B.i.t.S Shaping/Warping Young Minds

It has recently come to my attention that there is a college course called Audience Connections at Drury University in which my blog is required weekly reading.

After considering the grave danger inherent in my ramblings being used to shape the nascent minds of artists, I was rather pleased and honored.

Ron Spigelman who teaches the class and is also the music director of the Springfield (MO) Symphony, has graciously granted me permission to post some of his thoughts from correspondence we had following his comments on my blog entry.

The purpose and goals of the Audience Connections Class are:

The Audience Connection:
Music, the organic art form that can give a life purpose and fulfillment for the performer and the listener. Right now, little more than about 1 in 10 people in America listens to Classical music, and even less attend live Classical Music performances. This class is an attempt to address this problem directly.

1. For students to begin to be able to reach out to audiences of all ages with music in a way that makes the art form accessible, fulfilling, visceral, and most importantly, relevant.

2. To understand and implement advocacy and activism through performance and explanation, to audiences who are on the whole without musical training.

3. To learn skills by which to encourage individuals or groups to attend a fine arts performance who have rarely or never done so.

So how does my blog come in? As you might imagine, it is because blogs like mine deal with current events and influences. (They also apparently read Adaptistration and Greg Sandow’s blogs, but I am sure mine is their favorite since it deals with something more than just classical music. And I am sure this little shout out to them won’t hurt either.)

I heartily approve of his integration of blogs and news from Artsjournal.com into class discussions. Of course, it is easy to admire his technique because it is exactly what I would be doing if I were teaching right now.

The way he is conducting class sounds really productive, if only to get students thinking issues inherent to their art and trying to apply it in a manner that will facilitate a relationship with the audience.

We range from arts funding, politics, the argument over the intrinsic versus the instrumental and thanks to the internet our examples are global and most importantly …are happening now!

The students each perform to the class and are coached on connecting. They have to justify their favorite works of art whether they be Pop songs or Paintings and do it from an audience perspective focusing on the personal rather than the analytical.

After Spring break one of them is actually going to cold call some elementary schools and play to the students and interact before he does his jury performance. I am of the firm belief that if all music students did this…then they would appreciate and learn the art of true communication instead of playing 4 years of juries to professors…

The next big challenge for his students is to practice what they have learned in the real world. It is one thing to discuss these subjects among people with whom you have a shared vocabulary and set of values and another to do it with anxious patrons who may loudly declare that classical music sucks because they resent mom for dragging them along.

Ron didn’t mention it, but I would imagine with all my references to Drew McManus’ docent program, (I mean, I mention it so much do I even have to provide a link anymore?), he may decide to have students gain some real life experience and fill a similar role at some Springfield Symphony or the Springfield-Drury Civic Orchestra performances.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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