Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium

+ ART.


Association of Performing Arts Presenters

Introducing the EALS 2013 Keynote Speaker

Register for EALS 2013 HERE.

Aaron Dworkin
-Founder and President, The Sphinx Organization

One of the goals of the 6th annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium is to address what is on the horizon for arts organizations and arts professionals. And one of the recurring themes lately in the “future of the arts” discussion is diversity in the arts, both diversity in art forms and diversity in artists. So as I began searching for a keynote speaker for EALS 2013, I wanted to find someone who could address this theme for our emerging professionals.

Aaron Dworkin, Founder & President of Sphinx
Aaron Dworkin, Founder & President of Sphinx

Therefore, we at EALS are very proud to announce that the keynote speaker for the 6th annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium is Aaron Dworkin, an arts leader widely known for his expertise and work in cultural and artistic diversity.

Named a 2005 MacArthur Fellow, a former member of the Obama National Arts Policy Committee and President Obama’s first appointment to the National Council on the Arts, Aaron P. Dworkin is the Founder and President of the Sphinx Organization, the leading national arts organization that focuses on youth development and diversity in classical music. An author, social entrepreneur, artist-citizen and an avid youth education advocate, he has received extensive national recognition for his vast accomplishments.

He has been featured on NBC’s Today Show and Nightly News with Brian Williams, CNN, NPR, and Anderson Cooper 360°, and well as in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Detroit News and Free Press, Washington Post, Chronicle of Philanthropy, and People Magazine. Dworkin has also been named one of Newsweek’s 15 People Who Make America Great.

He is the recipient of Harvard University’s Vosgerchian Teaching Award, National Governors Association 2005 Distinguished Service to State Government Award, Detroit Symphony’s 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award, 2003 Michiganian of the Year, Crain’s 40 Under 40 and Who’s Who Awards, BET’s History Makers in the Making Award, AT&T Excellence in Education Award, and “Entrepreneur Of The Year” award by the National Black MBA Association-Detroit Chapter.

Mr. Dworkin offers a uniquely strong organizational, fundraising and administrative background combined with an unwavering passion for music and its role in society. As Founder and President of The Sphinx Organization, he has built an infrastructure and led fundraising efforts totaling over 14 million dollars overseeing a staff and faculty of more than 40. The Sphinx Competition showcases the top young musicians of color of the highest artistic caliber and features top professional minority musicians through the all Black and Latino Sphinx Symphony. The organization also impacts groups underrepresented in classical music through its educational and community programming including the Sphinx Preparatory Music Institute and Sphinx Performance Academy, which reach over 35,000 youth each year.

Aaron-DworkinIn his role as a visionary leader, Mr. Dworkin has led two phases of strategic planning with The Sphinx Organization. He also served as the Co-Chair of the Arts and Cultural Education Task Force for the State of Michigan designing the required arts curriculum for Michigan schools and serves as Co-Chair of the Planning Task Force. In addition, Dworkin serves on other strategic planning committees including the League of American Symphony Orchestras.

A passionate advocate for excellence in music education and diversity in the performing arts, Mr. Dworkin has been a frequent keynote speaker and lecturer at numerous national conferences including Aspen Ideas Conference, The League of American Orchestras, National Association for Schools of Music, National Guild for Community School of the Arts, National Association of Music Merchants, Chautaqua Institution, National Suzuki Association, Americans for the Arts, American String Teachers Association, Ithaca College and the National Association for Negro Musicians. Mr. Dworkin has also spoken at the University of Michigan and Bowling Green State University.

An accomplished electric and acoustic violinist, Mr. Dworkin received his Bachelors of Music and Masters of Music in Violin Performance from the University of Michigan School of Music, graduating with high honors. He attended the Peabody Institute, the Philadelphia New School and the Interlochen Arts Academy.

Mr. Dworkin currently serves on the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestra, National Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Alumni Association of the University of Michigan, National Guild for Community Schools of the Arts, National Society for the Gifted and Talented, Artserve Michigan, WRCJ 90.9 Detroit Classical and Jazz Radio and the NEW (Non-Profit Enterprise at Work) Center. He also serves on the Advisory Board of ASTA Alternative Strings Awards, the Rachel Barton Pine Foundation, the Avery Fisher Artist Program, and the Editorial Board of Downtown New York Magazine.

Dworkin has also served as a panelist on various arts committees, including the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the MetLife Awards for Excellence in Community Engagement, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, the National Association of Arts Presenters, Chamber Music America, The National Endowment for the Arts, and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

Register to hear Aaron Dworkin at EALS 2013 HERE.

For more information on The Sphinx Organization, click HERE.

For more information on the upcoming SphinxCon, the inaugural convention on diversity in the performing arts on February 15-17, click HERE.

Post-APAP NYC Reflection

45 dance companies in 4 days. After some reflection (and catching up on sleep) over the past couple days, I can, without a doubt, say that seeing so much dance in such a short period of time was most definitely the highlight of my APAP|NYC experience. For those who aren’t aware, APAP|NYC is the annual international conference for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, a “national service and advocacy organization dedicated to developing and supporting a robust performing arts presenting field and the professionals who work within it.”

Slew of programs for the showcases I attended

I (Cathy Teixeira) attended the conference with some co-workers from American Dance Institute (ADI), a presenting organization just outside Washington, D.C. One of our main goals for this conference was to get a feel for what companies were out there, both nationally and internationally, see what they were creating, and of course to see if there were any potential companies ADI should look into presenting in the future. If it weren’t for the APAP conference, it would not have been possible to see so much in so short of a time span. I can’t begin to imagine how much work goes into organizing and coordinating showcases, not just for dance but for all disciplines, so I commend APAP for their fine work.

The showcases, usually running from 9:30am to as late as 10pm, took place in various venues across the city. Often times, the agents and/or choreographers would introduce the piece and indicate whether or not the companies were eligible for funding from NEFA’s National Dance Project (NDP). Working in development, I especially appreciated this key

Networking Opportunity-- Post-showcase reception for presenters and artists

piece of information. Presenting can get very expensive, and receiving a bit of support can make all the difference in whether or not an organization can afford to present certain companies. I also noticed that most choreographers would emphasize that fact that their work was flexible (in the number of dancers, staging, size, etc) and customizable based on the financial capacity of the presenter and the confines of the performance space. Again, another important factor when considering the possibility of presenting a company.

One lesson I learned: choreographers are pretty darn clever. Several of them had incorporated a community engagement component to their work. From a fundraising perspective this is wonderful because it makes raising money a lot easier when you are creating a unique experience for the audience/community that goes beyond just sitting in a theater. The most common way to do this is through master classes, post-show talks, or meet-the-artist receptions. But in David Dorfman Dance‘s newest work Come, and Back Again the music of Patti Smith is played by a five-piece band; a band that can tour with the company or alternatively, be comprised of local musicians in the presenter’s location. The music would be sent ahead of time, the company would come, they’d rehearse a couple times, and BAM! put on the show. Genius. I know this isn’t a novel idea, but David is creating opportunities for true community involvement by including this possibility in his work.

David, aside from being one of THE nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, has a knack for involving the audience and making his art truly accessible. ADI presented his wildly successful work Prophets of Funk back in November, and at the end of the show, the audience was invited to come dance with the company on stage. Check out the awesome moment below:

There were so many impressive dance companies, but this blog post would get out of hand if I tried to mention them all so here are just a couple of my personal* favorites:

Lar Lubovitch Dance Company– Lubovitch’s choreography was simply beautiful. I particularly enjoyed their setting of Histoire du Soldat, composed by Stravinsky. The

Lubovitch's Histoire du Soldat

narrative (a soldier sells his violin/soul to the devil and tries to win it back), music, and choreography worked together seamlessly resulting in a cohesive piece.

Keigwin + Company– Keigwin’s work is often described as “sexy” but it’s so much more than that; it’s clever and utterly captivating. In fact, I was so drawn in that I didn’t notice how badly my leg had fallen asleep. They’ll be at the Kennedy Center in March— even if you aren’t a dance person, they are a MUST SEE.

Brian Brooks Moving Company. Photo (c) Christopher Duggan

Brian Brooks Moving Company– The company performed an excerpt of DESCENT, described by the NY times as being “visually arresting”. And it was just that. In the duet, one dancer “manipulated” the other dancer’s falling weight, creating quite an impressive effect.

In addition to all the dance we saw, Jessica (the Development Director of ADI) and I scheduled three consultation meetings: a fundraising consultation with The North Group, Inc. and meetings with the NEA presenting and dance specialists. I didn’t know what to expect in these one-on-one meetings, but they proved to be informative and encouraging. For the fundraising consultation, Jessica gave the consultant a run-down of the current development situation, and then we were given ideas on where we should be prioritizing our efforts. As for the NEA meetings, the presenting and dance specialists were able to tell us what types of grants we were eligible/most appropriate to apply for, and which grant cycle would give us a greater competitive edge. It was great to meet the specialists in person, and to receive positive feedback on what was going on at ADI.

One of the sessions I attended was called What Jazz Can Teach Us About Winning Audiences, where Christy Farnbauch and Bob Breithaupt of Jazz Arts Group presented the results of Jazz Audience Initiatives, their ground-breaking study on jazz audiences. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about the session being applicable to the dance field, but actually left with a lot of useful information and ideas. They found that 86% of ticket

Taken from the full JAI report.

buyers (ages 18-34) attend because of recommendations from friends and family. As they pointed out, this is intuitive information, but the research just further proves the importance of the initiators (those doing the inviting) in building an audience. It challenged me to consider how we can identify these initiators and what we can do to reward/provide incentives for them to ultimately become active advocates of an organization. For the full report, click here.

If you’ve been reading the wonderful blog posts from my classmate and fellow EALS committee member, Steven Dawson, you’ll find that our experiences at APAP were quite different. (In fact, we only ran into each other once the entire conference!) The great thing is that the APAP Conference is so comprehensive that there’s a rich experience for everyone: across all disciplines, presenter or exhibitor, student or executive. There is so much going on that you can mix and match sessions/meeting/showcases and tailor your schedule to fit your needs. Thank you APAP for a wonderful conference!

-Cathy Teixeira


This is a non-APAP related piece, but something that I thought was worth mentioning, especially for opera lovers. I had Monday night free, so on my bus ride up to New York, I

Obligatory tourist-y photo of Lincoln Center

decided to see if there were any operas at the Met that I could go see. It was a piece of cake to get $25 student tickets (for orchestra seats that are usually $95!) to their new production of Faust. And if you aren’t a student, you can go to the box office two hours before a show and get $20 rush tickets.

*Disclaimer: These are my own personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of American Dance Institute.

Experiencing APAP NYC, what I am taking from the 2012 conference. – Final Day

Day 5:

Today started with a member meeting (which included yummy breakfast treats), which acted as the annual business meeting….I’ll spare the details. 🙂

John Kani

After the meeting, Tony-Award winner and South African actor John Kani spoke for the closing plenary session.  It is difficult to put his thoughts into brief, academic statements, because his style is so conversational and anecdotal.  But I will attempt to do the job by bullet pointing the ideas as I was able to collect them:

  • Imagine if there was never any art.  The world would be a much different place.  As Kani said, “Art is more powerful than all the weapons in the world.”
  • He was a large part of the change from the apartheid in South Africa, and the theatre was his weapon.
  • Kani pointed out that despite the difference in finances, geography, etc., every person at APAP conference are coming from the same place.
  • “We need to understand that the only way we can succeed is if we get to 2.”  That was Kani’s quote about getting together and counting past just yourself (counting past “1”).  The arts community around the world has to unite to effectively advocate and convince people that we are a vital part of the economy.
  • “We tend to rise in protest of our leaders, but we forget one thing: it is their signatures we need.”  This was a great quote reminding people that protesting is fine, but we cannot anger or offend our leaders, because they are ultimately who makes the policies.
  • I love his quote on what a board should do.  “There are 3 G’s for a board, Give, Get, and Get out.”
  • He raised an idea for creating an arts bank that organizations can deposit their funds into and withdraw from.  But the large amount of funds will accrue a significant amount of interest that can be used for so many things.  I thought it was an interesting idea.

There is no possible way that I can do him justice, but John Kani was a wonderfully eloquent and warm speaker.  I will post his video in the APAP pictures and videos thread.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed attending the conference.  I learned some valuable ideas and made great connections.  I hope all the readers can draw something from these posts.  for any other info on the conference, visit the website  Thanks for reading.

– Steven Dawson
“The world needs art, not so they can escape, but so they can embrace.”

APAP NYC videos and pictures

Here is the opening Plenary speaker, Carol Coletta, speaking on owning the road ahead of you. (link will take you to video on APAP website)

JazzConnect: NEA Jazz Masters & Jazz Futures: Paying It Forward

More videos will be added as updates to this post as they become available to me.  So check back.

– Steven Dawson
“The world needs art, not so they can escape, but so they can embrace.”

Experiencing APAP NYC, what I am taking from the 2012 conference. – Day 4

Day 4:

Today’s post will be pretty short, I imagine, since the only main conference activity was the awards luncheon and the rest of the day was filled with showcases.

Each year, APAP awards those whose service to the performing arts has had a significant impact on the industry and on communities worldwide.  The recipients are chosen by a national panel of arts leaders.  Here are those recipients:

  • The William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence and Sustained Achievement
    King and Jaffe

    in Programming was awarded to Paul King and Walter Jaffe.  The two founded White Bird Dance in 1997 to highlight excellence in dance in Portland, Oregon. The organization has since become one of the leading dance presenters on the west coast bringing regional, national and international dance groups to the communities of Portland. White Bird supports emerging dance companies and choreographers, commissions new works, conducts outreach programs in local schools and collaborates extensively with other Portland area organizations to broaden dance audiences.

  • The Sidney R. Yates Award for Outstanding Advocacy on Behalf of the Performing Arts was awarded to Ben Cameron.  In 2006, Ben Cameron
    Ben Cameron

    assumed his current position as program director of arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in New York, NY. He supervises a $17 million grants program focusing on organizations and artists in the theatre, contemporary dance, jazz and presenting fields. Previously, Cameron served for more than eight years as the executive director of Theatre Communications Group (TCG), significantly expanding its programs, membership base and grant-making activities. He worked as senior program officer at the Dayton Hudson Foundation, manager of community relations for Target and spent four years at the National Endowment for the Arts, including two as director of the theater program.

  • The Award of Merit for Achievement in Performing Arts was awarded to Jazz impresario George Wein. Through his company, Festival Productions, Inc., he has spearheaded hundreds of music events annually since 1954 when he produced the first Newport Jazz Festival – an event that started the festival era. Five years later, Wein

    and folk icon Pete Seeger founded the Newport Folk Festival where the two music giants celebrated 50 years of folk with 15,000 fans in August 2009. In 2011, Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc., was created to help maintain these festivals into the future. At 86, Wein has as much creative fuel as he did when he started the Newport festivals and advanced the concept of live music. He also pioneered the idea of sponsorships for music events, beginning with the Schlitz Salute to Jazz and the Kool Jazz Festival.

Showcases throughout the day:

  1. The first showcase was an excerpt by Radio Theatre.  They performed a wonderful adaptation of the King Kong script in the style of the old radio shows.  They didn’t dress up in 1940’s costumes and act as if a radio show was going on, however.  They just “parked and barked” from their script stands at the front of the stage.  It was a true readers theatre that, if you closed you eyes, made you feel as if you were sitting by a radio and listening to a story.  They also used lighting and sound effects to help the mood along.
  2. Next I saw Star of Happiness: Helen Keller on Vaudeville?!  The one woman play was designed (according to the program) to tell people of Keller’s four year Vaudeville stint and describe what it was like to be a blind spectacle.  While the idea seems good, the execution was far from it.  It is unfortunate that I have to give a bad review at an APAP showcase, but there is just no way to spin it.  It was bad.  The performer was not a good actor, which is sort of necessary when you are the only person on the stage.  Also, there didn’t seem to be any character to Keller.  I would not recommend wasting your time on this one.
  3. Next up was unfortunately another disappointment.  Jeff Randal Rose’s Love, Lightning had me searching from the start.  “Searching for what?,” you might ask.  Searching for a plot or a meaning or a theme or something.  And I consider myself educated in the different styles of theatre.  Simply, this seemed to be a poor attempt at avant-garde.
  4. My next showcase more than made up for it though.  Shen Wei Dance Arts was amazing.  The choreographer of the 2008 Bejing Olympics proved that he can do more than teach hundreds of people to beat a drum in sync.  Wei’s choreography is cutting edge and extraordinary, with the artists moving their bodies in ways that you rarely see dancers move (requiring the utmost body control).  The piece was, however, VERY modern.  I definitely don’t see Joe the plumber purchasing a ticket to see this.  But for those who are die-hard modern dance enthusiasts, I would highly recommend catching this when it comes through your town.  (But I do not recommend it for youth or children…or your mom, because of the scantily clad costumes….or lack of.)
  5. The Friar's Club

    I wrapped up my evening with an amazing combo showcase featuring some of NYK-Rapp’s artists.  We witnessed:

  • the succulent swing of legendary woodwind musician Hal Linden,
  • the belting voice of Lucie Arnaz (yes, that would be Lucy and Desi’s daughter),
  • the melodies of multiple Tony Award nominee and Knots Landing star Michele Lee
  • the showmanship of legendary singer and tap-dancer Maurice Hines (yep, Gregory’s brother)
  •  the Bette Midler and Aretha Franklin type vocal command of Carol Woods and Karen Saunders
  • the amplified pipes of Tony Award nominee (for Fosse) Valarie Pettiford
  • and the mind bending act of mentalist Guy Bavli

The entire night was emceed by the hilarious Stewie Stone at the legendary Friar’s Club at 55th and Park Avenue.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and would recommend these acts.

Ok, so I guess the post wasn’t as short as I thought it would be.  Stay tuned for the final post tomorrow.

– Steven Dawson
“The world needs art, not so they can escape, but so they can embrace.”

Experiencing APAP NYC, what I am taking from the 2012 conference. – Day 3

Day 3:

Bolz Center students share their work

I started this morning with a session with our fellow arts management students at the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the University of Wisconsin.  The students involved, Joanna Simpson, Brian Hinrichs, Marcella Dover, Laura Blegen, Andrew Maxfield, and Danielle Boyke, presented this year’s edition of the Dawson Research Internship: Power Influence, and Performing Arts.  Bolz Center director Andrew Taylor moderated.  The research and presentation was designed to connect the dots between power and influence in policy-making and the arts.  Here is a brief summary of the two hour session:

  • Social Network Analysis – there are 4 steps to analyzing your network:
    1) Define the group
    2) Know your position in relation to the group
    3) Identify the connectors and bridges between you and a desired network connection
    4) Create a plan for how to change your position
    – Analyze your network to see the actual connections.  It is a great way to visualize what you need to do to further your connections and position (i.e. – get someone on the Rotary club so you can connect with a certain local businessperson).
  • Social Movement Theory –
    – How do they function?  The root idea is the base, then comes the mobilization of resources, then comes a cycle of cognition (recognizing smaller goals), coordination, and cooperation.
    – Arts fit in with social movements by providing communication, mobilization, solidarity, long-term impact, and emotional power.
  • Power in Politics – Economic power is the main source of power in the US (the 1% idea that has been brought forward from the “occupy” movements).  The “power elite” have a mix of social upper class, policy forming organizations, and corporate community.
    – How to make a change:  identify your “power elite” and find a way into the network.
  • Organizational behavior – the 6 source model from Influencer by Patterson, Grenny, et al.: shows different ways to affect change (this is a great companion book to Switch by the Heath brothers).

Ideas picked up from session participants and personal thoughts:

  •  Ticket buyers are an outcome, not a network.
  • An army of people camping on the steps of the capital is not as powerful as one person having a conversation with the chair of a congressional committee.
  • As far as advocacy, we arts people have such a large network, that the potential for huge clout is there; we just have to mobilize the network.
More info on the research can be found at

At 11:00, I attended the next plenary session, The Village Beat – Taking Action.  It was hosted by John Hearn, principal at SYPartners.

John Hearn

The towering consultant led the group in a discussion on connecting the organization to the community and its needs.  This doesn’t mean simply residing in a community and trying to lure its members in.  It means having a direct connection.  His four pillars of what constitutes a community’s situation are the individual, the community (group), change that is happening, and money.  The major questions to ask yourselves as an organization are:

  • How is the world changing for the community you serve?
  • What is the ideal that would answer your community’s most pressing needs?
  • How will you or your organization rise to this occasion?
  • What is the evidence that you can exercise this leadership?
  • How must you stretch in order to fully occupy your new role in the community?

Thoughts taken from this session:

  • Don’t think about your community in terms of art, because chances are it is not what they wake up thinking about.
  • Define your success as an organization based on the success of the community around you, not by looking at yourself in the mirror.

There was a lot of grand, eloquent thoughts and statements during this Village Beat session.  I can only hope that the arts leaders who made these statements will actually put these thoughts into action and not keep them on the shelf.

After a dinner at the famous Carnegie Deli, I headed over to the Broadway Comedy Club on 8th avenue to check out what Chicago City Limits had to offer.  It is a 6 member

Chicago City Limits

improvisation group that has 5 actors and 1 amazing improvisational accompanist.  I was not disappointed.  I know I said yesterday that 7 Fingers was my favorite….well, Chicago City Limits has now taken that position with a coup de force.  I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.  You know when you get to laughing so hard that they get high pitched and you start snorting……yep, that was me.  The troupe started with a song about a phrase that the audience came up with, which happened to be “Anything Goes.”  The lyrics were masterfully composed, and the actors really played off each other rhymes well. Then they performed a sketch about another crowd creation in multiple styles, which were also drawn from the crowd.  Another highlight was the “story time” sketch based off of a title that an audience member gave.  The actors passed the baton, so to speak, picking up the story and continuing to create it as the “director” pointed to each actor.  They also performed a long-form improv musical, and ended with a hilarious game in which one actor had to guess a regionalism phrase based on extremely vague clues given by the other actors.  I cannot even begin to do justice to the comical genius of the group in this blog.  I can only recommend that you look them up and plan to attend one of their shows.

Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

After that, I meandered down to 44th and 8th to the famous Birdland jazz club to listen to a set from the world renown and Grammy winning Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.  Each musician on the stage was a true master of his craft.  It was a delight to listen to such wonderful Latin jazz.  Once again, I recommend hunting them down and listening when you get the chance.

– Steven Dawson
“The world needs art, not so they can escape, but so they can embrace.”

Experiencing APAP NYC, what I am taking from the 2012 conference.

Day 2:

The first thing I attended today was the Pecha Kucha (a fast paced session in which presenters show 20 slides for 20 seconds each to tell their unique
stories) session: What Great Acts Have Happened in Our Communities?  It was enlightening to see the many ways that great people have used the arts and culture to change and , in the case of Braddock, PA, literally save their communities.  The session was moderated by the incomparable Ben Cameron and included such names as:

One strip of the expansive expo halls

After the Pecha Kucha ended, I took a stroll through the expo halls to see the many organizations that were present, all of them looking to book another venue or tour, of course.  While walking, I was accosted by someone from the Upright Citizens Brigade.  He asked what I was doing tonight and proceeded to try to convince me to come see their long form  improvisational comedy show…and of course, sign them to a contract.  Indeed, I would have attended their performance had I not already made plans to attend Rockapella’s show tonight.

The rest of the day was spent attending showcase performances:

  • First, I heard the Prodigals, an Irish folk rock band, perform.  Very good, upbeat music.
  • Second, I headed over to see the American premier
    Circassian Circle

    of Circassian Circle,  a dance group from the mountains of Eurasia.  The earthy, gliding masculine force of the male dancers along with the ethereal, floating grace of the female dancers provided quite the stunning dance dichotomy.  Though I had to leave early to get to my next appointment, Sarah Wedgewood (who had quite the day, more on that later) stayed and said that it got “interesting” later on.

  • I left early to run ten blocks over to the Gerald Lynch Theater to see my third showcase, Les 7 Doigts de la Main (7 Fingers).  This was the highlight of the day.  The one man contemporary circus delighted the audience with Andy Kaufman style
    Patinoire in 7 Fingers

    humor along with what I can only describe as “acrobatic pantomime with props.”  The performer also played up the “nervous performer” character perfectly, allowing us to connect as well as laugh at the character.  The highlight was when Patinoire (the performer) stacked four large speakers on top of each other (loosely, mind you) at an angle on top of a chair, which was on top of a folding table (that had just fallen seconds earlier).  Then he proceeded to climb up the speakers and balance at the top before falling backwards in a comical “slip-and-fall” prat fall.  I would definitely recommend seeing him if you ever have the chance.

  • The evening culminated with a trip to the Florence Gould Hall to see Rockapella, the famous no-instrument vocal band, in concert.  The show was wonderful, as expected, but I did notice that Scott Leonard, the lead singer (and also the founder, I believe), is showing the effects of a successful multi-decade career.  His voice just doesn’t have the pop that it used too.  But it didn’t by any means detract from the show.  Jeff Thatcher, in my opinion one of the foremost vocal beat-box artists in the world, was amazing again.
    Sarah with Rockapella

    The highlight was when fellow AU grad student Sarah Wedgewood was pulled onto the stage and serenaded by the band, and then asked to sing to them, and then serenaded again.  She hammed it up, though, by dancing with the band members and forcing one of them to kiss her cheek before she would leave the stage.  The audience was in stitches and she became an instant celebrity on the block of 59th and Park.

Overall, the showcases are proving to be quite enjoyable, as each artist or group is putting their best foot forward in hopes of landing another contract.  I look forward to more tomorrow.

– Steven Dawson
“The world needs art, not so they can escape, but so they can embrace.”

Experiencing APAP NYC, what I am taking from the 2012 conference.

APAP NYC, for those who aren’t aware, is the international conference for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.  Organizations from all over the world converge on 53rd and 6th in New York City, discussing changing trends in the arts and sharing experiences and studies.  I (Steven Dawson) will be sharing my experiences from each day in brief on the EALS blog, so check in often to hear the latest in performing arts.

New President and CEO of APAP Mario Garcia Durham

Day 1:

 In the morning, I attended the Youth and Family Programming forum.  However, this quickly turned into a forum about how to get kids to put down their iPads and video games and engage in the arts, which is still a valuable discussion topic.  Some of the ideas placed forth were to USE the technology instead of fight it.  Take “Text Marks the Spot” as an example.  It uses text messaging to lead “players” on a sort of scavenger hunt through the arts organization, where they have to complete artistic projects in order to get the next clue.

Another topic we discussed was the relationship between traveling artists and presenters, and how to make it better.

My random thought during the forum:
Is the loss of arts in schools good for arts organizations?  It forces them to do all the work in arts education, but doesn’t it also funnel the learners toward the organization?  It is just our job to work to reach them. …..Just something to think about.

Noted quotes from the forum:
“Risk works” – taking calculated risks will always lead to positives, whether in success or  valuable learning from failure.

“To not know is the most creative place to be.” – Sometimes not having preconceptions about a topic can lead to the best creativity.

In the early afternoon, I attended the “How Strong Is Your Social Net” landmark nationwide survey of digital and social media usage session.  This is where Trudel-MacPherson Art Consulting presented the results of the firm’s landmark 2011 survey about the use and effectiveness of digital and social media in 1601 arts organizations around the nation.  The channels include email, Facebook, websites, Twitter, Flickr, and other various social channels.  I’ll spare you the boring detailed statistics, and I’ll summarize it be saying that it does indeed aid in audience engagement and ticket sales (I can imagine your shock at this statement….).  But the real surprising stats were that over half of the organizations did not make any changes based on the feedback received through these channels.  If we want people to let us know what they think, then why are we not listening?

Some interesting social media ideas from organizations are:

Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe – Used real time audience reviews via twitter that connected fans to other fans and the artists.

Link Centre – Created a clear social media policy that clarified the lines between personal and professional use.

Wolf Trap – Created a “cell-phone on” area.  Also, the conductor tweets previously composed score notes during the performance, allowing those who are following to gain an extra level of access to the art.

Random thoughts learned from this session:

  • Audiences are not stupid, they can smell spam and bad marketing.  Don’t let social media become just another billboard.
  • Don’t take on interaction unless you can deliver on it.  You may need to create “social media shifts” to make sure someone is paying attention at all times.

You can find details from the survey at:

In the late afternoon, Carol Coletta spoke at the opening plenary.

A badly whited out picture of Carol Coletta

Her speech was entitled “Owning the Road Ahead.”  Here are a few of her main topics:

  • We have to make a case for investing in the arts when were are in a presidential election year in which all the candidates will say that the economy is broken.
  • Art leads to economic success:  Art drives vibrancy, which leads to a quality of place, which attracts talent, which (when based on per capita income) leads to economic success.
  • A four decade trend: 42% of college educated young adults live in a 3 mile radius of a city, and car use of those under 30 has fallen dramatically.  Therefore, location of the art is becoming a more important factor.

In the evening, I went to the showcase of Girls Night, the Musical.

The girls perform a high energy number

This got interesting.  I chose to attend this show because I read the reviews and they were all very positive, so I was under the impression that it was a “legit theatre musical comedy.”  However, when I showed up to the HA! Comedy Club, a drag queen, which had been warming up the crowd, greeted me just inside the door, made everyone aware of my presence, and sat me.  Whew, boy.  This was going to be an interesting night.  As the show began, I saw that it was definitely one for a group of girls to enjoy, as evidenced by the raunchy “feminine” humor.  But even still, it was a funny, enjoyable musical that had a hint of audience participation (I was even dragged up to dance during the song “It’s Raining Men”).  The vocals were fantastic, the acting was well done, and of course the music (which consisted of feminine-themed classics like “I Will Survive” and “We are Family”) was enjoyable.   I would rate this musical a surprising 8 out of 10.  But guys, I highly recommend skipping this one, or at least attending with a female companion or two.

– Steven Dawson
“The world needs art, not so they can escape, but so they can embrace.”

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