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The Big Picture

Today marks the second time we’ve highlighted Music Academy Remote Learning Institute (MARLI) innovation speakers in the Concert Hall Online. You’ve heard and read about these innovation speakers in general terms, about their immense expertise and the general range of topics they’re discussing with our fellows. You know the big picture, already. What about the specifics? Well, when it comes to the innovation curriculum, the specifics of MARLI are the Big Picture—capital-B, capital-P.
Broadly speaking, you might say the MARLI innovation speakers fall into two categories: those discussing immediate, relevant skills and those focused specifically on inspiring larger conversations. In the former category, fellows have had (or will have) the opportunity to learn from industry professionals about a whole range of skills that are critical tools in the modern musician’s toolbox. In addition to seminars with industry experts on audio and video recording (highlighted in this blog post), other sessions focus on subjects like promotion, funding, and small business development. A small sampling of these panels is enough to demonstrate the wide range of topics: a group of musicians and media experts explore the process of forming relationships with managers and publicists, as well as attracting press and presenters to individual projects; Tom McNeill, Creative Partnerships Associate at funding site Patreon, joined Music Academy Chief Advancement Officer Jonathan Bishop to discuss crowdfunding, membership models, and other forms of fundraising; and Music Academy alums Molly Carr, Anna Petrova, Clara Lyon, and Doyle Armbrust talked about how to develop creative projects. It isn’t enough for the 21st century musician to be a world-class artist. They must also be fundraisers, public speakers and writers, technical whizzes, and advocates for themselves and their projects. MARLI feedback so far points to a significant trend: the fellows are taking to heart the idea they don’t need to wait to win an orchestra audition or land a role on the operatic stage—their careers are ultimately in their hands.
Part of being a 21st century musician is also being forward thinking and critically engaged with the world, both the immediate community and more globally. Classical music has long had an audience problem. Generations of musicians, scholars, critics, and administrators have wrung their hands and asked the questions, “Is there a future for classical music? How do we make sure that people continue to listen?” What the future of the industry looks like is not just a question for the big organizations; it is something young musicians must engage with, too. Three current artistic leaders—Kathryn McDowell of the London Symphony Orchestra, Francesca Zambello of Glimmerglass Festival and Washington National Opera, and Lee Koonce of Gateways Music Festival—will discuss the topic of creative leadership in the arts, while in the final session of MARLI, fellows will join moderator Anne Midgette, formerly the music critic of the Washington Post, and speakers Sasha Cooke, Rob Robbins, Nadia Sirota, Emil Kang, and Conrad Tao to discuss the future of artistic institutions. Other sessions focus on creative programming, innovative uses of technology, and embracing the entrepreneurial mindset. Classical music also has a representation problem. Part of embracing new generations of listeners has to be ensuring that the music they hear, the composers that write it, the musicians that perform it, and the institutions that present it reflect the diverse world that we all live in. This is a great responsibility that all artists must take to heart, and it is a thread that is woven into the fabric of MARLI. Terrance McKnight of radio station WQXR joined tenor Lawrence Brownlee and composer Paul Moravec to discuss ways of highlighting underrepresented peoples, and violinist, speaker, and social entrepreneur Kelly Hall-Tompkins drove home to the fellows that they can and should make meaningful contributions to their communities even as they work to establish themselves in the field.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Claire Chase, the two artists featured today in the Concert Hall Online, are both innovative thinkers looking to foster cultural change. Bamuthi, a spoken-word poet and arts activist who serves as the Vice President and Artistic Director of Social Impact at the Kennedy Center, is an artist whose work explores issues of race, identity, and marginalization. His MARLI seminar, “Artists as Social Engineers,” focused on the question: “How can fellows think of themselves as ‘conduits for providing music and creativity’ at a time when the world needs it most?” As a musician, flutist Claire Chase, who Music Academy audiences will remember from her 2019 Festival residency, is a boundary-pushing artist who advocates for new and experimental music. She is also a creative leader who uses her platform to advocate for positive change. One of the central missions of the International Contemporary Ensemble, an organization she founded, is advocating for “creators who are underrepresented” in the field of classical music. The future of this art form cannot—must not—be a continuation of the status quo. Through initiatives like “Classical Music Evolution/Revolution,” many of these ideas have been part of the Music Academy experience for years now, but it is easy for these conversations to get a bit lost in the intensely busy atmosphere of a normal Summer Festival. But then the world stopped, and issues that had been simmering for decades suddenly exploded. The speakers engaging with our fellows on these timely subjects are not new to these discussions. Many of them are the very changemakers and revolutionaries who have been fighting to reform a broken system for years. Who better for our fellows to engage with than these incredible thinkers? These fellows are the future of classical music, and the conversations they start today have the power to change that future indelibly. – Henry Michaels Resonance editor, Audience Services and Community Access Manager, Music Academy of the West

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