Friday, June 27, 2008

Final Days in Detroit

Out of all the places I have been this year, Detroit had the largest impact on my life and will be the hardest to leave. Both the people I worked with with at the DSO and my roommates were fabulous, allowing me to feel extremely comfortable with myself. I was often pushed to new heights, whether being thrown into leading staff meetings or having to manage a project from half a country away.

My last day in the office, I was greeted with a Texas-sized going away party, including myself in cowboy hat, pistol and big belt. When I was leaving the office for the last time, I actually could not look back for fear of breaking down.

I would love to recount all of the lessons I have learned, but I suspect you will see them actually become a part of me as I continue to grow in Houston. But, I will be sad to leave behind D-town.

Go Wings!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Back to the Office

While it is old news by now, I did want to write a post about my new job.

On June 2nd, after a long, multiple month and multiple interview job search, I finally accepted a position. Beginning July 15th, I will be the Director of Corporate Relations with the Houston Symphony Orchestra.

Now, I did not come into the Fellowship knowing at the end I wanted to return to a position in fundraising. I initially applied to marketing and operations positions. But as I took the interviews, I learned more about myself and my interests. Yes, I was very intrigued about working on the production side of concerts, but I would have a step learning curve just to bring myself up to a decent level. I have just not been around the operations side enough for it to be second nature to me, and the greater level of unfamiliarity, the greater the chance I will miss something small and important. I could never feel comfortable when talking about my reactions to operations situations, mainly because most of them I was struggling to come up with an answer, any answer.

In the marketing interviews, I felt extremely comfortable. Marketing is very similar to development and I have always felt I would be great at marketing. Since I have never grown up in playing in an orchestra, there exists a vast majority of work I have never heard before or never heard live. This puts me in a great position to be able to accurately describe to a first time audience member what they are going to hear. But I was unable in interviews to accurately convey my own marketing perspective to my interviewers. I kept getting caught up on buzz words and concepts and was never able to make a good statement of my case.

In the end, I am quite happy with my position in Houston. It allows me the challenge to doing something I do not know within the context of my background (corporate fundraising vs. general fundraising). It is also a city that is growing and not in the Midwest, since I wanted to attempt to break free from cornfields if at all possible. And while there are a whole slew of challenges I can name, I am just excited to be able to begin to plant roots and settle down. Traveling for 13 months straight is draining and I am looking forward to being the proud owner of furniture again.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

8 Days in June

My last evening in Denver coincided with the opening night of Detroit's 2nd Annual 8 Days in June music festival. While not a challenging concert from a programmatic standpoint, I would have enjoyed hearing Mozart's Jupiter symphony played against Holst's The Planets.

My first 8 Days experience was Day 2, the Changing Earth. Music by John Glass and fabulous photography of wildlife and landscapes. This also featured fruit bats from the Detroit zoo, a popular attraction for children and parents.

Day 3, the Technological Mind, unfolded in the chaos of circuit. Computers composing in the style of Bach, keyboards that played 12 notes in addition to the 8 being struck and people learning to compose using colored teardrops.

Day 4, Structures and Patterns, I had to skip due to my body just making me stop.

Day 5, Being and Becoming was, for me, the highlight of the week. Messian's Turangalila Symphony was an amazing work and it was sad that only a few hundred people shared in the experience. I had never heard this work depicting love from the divine before, but I have been learning more about Messian this year through my listening guide and will definitely be circling back to examine the piece in more detail soon.

Day 6, Civil Disobedience, was akin to a horrible car accident on the highway. It was so bad to be close to, yet so intriguing you just had to keep looking. Titled A Lecture on the Weather, he piece was for 12 actors to read essays by Thoreau concurrently. They each decided where to stop and start, but had to complete their entire reading within 30 minutes. I observed over 10 people get up and leave in the first 10 minutes, citing the piece was crap and not music at all. I enjoyed this, because the work would not be a success unless someone left made and was forced to question what they considered music.

Day 7, Spontaneous Creation I could not get to, since my body had shut down to the cold that turned from mild into disabling.

Day 8, Chaos and Order, was a fine way to the end the festival. I say fine because three of the four pieces were standard classical repertoire, nothing to challenge the mind with. The Firebird was a lovely, energetic way to end, but Schnittke's Not a Midsummer Night's Dream demanded the audience to really listen to how the instruments interact and play with each other, sometimes only a note or two apart. And how can one be faulted when the audience actually laughs out loud and points when they hear something they enjoy. Now that is a good time, and the mark of success.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

National Performing Arts Conference

What happens with nearly 4,000 arts managers from 30+ service organizations representing all forms of arts disciplines from orchestras, dance companies and operas to theaters, chamber groups and artist managers gather in Denver? Well, other than just a mad cacophony of sound and ideas, it is an opportunity to break down silos and open dialogue between the disparate groups.

One major undercurrent to the entire festival was the culmination of my year as a LAO Fellow. After a few sessions on leadership, all five of us spent time reflecting, on the past year, on how much we learned and grew. And while all of us has come so far in our personal and professional learning, we have aged so much more than what we would like to believe. Looking at the before and after pictures, there is huge difference. Just as the U.S. presidency ages an individual, so we all have grown older. I have even begun to go gray, at 27!

The conference itself was just a whirlwind of activity. I spent most of the time catching up with old friends from Pittsburgh and LACO, who wanted to hear about my time in Detroit and the new, exciting things yet to come. I was also doing a lot of drive-by meet and greets, handshaking and introducing myself to everyone I have ever wanted to meet, but never could had the opportunity to before. From 8 am to midnight every night, something was going on somewhere with someone and I had to be there. When I returned to Detroit, I just had to crash. I had accomplished getting through the 6 day presentation and I just wanted be away from all large crowds.

One of the best things to emerge from conference was the America Speaks lead discussion about how all arts groups can work together to promote the arts nationally, regionally and locally. One of the worst ideas to emerge was the idea of a cabinet level position for arts advocacy. I feel like any form of government control with arts could lead to an undue amount of censorship or creation of an arts campaign tied with political viewpoints. Too nationalistic for my taste. I did, however, enjoy the concept of a national advertising campaign for the arts. A campaign similar to "Got Milk" would involve artists on every level (national, regional and locally) and allow the nation to be reintroduced to why they should be proud of and get involved with their local organizations. This could be promoted into a national arts day, similar to Earth Day, where all organization open there doors, nationally, for free and involve their communities in a greater level than ever possible.

And did I mention Denver is beautiful? If I did not have to any responsibilities, I would just move there and consider learning how to ski better to become a ski bum.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Detroit Symphony Orchestra - Concert No. 9

When you theme an entire musical season around ninth symphonies, there is only one way to finish. Beethoven's massive opus, combining large orchestra, four soloists and chorus broke the final barrier between the Classical and Romantic ages and influenced many composers in the following years. Today was actually the first day I heard the piece in live performance.

Yes, I know, I have lead a sheltered life.

Before the Beethoven, Detroit premiered a work by contemporary female composer Stacy Garrop. Garrop won the first Lebenbom award from the Detroit Symphony, as part of a contest to inspire women composers. Her work Becoming Medusa was based upon the ancient legends and myths of the Gordon whose gaze turned men to stone. The programmic worked wove one main them (Medusa) through various iterations, from beauty through a transformation and ending with hideous. The piece had a Samuel Barber-like quality, with an intenstiy and orchestra reminicent of the Capricorn Concerto. The audience was highly receptive to the piece; I hope they simply were not applauding to just get through to the Beethoven.

I had an entire review of the symphony to put here, but on the drive home it all fell out of my head. All that was left was the feeling of proud triumph and myself humming the "Ode to Joy" theme. It was a fine performance, the audience was on it's feet roaring and clapping just as the first echoes began dying away in the hall. People were happy, and so I was happy as well.