some of Boston’s most important improvisers and DIY event organizers.
Due to the mix of performers, internet advertising through Facebook, and an awesome poster made by Mass Art student Amy Mills, the show attendance was mixed with personal friends and acquaintances as well as people that I had never met. If all goes well, I plan to host another show at the Piano Factory in September. Creating and encouraging a community that welcomes various experimental and avant-garde forms of music is an ultimate life-time goal that involves small steps. I feel as IAS is a small step towards what I hope to see in future: A scene that accepts forward thinking music, whether traditionally trained or untrained, avant-garde or experimental - with a communal understanding of creative art making with intent and meaning (or an intentional lack thereof).
I’ve been reading a lot about Kickstarter.com lately. The wildly successful online fundraising platform has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and everywhereinbetween. Just this morning I read a great article by my old friend Dan Bolles, the Music Editor at Seven Days, my hometown of Burlington, VT’s excellent alternative weekly. He likens a Kickstarter campaign to an NPR pledge drive, which I think is a useful if imprecise analogy and I’ll explain why later. The article goes on to describe other innovative ways of raising money online, from simply putting a PayPal donation button on your web site to organizing weekly live, streaming concerts.
Also among recent Kickstarter coverage is an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune claiming the site channels more than $1 million every week to creative projects. This made me wonder, is that a lot? Here are some points of reference: 1) A 2003 study by The Urban Institute (full disclosure, I worked on this) found that there is more than $91 million available in cash grants to artists every year—these are “traditional” grant programs administered by state and local arts agencies, and private foundations. If you averaged that out over the course of a year it’d come to about $1.75 million every week. 2) In 2009, the BSO’s annual budget was about $85 million (see guidestar.org). Averaged out over the course of a year that comes to $1.65 million per week. 3) The iTunes store is the world’s largest music retailer. Between January 2009 and February 2010 the iTunes store sold 4 billion songs. With most songs priced at $1/song that works out to an average of roughly $70 million per week. Bottom line: the iTunes store is huge, but when it comes to funding creative projects, Kickstarter is no slouch!
A lot of students come into the Career Services Center needing to raise a small amount of money for a specific project. Say for example, you received a scholarship to attend a great summer festival, but need money to cover your airfare. Or, you have a bunch of tunes already recorded but need money to pay for mixing and mastering. Perhaps your first question is: what grants can I apply for? And unfortunately, I have to tell you there aren’t a lot of grants to support these types of expenses. There’s the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation’s USArtists International program, and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music’s Recording Program, both of which are highly competitive, national programs. Local funding sources are also certainly worth exploring. NEC alum Rosalind Buda, for example, received a mini-grant from the Iowa Arts Council to attend a summer festival as an undergrad. But in most cases, my suggestion is to reach out to friends, family, and supporters to raise the money in small donations, and that a Kickstarter campaign is a great way to do this.
Some folks are receptive to this advice, but many are skeptical. There’s a perception that Kickstarter is just a high-tech way to beg money from our equally poor friends. Well, maybe there’s some truth to this. But even our poorest friends might have $1 or 5 to donate to a creative project. Plus, it’s all about your network. What about your rich aunt? Your parents’ friends? That guy that randomly came to your show and liked what you were doing so you exchanged contact info? Or your friend from high school who was great with computers and now makes a bunch of money?
Here’s where the NPR analogy comes in. I’ve listened to NPR for years. For most of those years, I didn’t have much disposable income, and whenever a pledge drive came around I thought, “not a chance.” But now I’m at a point in my life where I have a steady job that I enjoy and I actually want to give NPR my money. The point is, there are people out there that want to give you money too! And all you have to do is ask.
Here’s where the NPR analogy breaks down. Their incentives aren’t usually very appealing. A tote bag? No thanks. Dragon speech recognition software? No again. Being entered into a lottery to possibly win a vacation in France? Sure, I guess. On Kickstarter you set the pledge levels and you choose the incentives. You could give away handwritten thank you letters, the donor’s name on your web site, copies of your new album, a limited edition t-shirt, dinner and a movie, the possibilities are endless. Last fall my friend Ed used Kickstarter to raise money to record a Christmas album and I got a CD, t-shirt, and a screen-printed poster, all for a mere $50!
Check out these examples of NEC-related Kickstarter projects:
We are excited to share a grant project blog post from Lauren Hunt, who recently traveled to Bogota, Colombia for spring break to teach French Horn. Below, Lauren recreates her first few days in Bogota, where a stable Internet connection was hard to come by. Lauren is reconstructing her trip, day-by-day and we encourage you to follow her charming travel blog, Corno Colombia. Gracias, Lauren!
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Hi, everyone! I’ve just returned from my trip to Colombia! Unfortunately, because of extremely limited internet connectivity, I was unable to post on this blog as I had planned to. So now I will attempt to recreate the blog posts that would have been here if I had had internet access! I arrived in Colombia on March 17 early in the afternoon, and was met at the airport by Yuli, my host and my main aid in organizing all the activities of my trip. I was also met by my boyfriend, who traveled there at the same time to work with percussion students, though he of course was not sponsored by the grant.
We’re excited to be in Colombia!
After a long taxi ride to Yuli’s home in a suburb on the other side of the city from the airport, we spent the rest of the day relaxing, getting used to our surroundings, and planning the types of materials that I should use to work with each group/program. I brought about 30 books with me on the trip, including method books, technique exercises, and works for horn ensembles. I went through all of them with Yuli to determine which were appropriate levels for each group, and to become further acquainted with the purpose and organizational structure of the programs. The next day, Friday, was a free day. We slept in a little to get over the fatigue from the previous day of traveling, then went into downtown Bogota to do some sight-seeing. I knew before I arrived in Colombia that I would be staying outside the city, but it was pretty far to go in. Some days we took taxis, but usually we traveled via TransMilenio, Bogota’s public transportation system. The TransMilenio is a system of buses, which drive in their own lanes on all major roads so as to avoid the problems of traffic. Also, it is not a dangerous place to be, even for someone who is obviously North-American, like me. Since it’s so safe, we were able to use it almost all the time, except very late at night when I had my instrument with me. So into the city we went! We spent most of the time in La Candelaria, the historic center of Bogota, where most of the museums and many historic churches and cathedrals are located. We visited nearly all of the museums, many churches, and we even took some pictures outside the president’s house!
With Yuli in the Botero Museum
It was a good thing that we went back home pretty early on Friday, because Saturday was the first day of work. We were working at Sabana Centro, a music program for children in Tocancipa. Tocancipa is a Colombian city outside of Bogota (see map below), but since it was on the opposite side of the city from San Mateo, where we were staying, it was a pretty long trip to get there. We spent about 2 or 2 1/2 hours on different buses on our way there. We arrived in a small town that seems to me fairly typical of rural Colombia from my experience there last July. The town was very small, with a few restaurants, markets, and one large building that is the music school. Students go there from all over the area to play with the youth programs. They have an orchestra and a few bands.
I worked first with a variety of students, from beginning (one with just 1 week of playing!) to high intermediate. First, we warmed up together and discussed basic means of sound production. I then went student by student through the group, correcting problems of position, technique, and breathing. After lunch, the beginning students left and I worked with the intermediate level students on basic ensemble. I played a horn quartet with the other teachers while the students watched, then the students sight-read an easier piece. We discussed the types of markings that come up often in scores, such as tempo markings, repeats, articulations, and dynamics, as well as how to play together well, including how to coordinate fast notes, match note lengths and articulations, and cue or follow someone else’s cues. After one more run-through (watch the video below!), it was time to take the long trip back home.
The next day, Sunday, we again spent working in Tocancipa. In the morning, I worked exclusively with the beginning students, on technique (including basic fingerings and long tones) as well as reviewed the concepts of positioning we had talked about the previous day. To culminate our time together, we worked on a very simple trio from one of the method books I brought, which involved just stepwise motion and differentiating between similar-feeling partials on the horn. Below you can watch a video of their final performance!
In the afternoon, I worked with the staff members at the program, as well as the more advanced students, on some more trios and quartets, and we finished off by playing some orchestral excerpts and discussing the excerpts’ stylistic difficulties.
Working on ensemble playing with intermediate students
Altogether, I had a fantastic time working at Sabana Centro Tocancipa with the students and teachers there, and check back soon for information about the rest of my trip!
Fall grant recipient Colin Thurmond is hard at work building an incredible event, AcousticaElectronica, which will be included in Boston’s 2011 Together Festival (April 18-24). We asked Colin to share a little about the evolution of his project, which we have published below. Pencil this in on your calendar folks!
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This project has evolved in so many exciting ways since the idea first came up in September of last year. It began as a conversation between friends. My colleagues and I were discussing the frustrations of young classical musicians trying to reconcile their popular music sensibilities in a conservatory setting.
In a way this project had to happen. Between the members of the group it felt like a moral imperative. The right people seemed to fall into place almost without thinking. We wanted to create something new, fresh, relevant. Something that brought a new vision to tradition, at once respectful to our roots but progressive and modern.
“Me” by Josh Wisdumb
The vision is to create a form of immersive performance experience in which classical music, electronic music, live performance, dance, videography and visual arts blend to reject the passive obedience usually expected of audiences.
Our show contains two parts: Soundpainting and The WIG spinning the music of Athena. Soundpainting is a sign language for creating live composition from structured improvisation. This is a community music-making event for any number of participants, with or without musical experience. There are no mistakes. You are encouraged to color outside the lines. The Boston Soundpainting Orchestra will lead the audience in creating live compositions blended with pre-recorded music that the audience will hear later in the main act of the performance. This way the audience will participate in the music they will later hear, breaking down the space between the performer and audience. Visual artist Josh Wisdumb will improvise on canvas to the music shaped by the Boston Soundpainting Orchestra. Dancers from The Boston Conservatory will improvise movement to the sound.
The show is entitled AcousticaElectronica. This show brings together young talent from the New England Conservatory, The Boston Conservatory and beyond to express their diverse musical realities, which include both classical and non-classical influences. Classical music has been reinterpreted/reinvented/remixed with electronic music giving a fresh new voice to a beautiful tradition. The WIG will spin with live string quartet, guitar, vocals and piano.
We have paired with the Boston Together Festival, the region’s largest electronic music festival sponsored by the Weekly Dig.
Excited to experience what the Together Festival calls, “a bind bending classical/electronic performance”? We are too. Below are all of the important nuts and bolts:
Date: Friday, April 22, 2011
Time: Doors @ 7pm, Curfew @ 11:00pm. Opening act from 8-9:10pm. Main act from 9:10-10:30pm
Fall Entrepreneurial Grant recipient Joan Arnau Pàmies recently completed a wonderfully successful pilot for his project, NEC Young Composer’s Forum. His work has created a great deal of excitement and buzz among students and faculty, who are eager to see this forum continue after Joan graduates this spring. Ryan Krause, a second year graduate composition student, recently wrote a piece in NEC’s student newspaper The Penguin, imploring his fellow students to pick up the YCF reigns and keep the momentum going. To give you a taste of the YCF, here is an excerpt from Trevor Baca’s lecture on December 3, 2010:
You can find this and other videos on the YCF blog. Happy reading!
The Future of the NEC Young Composers Forum
by Ryan Krause, MM ‘11 Composition
Over the course of the last four months, NEC composer Joan Arnau Pàmies, a graduating senior this year, has founded, curated, and overseen the creation and execution of a new student-run organization: the NEC Young Composers Forum, a program made possible thanks to an NEC Entrepreneurial Grant. The forum set out to bring in interesting and relevant composers to introduce themselves to the NEC community and to present their work and topics related to its creation. Pàmies’ goal was to give NEC students and composers “the opportunity to not only learn about the transformations that music is going through today, but also to be more familiar with late 20th Century musical, aesthetic, and philosophical terms.”
The aim of the forum has been to bring in outside voices that otherwise wouldn’t be heard in typical Composition Department master classes, which generally opt for older, more established and conservative composers. Instead, the NEC YCF brought in an array of much more identifiable figures, all of whom were pursuing doctoral or post-graduate studies. The age range of the “young” composers Pàmies recruited runs from about 25 to just under 40, and the career status of these musicians is something that an NEC student could aspire to, and achieve, within a few years. They were young, diligent, daring composers, who talked not about their careers, nor life as a successful composer, but talked, quite simply, about their music. Each presenter brought in a number of slides and musical examples, and many brought in sketches and graphs of the pre-compositional process.
The composers involved were a varied group, not of one musical school or particular aesthetic, but all with interesting approaches and techniques that were fascinating to hear about. Harvard composer Trevor Bača has developed his own code to realize complex, multi-dimensional musical processes in small chamber pieces with extra musical, often mystic, poetic aims. Columbia’s Paul Clift brought in an elaborate multimedia work featuring pre-recorded soprano, a dancer triggering sensors, and live audio processing involving highly sensitive microphones placed inside the instruments. From the younger of the visiting composers like Alec Hall and Diana Soh, we saw a number of skilled and engaging chamber pieces. Regardless of the style, what these musicians had in common was their attention to detail, the level of their craft, and their relevance within the current musical framework.
We have the unique privilege of being able to attend a cultural institution with as much international renown as NEC. The school has had a long history of bringing in relevant and influential composers over the last couple of decades, and the guests who visited the forum in its inaugural year were all thrilled to be presenting in such a setting. It is important for the NEC community to trade on this cachet. Once or twice a year, the Composition Department may bring in a composer for a colloquium, but this is not enough. In order that the world of composition at NEC may remain viable, we need to seek out the best of those around us, and the task needn’t fall solely on the Department.
As it was, the forum was not limited in its appeal to composition majors, but, rather, drew a wide array of attendees from all the school’s disciplines. “I still think I failed at one of the most important goals of this whole project,” says Pàmies, “which was to attract the majority of the students in the NEC Composition Department. I can recall barely ten students out of over fifty who came to at least one of the lectures. It was surprising to see that more jazz and CI majors than composition students attended the lectures.” Where the forum did succeed, however, was in allowing young minds to interact.
The visiting composers, being in the germination stages of their artistic endeavors, are vulnerable, fallible, and still not set in their ways, and, moreover, have as much to benefit from presenting their music as we do from hearing about it. Bringing in successful composers can be a good model for the career-minded among us, but how much more fruitful would it have been to hear these composers hashing out their ideas 30 years ago, when they were still young, when they were first making their creative strides?
Theory faculty Stratis Minakakis makes a similar observation: “I always imagined how fascinating it might have been to meet the young Xenakis and Stockhausen in Darmstadt at the moment when they were composing ‘Metastaseis’ and ‘Gruppen.’ Such festivals were started in the early fifties in Europe to provide a podium to the younger generation for the exchange of new ideas. The NEC Young Composers Forum started from a similar impetus and I hope it is an effort that is seriously undertaken by students next year and in the years to come.”
So, returning students, the onus is on you: the NEC YCF needs to and deserves to live on. With Pàmies leaving, we need someone, be it one student or several, to step up and take the reins and reapply this fall for an Entrepreneurial Grant. Continuing the momentum set forth by this successful first year of the forum is an important step towards seeing that NEC remains a relevant institution, at the forefront of contemporary composition, and so that we may continue to witness the future of music in the making.
We’ve had a dizzying start to the semester, but couldn’t be more pleased to announce the spring Entrepreneurial Student Grant recipients. Friday marked the completion of the grant review process, and we have funded eight new creative projects:
Parlor Nightis a bi-monthly chamber music series at the LilyPad in Cambridge. A collaboration between Michael Dahlberg, his LilyPad String Quartet and venue owner Gil Aharon, Parlor Night aims to transform the perception and conventional presentation of live classical music performance in Greater Boston. The mission is three fold: to find new performance formats that attract audiences, to make classical music a social convener, and to cultivate deeper relationships between professional musicians and the communities that they are part of.
John Elliott is curating aPrism concert, a unique type of performance that blends different styles of music and plays with time and space to create an interactive and welcoming atmosphere. The music is continuous and ensembles are set up in different locations throughout the venue to envelop the audience. The set-up is informal, allowing audience members to interact socially and engage with the performances.
Elizabeth Erenberg is creating a unique program that combinesmusic and Greek mythology. The final concert, which will take place in Erenberng’s native Los Angeles, will include flute repertoire based on Greek myths as well as a newly commissioned work for orator, tambourine and flute by DMA student Derek David. This production will enable students studying Ancient Greek History and Mythology to engage with their curriculum through the arts.
This March,Lauren Huntwill travel to Bogota, Colombia for ten days to work with a wide variety of horn students. Lauren will be working with three organizations that serve different communities in the city: Tocar Y Luchar (the El-Sistema style program in Colombia), Sabana Centro, a music preparatory school and the conservatory affiliated with the National University of Colombia.
Andres Lopera and Cecilia Huerta have teamed with Villa Victoria to launch theBoston Latin-American Orchestra (BLO). This chamber orchestra is comprised of twenty-two current and former NEC students as well as musicians from the Greater Boston area. BLO aims to present Latin-American orchestral music and in so doing, create a space where Latino culture can be celebrated and shared.
Improvisers Anonymous Series, curated by Peter Negroponte, is a new performance initiative that will promote improvised music and allow young improvisers to collaborate and share bills will more experienced players. Each concert will reflect the many sub-genres of improvised music, from improvised music based on pre-composed material to free jazz, and electro-acoustic music, among others. Concerts will take place at the Piano Factory and will create an accessible space for students and young musicians to perform and showcase their talents as improvisers.
TheChiron Competition, directed by Albert Oppenheimer, is a New England composition competition that provides the opportunity for young composers (High School and College) to have their works premiered at the New England Conservatory by world-class musicians. Winners of the competition will also be paired a mentor who will help provide guidance and support to the student as he/she pursues further composition education.
The New England Conservatory Composers Lab Ensemble (NEC CLE)is a pilot program that seeks to cultivate an environment of guided exploration for young composers in a two-day intensive forum. Selected composers will work with a Visiting Composer, an NEC Composition or Theory Faculty member, and a flexible ensemble of experienced musicians to develop new techniques and workshop their works-in-progress. NEC CLE will serve as a sounding board for composers, a space where composers can receive direct feedback from the ensemble. The workshop will culminate in a public performance of the pieces that are selected for the NEC CLE workshop.
Quite the line-up, wouldn’t you agree? These students have worked tirelessly over the last few weeks to prepare their applications and pitch their projects to our review panel (comprised of staff, faculty and former grant recipients). They have labored over project visions, timelines, marketing plans, and yes, most difficult of all – budgets.Aside from the enormous benefit of having a pot of money to work with, these students have also learned a great deal in the application process itself. Articulating a vision, creating a work plan, identifying target audiences, crafting a marketing strategy, and figuring out how to balance a budget are all skills that we want our entrepreneurial musicians to develop while they are at NEC. And although these skills certainly need to be practiced and honed over years, not weeks, our students have the advantage of getting a head start. Most importantly, they are getting their head start in an environment that is supportive, collaborative, and at the end of the day, safe. We are less concerned with whether or not these projects become wildly successful ventures, though they may. Our greatest hope is that the experience of executing these projects will help our students build skills and networks so that the next time they have a great idea (and there certainly will be a next time) they will also have the toolkit to realize it.In the coming days, we will be posting short teaser videos so that you too can get to know each of our grant recipients and their creative visions.
Contributed by: Eva Heinstein, Program Manager of Entrepreneurial Musicianship
Before we sign off for the holidays, we would like to leave you with some end of semester reflections from the two instructors of The Entrepreneurial Musician course, Ed Gazouleasand Tanya Kalmanovitch.Brand new at NEC, this course provides an introduction to skills, strategies, and mindsets that help musicians create unique, resilient and successful careers in today’s music field.
For a bit of counterpoint, we shot one video in NEC’s St. Botolph building and the other on the sandy shores of Hollywood Beach, Florida (thank you Tanya!). We have just wrapped up the fall semester and are excited to take stock and dig in again next term with a whole new batch of students.
More in the New Year!
Contributed by: Eva Heinstein, Program Manager of Entrepreneurial Musicianship
(Rachel Roberts, Director and Eva Heinstein, Program Manager on the first day of fall semester - considerably warmer temperatures than 19 degrees on 12/15/10)
Welcome to NEC’s Entrepreneurial Musicianship blog! We are excited to use this space to share our work and exchange ideas about the concept of entrepreneurial musicianship. A logical subject for our first blog post: what is entrepreneurial musicianship?
This very question has been a hot topic of conversation at NEC, even before our official launch this fall. If we had to describe what we do in ten words or less, it would have to be ‘fostering a mindset of self-efficacy throughout the NEC community.’ Artistic excellence is the foundation for a rich and rewarding career in the music, but it can no longer stand alone. The Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department creates opportunities for NEC students to develop important extra musical skills that will help them create new and diverse contexts for their work. In short, every musician is a business that must be managed and nurtured – we’re here to show our students how to do it.
Through a mix of curricular and extra-curricular opportunities, the Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department launched with a portfolio of five initiatives: E-grants, E-advisors, The Entrepreneurial Musician course, E-internships, and E-workshops. You can learn more about each of these initiatives here (necmusic.edu/entrepreneurship). Entrepreneurship at NEC isn’t a discreet curricular program; it is an approach to music education that combines rigorous artistic training with visioning work and hands-on skill building. All five initiatives are highly experiential and individualized to help each student translate his/her passions into work that can live and thrive in the world.
The Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department is just beginning. As we continue to grow, learn, and develop, we aim to be a resource for you. When you have ideas, questions, or suggestions, please let us know! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Up next: blog posts from members of our Student Council for Entrepreneurial Musicianship and our E-Grant student awardees.
Contributed by: Rachel Roberts, Director of Entrepreneurial Musicianship
NEC’s Entrepreneurial Musicianship (em) department guides a student from being the best musician he or she can be to the being the best working, contributing, successful musician possible. www.necmusic.edu/em