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Call it an Orgy

MONDAY BYTES — July 27, 2015

Inspiration for the week: a TED talk with Thomas Campbell, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (16:33).

What he offers may just change how you think of programming your concerts or your series.

In his talk, he covers the art of curating by referencing orgies, tapestries with dogs pooping, the blockbuster Alexander McQueen show, and risk taking.

Listen for how he gets around to discomfort and curiosity: the opening for having a real experience with art.

Questions for the week: How has your concert programming changed in recent years? What has helped to shape your approach to programming?

As always, I’d LOVE to hear what’s inspiring you and helping you move ahead. And of course—also any issues you’d like me to cover in a future Byte.

For info on working with me: details are HERE.

Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.

Dream big, Plan smart, Live well!

Finding the Magic

MONDAY BYTES — July 20, 2015

A few weeks ago my friend and colleague baritone Casey Molino Dunn (we work together at Manhattan School of Music) invited me to a special performance he was doing with Opera on Tap.

It was a children’s performance of The Magic Flute staged on the playground of PS129: details HERE.

Casey played a great Papageno (he’s above with Papagena). This was really one of the most purely enjoyable performances I’ve been to.


The staging was minimal (see above) but worked very well: a double set of slides on a big set of monkey bars complete with an upper “balcony area.”

The orchestration was also minimal and inspired: just one violin, one flute, one electric guitar, and one tuba! I know this seems unlikely but other than the violin perhaps needing to be miked in a few places, it really worked.

At PS 129, Mrs. Fuller’s class was part of the cast: they helped play the dragon, sang chorus, and helped with scene changes.

The performance was in German with commentary in English from a wild-haired MC-type character named “Mr. Mozart” who helpfully explained some of the shenanigans and offered comments such as, “Hold on: she’s about to sing!” at key moments.

The audience sat on the asphalt near the fence and were at strategic plot points treated to benedictions of magic glitter fairy dust.

I’ve been to quite a few performances of Mozart operas but this was one of the most vital. To sit with the kids and see Mozart’s fairy tale unfold with the characters just a few feet in front of us, with singers making entrances coming down slides, all this reminded me of why we make music in the first place: to help make space for wonder in our lives.

Seeing the reactions of the children—both the ones performing from Mrs. Fuller’s class and the ones I got to sit with—that was a special bonus. Their enthusiasm was contagious and well-deserved.

I’m so inspired by the creative interactive educational performances being done these days. The excellent DC-based teaching artist soprano Jennifer Weingartner recently sent me the good news below about another Magic Flute. Jennifer’s recent children’s project, a successful collaborative school residency model, was done in partnership with Washington Concert Opera—wish I could have been there for this, Jennifer—brava!


This spring, Washington Concert Opera teaching artist Jennifer Weingartner collaborated with students at the Inspired Teaching School in DC to present Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”  Over a period of six weeks, students in fourth grade learned the music, designed costumes and created props and scenery.  In this sci-fi version written by Opera for the Young, students performed onstage with a professional opera quartet.  The show was highly interactive, and audience members were invited to sing along from their seats.


Question for the week: What’s the best ”outreach” experience you’ve ever had? What made it so good?


For info on working with me: details are HERE.

Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well!

Late Turner: Seeing the Light

MONDAY BYTES — July 13, 2015

My summer vacation included two visits to the late paintings of J.M.W. Turner on exhibition at San Francisco’s De Young Museum. if you have a chance, GO.The most celebrated British painter, J.M.W. was the subject of the recent film you may have seen or read about Mr.Turner.In my return second visit I saw much more in the paintings: it was as though my eyes were adjusted to how he was playing with distance, perspective, and illusion. Actually, that second day viewing got me feeling a little drunk and dizzy on the paintings — especially with those of Venice.Here’s the thing: some art you don’t fully “get” the first time around. And it’s unfortunately rare that a piece will repeated in the same program, (but this can work marvelously, read here).

Back to Turner: above are two details from The Dogana, San Giorgio, Citella, from the Steps of the Europa. This is just part of the view Turner saw from the steps of his hotel, the Europa. In the right lower foreground corner we have a couple of dogs focusing on a solitary gondolier (and leading the viewers’ eyes there) and then the light leads us further back towards the layers of the vista stretching out behind the gondolier, mid ground and then far.

I found that after looking for a minute or so the details snapped into view and I discovered details in the distance that I’d missed—the mirage would slowly come into focus and suddenly I saw what Turner offers: a new way to view the world: a new way to experience light, time, distance, and beauty.

Besides the usual acoustic guide, docent tours, and written descriptions next to the paintings, museums are experimenting with more ways to help visitors make meaningful connections with the art.

When this Turner exhibition originated at the Tate, the museum invited people to submit their own landscape photos in the style of Turner, and winners were posted on the museum’s website.

Museum education / visitor engagement has been transformed in the past 20 years—it seems we musicians could learn a lot from museum programs.

My colleague jazz vocalist/composer Joyce Kwon turned me on (thank you, Joyce!) to the terrific museum activist, Nina Simon — check out her excellent TEDtalk (15:30). She challenges us to reimagine the purpose of art and the mission of arts organizations.

See a slideshow of some of Turner’s work HERE.

Question for this week: How can YOU help your adult audiences make more meaningful connections with the work you present?

Have you found anything that helps with them hearing both the forest and the trees, the small details and the larger structure of the whole? (Like my experience with the Turner.)

I’d love to hear what you’ve been experimenting with and what you’ve experienced that works well!

For info on working with me: details are HERE.
Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.
Dream big, Plan smart, Live well!