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Expanded Reach

There are obviously both advantages and disadvantages to socially distanced performances. The inherent difficulty of putting together a video performance involving lots of people (which can require upwards of 80 to 150 person-hours of work per video), or performing without being able to see your audience? Those are disadvantages. Watching world-class performances while sipping a glass of wine in your pajamas? That’s a definite advantage. Another advantage to socially distanced performances lies in the notion of, well, distance. These performances have a chance at covering a lot more ground than regular, in-person events. In an interview for the Music Academy Remote Learning Institute Guidebook, convocation keynote speaker Beth Morrison highlighted the kind of expanded reach online performances have already enabled. After her Los Angeles Opera production of Du Yun’s Angel’s Bone was cancelled, they made the decision to stream the work on LA Opera’s website. “Had we gone forward with those performances the maximum amount of people that we would have been able to reach would have been 2,000 people in the opera house,” Morrison recalled. Online they reached 20,000.
The Music Academy has seen its reach similarly expanded through the Concert Hall Online. Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, for example, was originally to have headlined a concert at Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre. A sell-out performance in this venue would have reached approximately 600 people. So far on Facebook, the brass and percussion fellows’ performance of Fanfare for the Common Man has received thousands of likes and been shared 99 times by users in multiple countries. And the views? As of yesterday, the video had been viewed nearly 1,200 times, double the number it would have reached in person. The Sing! Season Finale Concert is another great example. Had it taken place in Hahn Hall its reach would have been limited to around 300 people. In less than 24 hours in the Concert Hall Online it had already been viewed by more than 400. Now, let’s not pretend this is normal or ideal. Like all of you, we long for a return to normalcy, to be able to join together and experience live music again. But maybe this experience is showing us a brighter—and broader— future. During normal circumstances, the size of the audience for a given performance is limited by the constraints of physical space. The Concert Hall Online—and other similar initiatives—isn’t. It isn’t located in Santa Barbara, and it doesn’t have a maximum capacity; it’s located everywhere, and its reach is theoretically boundless. As the classical music industry tries to reach new audiences, perhaps a hybrid model combining live performance and streaming options is the way forward. Not either/or, but both/and. – Henry Michaels Resonance editor, Audience Services and Community Access Manager, Music Academy of the West

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