Monday, October 8, 2012

Thoughts on Longy and Celebrity Series

      I had the great pleasure of being able to hear Daniil Trifonov perform this past Friday--and better still, I did not have rely on livestream, as I was backstage acting as Stage Manager for the concert. Though I couldn't see very well through the peep-holes in the backstage doors, I was able to hear the wonderful playing, and catch glimpses of the pianist as he rushed backstage in between pieces, smiling and out of breath from enthusiastic musicianship.
     It was an interesting experience, to be sure. Celebrity Series employees flitted about, worrying over whether everything was set in its right place, whether Mr. Trifonov had enough water to drink, and whether their (wealthy) patrons were accommodated well enough. The concert was professional, well-presented and enjoyable. It was also sold out--but only to patrons from past seasons. In fact, nearly every Celebrity Series debut concert at Longy this season is sold out to previous patrons. Longy students did have the opportunity this weekend to view the concert via livestream in another classroom, but unfortunately, due to the limits of Pickman Halls' seating, that is as close as they could get to a concert being put on in their own school.
      Certainly, Celebrity Series of Boston doing these sorts of debut concerts at Longy is a wonderful thing; we may gain a wider reputation as a music school with the chance to show that such acclaimed musicians have performed in our space, and we have been able to prove our capability in working with a higher-stakes sort of performance, among other things. Celebrity Series itself is also an excellent organization, touting on their website that they "envision a community of Greater Boston where the performing arts are a valued, shared, lifelong experience". What better mission could we ask for?
      It was, however, quite interesting to me that this has been one of the only times I have seen our hall sold out. It was wonderful seeing it filled with people, lit up and polished, and the air practically sizzling with excitement for the performance. The audience members were all patrons who had donated to Celebrity Series in the past, and who felt a loyalty toward the arts the series produced. It made me wonder: how can we, as individual musicians, attract an audience like that? What does it take? Simply from viewing a little bit of how Celebrity Series works from my behind-the-scenes vantage point, it takes... quite a lot of people, a metric ton of organizational skills, and an incredible willingness to bend over backwards for patrons who will donate. Daniil Trifonov is an outstanding musician, but I am willing to bet that Celebrity Series could have produced a large enough crowd for almost any performer, such is their advertising and business skill.
      I then wondered: how can we, as individual musicians, learn this type of skill? We touched on this a bit in class last week--how musicians are often encouraged in schools to forego thinking about the more practical side of making a living with music in order to spend more time in the practice room. Longy is benefiting from this partnership with Celebrity Series this year--how can we, the students, further benefit?

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