Experience Counts – Jump In!

As I return after an extended stay in Vietnam as Artistic Advisor to the Hanoi New Music Ensemble, I have decided to embark on a series of blogs that I hope will be of use to the Ensemble and other entrepreneurial artists. Each new organization is unique, reflecting their art and reason for existence. However, starting any new venture requires new skills and advice.

Our best consultant in 35 years remains Trader Joe, Joseph Coulombe, who founded the highly successful Trader Joe Markets. We both live in Pasadena (next to Los Angeles) and have many mutual friends. A few years after founding Southwest Chamber Music with my husband, I invited Joe to our office to offer us advice.

Looking for Models

The legendary Kolisch Quartet had the singular distinction of playing its entire repertoire from memory, including the impossibly complex modern works of Schoenberg, Webern, Bartok, and Berg. Eugene Lehner was the violist for the quartet in the 1930’s. Lehner’s stories about their remarkable performances often included a hair-raising moment when one player or another had a memory slip. Although he relished the rapport that developed between them without the encumbrance of a music stand, he admits there was hardly a concert in which some mistake did not mar the performance. The alertness, presence, and attention required of the players in every performance is hard to fathom, but in one concert an event occurred that surpassed their ordinary brinkmanship.

Edifice Complex continued

The Edifice Complex continues to rear its head — yet another new performing arts building is conceived with little thought to the art that will reside inside and outside. Juxtaposed articles in The Scotsman demonstrate clearly how a new building can exacerbate local problems with little interaction with local artists and the community’s music education institutions.

The Edifice Complex demonstrates the income inequality problems of the developed world that have evolved over the past few decades. Wealthy patrons in many cities want to justifiably indicate the maturity of their cultural scene through the construction of a world class facility for the performing arts or a museum to show their collection of priceless treasures.

The Edifice Complex

Now that I have introduced my background filled with dear colleagues and friends, I would like to explore my observations about the arts and education environment over more than 30 years. The components of performing, administering, teaching and writing have given me a unique perspective that I look forward to sharing with my readers.

What’s Next? will present my opinions and suggestions about the future of the arts and education. These are two vital elements of a successful society. Many of our challenges in our lives today can be traced to poor education and missing creativity. The arts can provide many of our solutions if they are reintroduced into our lives on a daily basis.

Meet the Musicians

We arrived in Hanoi in September 2016 to begin the second season of the Hanoi New Music Ensemble. Jeff and I were hopeful that the enthusiasm and accomplishments of the inaugural season would keep the ensemble moving forward — all signs were good!

However, there are challenges forming any new group throughout the globe. Which players are a good match for the demands of new music? How will we prepare and rehearse within players’ busy teaching and orchestra schedules? Where will the concerts be held and how will we find an audience? Who will organize the rehearsals, percussion, and piano?

One step at a time

After the inaugural 2012 LA International New Music Festival in Los Angeles, composer-in-residence Vu Nhat Tan turned to Jeff and me, remarking that “Once is not enough!” He was wrapping up six weeks in Los Angeles, courtesy of the Asian Cultural Council in New York City, and we had spent much time dreaming of next steps for contemporary music in his hometown of Hanoi, Vietnam.

Southwest Chamber Music’s historic Ascending Dragon Music Festival in 2010, the largest cultural exchange between Vietnam and the U.S., had left us with many questions about the U.S. Department of State’s goal of identifying a new generation of cultural leaders. Had we accomplished this goal?

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