The give and get of volunteering and mentoring

Amy Hamil

If the arts are in your future, volunteering and mentoring are first steps to getting and giving insights into the field.

By Amy Hamil
APAP|NYC Volunteer

I had just begun an internship with University of Florida Performing Arts when I found out I would be volunteering at the annual conference for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters in 2012. In addition to this being my first exposure to this conference, it also happened to be my first time in New York City. That gave me not only the occasion to learn about the APAP and the responsibilities involved in presenting artists on stages across the country, but also to explore a city with legendary energy that goes hand in hand with cultural experiences and exposure to the performing arts.

My assignment included shadowing new president and CEO Mario Garcia Durham and his team. To prepare, I read Durham’s biography to learn about his background as a professional presenter and his role with the National Endowment for the Arts. If I were going to travel the conference with him, I wanted to know who he was and what he had done.

My impressions were confirmed when Durham received a standing ovation from the attendees on the first day. Throughout the conference, I observed as he engaged with attendees of all sorts: representatives of the North American Performing Arts Managers Continue reading

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JJA and media: Pillars of the arts world

By Howard Mandel
Guest Blogger

What everybody wants for Christmas and the New Year is love — which to performing artists, arts presenters and arts journalists often means new audiences.

But as the immortal Captain Beefheart said, “There ain’t no Santy Claus on the evening stage.”  The gift of an audience won’t be plopped in our laps. So the Jazz Journalists Association is producing, with the assistance of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Media for Audience Development, a four-session mini-conference focusing on use of media — online and social — by arts professionals to the folks we know are out there, at the APAP|NYC conference Jan. 6-10, 2012.

As an independent arts journalist and frequent observer of presenters and artists agonizing over what to do in a scene utterly different from what we’d expected or previously experienced, I have one simple answer: Use media as it is today. Putting out a press release will get no longer win print publication advance articles to drive ticket buyers your way. Reviews by “experts” no longer suffice to validate what you present. Things ain’t what they used to be. Sorry, but get over it and into what’s happening now. Continue reading

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Face to Face: The Power of Real Community


Fay Victor will do a solo spot at JazzTimes DIY Crash Course, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012 at APAP|NYC 2012. PHOTO: MICHAEL WEINTROB

By Lee Mergner
Editor-in-Chief of
JazzTimes magazine and JazzConnect conference organizer

In Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson’s new biography of the digital visionary, Isaacson quotes the late Jobs talking about the design of the Pixar offices. “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat,” Jobs said. “That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”

It speaks volumes that an e-innovator like Jobs had such an old-school notion of the power of human interaction.  Thanks to all of our devices and the technology they provide, the idea that we are all in communication with each other all the time, but not really talking, is not a novel one. Yet it seems as though we’re nearing some sort of tipping point in which we are increasingly unable or unwilling to truly listen to one another. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, texting or any number of social media channels, the opportunities for connecting with one another seem to grow and the illusion of real interaction deepens.  And, worse, civility seems to be evaporating with all that access from a distance. 

There is much disconnect in how we connect.

A jazz musician I know has a phrase for that blunt and often rude UPPER CAPS approach to communication through Facebook, Twitter and e-mail: “keyboard courage.”  Civility is not gone, but it’s certainly taken some serious hits, and I’m not talking about web traffic.

In Franklin and Winston, a fine book about the unique relationship between Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, author Jon Meacham puts forth the thesis that the personal relationship forged from face-to-face contact insured that their two countries would be allied in the future against Hitler and expanding Nazism. He wrote about how Churchill was keenly aware that conflict between people is often lessened when they know one another and see one another. It seems that familiarity breeds contemplation rather than contempt. Let that be a lesson for all of those cyber firestarters out there. 

Over the last 20-plus years , I have been involved as a participant and organizer in a veritable alphabet soup of music industry conferences, including NAIRD, AFIM, NARM, CMJ, SXSW, NMS, MENC, IAJE, JEN and a few more I can’t remember. Many are gone now, but each has had an impact on the jazz community in some fashion. The jazz conference I organized through the ’90s—the JazzTimes Convention—had no acronym, but likewise served as a catalyst to bring people together at a time when CDs and e-mail constituted new technology. Year after year, we carefully planned our program of panels and workshops to maximize the value of the experience for the attendees. However, we soon realized the most important aspect of the program was that it existed to bring people from all over the world together to talk shop and share ideas. Bonds, professional and personal, were formed at these conferences. Even a few marriages too.

Although we folded the JazzTimes Convention into IAJE  in 2001, we continued to invest in the process of bringing people together to talk about jazz as an art form and as a business.  Now, with IAJE gone, along with many record labels and record stores, the challenges facing jazz musicians and their allies are greater than ever.  That’s why we decided to organize a day of workshops and presentations in New York City in conjunction with APAP and its JazzConnect track of sessions.

We’re calling it the JazzTimes DIY Crash Course, and though the title evokes a school learning experience, we all know that what most of us long remember from our school days are the people and the lessons we learned not just from our teachers but from each other. Although I believe we have assembled substantive workshops and presentations, in the end it will be the exchange of ideas between the attendees that will resonate the loudest. I strongly believe face-to-face contact between real people, sans emoticons or avatars, can produce innovation and forward momentum for the jazz community, in all its unique diversity. Best of all, we can tweet, post and e-mail about it later.

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Five reasons to be a mentor at APAP|NYC 2012


Think back: Who are the people who most influenced you as a professional? Now think again: Who was your first mentor — formal or informal — at your first Arts Presenters annual conference? Mentors change the world — one person at a time. The echo of mentoring through the years and through the field is lasting. If you’re attending APAP|NYC 2012 and know you are free 3-4:30 p.m. Friday, January 6, kick off your conference experience by serving as a mentor for a small group of first-time attendees at the New Colleague Orientation. It’s an inspiring experience for you and a valuable connection for the person you mentor. Why? Here are our top five reasons for mentoring. What are yours?

1. Help a new colleague – Sharing knowledge and experience with new colleagues can dramatically enhance experience at APAP|NYC and ensure they have a successful inaugural conference.

2. Learn something – Who’s sitting next to you? You never know! Get new ideas, techniques or approaches just by showing up.

3. Expand your network – Make friends here, and take the friendship — and connection — home for a lifetime.

4. Share something – As a seasoned conference goer, why not pass along a tip or trick that has worked for you year after year?

5. Support the field – By mentoring, you make a high quality contribution to the performing arts field. (And APAP appreciates you!)

For more information about mentoring at APAP|NYC 2012, contact membership manager Sue Noseworthy at 202.207.3841 or

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APAP|NYC 2012: Owning the Road Ahead (but “crashing” at a great Midtown Manhattan hotel)

Photo: Jacob Belcher/APAP

Five days in New York City. 3,500 colleagues. 1,300 showcases. 350 exhibitors. Plus all the twinkling lights and buzzing sounds of a city that never goes to sleep. APAP|NYC 2012: You want it all. And one way to get it all is to stay at an APAP|NYC partnering hotel: Hilton New York, which is APAP headquarters, and nearby Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers, where many conference events take place. Undecided about which one to book? We’ve stayed at both. We love both. And we think you will, too. Here’s why.  

Stay at the Hilton

  • It’s not only the heart of the city, it’s HQ for APAP|NYC.
  • Showcase central: Walk out your door, hit a showcase with your eyes closed. (But we recommend keeping them open.)
  • Walk to iconic NYC sights: Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall and the Museum of Modern Art.
  • After using free wi-fi, clear your head in Central Park only five blocks away.
  • Coffee addiction?  Starbucks is in-house, close enough to take a grande-skinny-vanilla latte back to your room and drink it hot.

 Stay at the Sheraton 

Photo: Courtesy Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers

  • One block away from APAP|NYC base camp.
  • Free wi-fi if you book by Oct. 31. (That’s $75 you can spend on that coffee addiction.)
  • Right-outside-your-room access to many APAP|NYC meetings.
  • Located between Central Park and Times Square. Why stay here? Duh.
  • $189 per night? Another duh. Just book it.

Can’t decide? Here’s what you’ll get at both hotels:

  • Onsite networking with APAP colleagues.
  • Close to all APAP|NYC events.
  • Easy access to restaurants, coffee shops, bars, shopping and showcases on Broadway, at Lincoln Center and at other venues.
  • Close to subways and a whistle away to taxis for those 24/7 showcases.
  • Midtown Manhattan, people! Work all day, party all night and still be steps away from your home away from home.

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Resolution for 2011: Presenter as nurturer

Riffing on the themes of hope, community and soul that my fellow bloggers have touched on, I’ll cap my contribution to this year’s conference by painting an image of arts presenter as nurturer.

The theme of nurturing lingers with me, I think, thanks to the terrific Young Performers Career Advancement Program recital, which I attended on Monday evening at Carnegie Hall (in Weill Hall). There, I was privileged not only to hear excellent performances by the Lincoln Trio, Joshua Roman, Bella Hristova, Pius Cheung and Kaila Potts, but also to observe the pleasure and fitting pride with which the representatives of APAP’s Classical Connections Initiative introduced their carefully selected performers. I saw in these interactions a type of nurturing that could befit most, if not all, presenters.

With 13 million tracks on iTunes, it’s easy to wonder about the incremental value of yet one more track. Similarly, considering the vast number of performing artists on the scene, it’s easy to wonder about the value of yet one more performer. For instance, did anyone else notice how many string quartets (and their agents) want to play Beethoven for your audience? What is the marginal value of yet another aspiring quartet going through the rigors of technical development, the disappointments of hunting for an agent, and the exhaustion of spending their lives on the road, just so that they can be yet another quartet that wants to play Beethoven for your audience?

The truth is that while Beethoven hasn’t changed, the audience has; and the audience is changing every day. The value of a new song has to do less with its novelty, which I doubt to be a virtue per se, and more to do with how it speaks to new people. New generations need new songs and new performers just as they need new words for new ideas.

Arts presenters have the unique opportunity to present new artists to new audiences. Thinking of facilitating this introduction solely as a transaction, which is tempting because of the complicated economics, overlooks the significant opportunity to nurture new talent. Nurturing new artists suggests taking an interest in their story and goals, sharing information and insights, and celebrating their successes. Nurturing creates relationships of trust early in a performer’s career and builds footings for future success (for everyone involved).

Looking for a resolution for 2011? Try taking joy in nurturing others—which includes, but certainly isn’t limited to, emerging young artists.

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Hope and Community: We’re in this together

It has been heartening to see and hear the many ways in which the arts community came together at this APAP Conference to address the current slate of daunting challenges facing most of us. From the annual meeting, to plenaries, workshops and innumerable conversations, often cooperative, sometimes cantankerous, I felt, on balance, a consensus that we’re all in this together. It was a comforting and energizing feeling, and though this thought doesn’t speak to the specifics of my APAP experience (and the devil/angel was in the details) it is my lingering feeling. The commitment and intelligence of the participants (I didn’t run into anyone that I wouldn’t describe as committed and intelligent) was bound to add up to something positive.

In his recent column in the New York Times, David Brooks quotes the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in relation to the tragic events in Tucson. Part of the quote resonated with me more generally with regard to how my colleagues and I are choosing to spend our careers: “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. … Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love.”

This conference is not perfect, it isn’t cheap, it isn’t easy for all to attend, it can be overwhelming and it doesn’t answer every question (though there are a lot of specific answers if you put in the time). But it does provide two things for which I am grateful, and for which I suspect many others in the arts presenting world are grateful as well: hope and community.

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People do this for their souls

The whirlwind is over, the proverbial dust is settling, and I am left with pages of notes, a slew of contacts and the memory of dozens of conversations with old friends and new. (The face-to-face kind of friends).  For me, it was a “good” APAP, meaning that I was happy with my showcases, with traffic at my booth, with response to my artists.

For me, the convening is what is most important – coming together with my colleagues in this field — presenter, manager, agent, artist – with ultimately the same premise: our passionate belief that the arts carry meaning that is essential to us, to our communities, to the welfare of our society. And so we come together to work with each other to put arts on stages; to find new ways to ensure our children have arts experiences in schools and after school; to push the boundaries of how arts can live in communities outside the four walls of traditional theater while still making sure that our artists can make a living from the extraordinary work they do. We come together to share ideas, triumphs, war stories.

I often leave these conferences renewed by our shared passion for the arts, and yet always wondering why is it such a struggle to articulate to our communities and boards and governments what seems so self-evident to us—this knowledge of art’s power and essential role in our lives. Arts continue to be cut from many education and university programs, even in the face of more than 20 years of studies revealing again and again the importance of the arts in developing thinking, collaborative citizens capable of problem-solving, capable of working across cultures, educated in the skills needed for today’s and the future’s non-industrial society. (Maybe I shouldn’t complain — education programs themselves continue to be cut).

Curating presenters are told by their boards to make every show a break-even or profit-maker, eliminating the ability to take chances, to take the risks that bring new artists, new experiences to their communities. These boards are often reflecting their audiences who also shy away from risk with their decreased discretionary dollars, going for the known rather than the new. For that matter, why did the arts become “discretionary,” when every culture has some form of artistic expression? I look to my own background — for my parents, going to performances was not discretionary. Even in the days when, as immigrants, they had very little money, going to concerts was essential; they scrimped so that arts were part of their lives.

Which brings to mind a conversation I had with Ethiopian artist managers many years ago at a conference: “The U.S. is such a wealthy country. Why is it so difficult to support the arts? Ethiopia is poor and still we provide the necessities to our people—food, shelter, healthcare, the arts. If you don’t support the arts, what do people do for their souls?!”

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An Artist Fellow at APAP

So after some days, and still in New York City, soon on my way to Brazil, some reflections about the conference and also the program in which I was directly involved.

The first APAP Artist Fellows project was a truly connecting experience. Everybody was very open and very honest about expectations and challenges.

These days , when many foundations in the art field – including the way we create, organize, program and sell – are going trough a big change, it’s really important to share new visions and discuss issues, as we seriously tried to do.

Some concepts emerged, based on the artist’s experiences and from the artist point of view. These ideas are important because almost all of us also work on the programing side as curators, owners of cultural centers, running foundations and also administrating our own projects.

1. Be small: Try to get out of the sickness of only thinking “grow.” That is: playing for big crowds, expecting always the big success. For most of us, small means the independent freedom of creation, of making choices regarding all stages of the process such as where to perform and how to present yourself, with whom connect, being honest, not trying to please possible facilitators, being critical when needed and knowing when not to be.

2. Real communities. The Artist Fellows shared some good histories about various initiatives in this field. On the programers side, the general idea was not to create dependence on big names, but to forge a strong concept and quality that can function as enough reason to make an audience come to the venue.

3. The identity of an artist. Our artists were from Haiti, to Cambodia, from Rwanda to Ethiopia, and yet most of them are living in U.S. Some concerns where focus on the usual expectations professionals and consequently audiences may have labeling their art and projects. Two of us who live outside U.S. — myself in Brazil and Alvaro Restrepo in Colombia.

Kudos also for the APAP team involved with the Artists Fellow program: Sandra Gibson, Claudia Norman, Bill Bragin, Cathy Zimmerman, Alicia Anstead.

I would like to mention: GlobalFest and Winter Jazzfest. Great ideas and events that are a huge step from conventional showcases, which are never an easy thing for a performer.

And last but not least: Thanks the beautiful work of Meklit Hadero, who put in a lot of effort and good work, and made it happen. We’re at only the beginning.

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Focus on Excellence

Final day in EXPO Hall. Happily, I am hearing from many of my colleagues that this year’s conference was a good one. Interest, excitement, discussions — this year is recovering an energy that hopefully parallels an economic recovery (even a slow-moving one). I was happy with the traffic and the interest.

One of my artists was commenting today about the difference between the commercial music world and the world APAP represents. A veteran of SXSW, this was his first APAP conference and first showcase experience — a real eye-opener for him. Though we are all terribly conscious of the bottom line, our primary motive is to get good, exciting, sometimes challenging work into our theaters and the lives of our communities and our children. In the commercial world, he felt like a commodity. The expectations here remind him of the focus on excellence in performance.

Though the “marketplace” of EXPO Hall may indicate otherwise, the awards at lunch on Monday reaffirmed what we value in our work – not only quality arts of all stripes, but ensuring that arts are a part of everyone’s life experience, in performances that reach not only conventional ticket-buyers, but also our schoolkids, our multilingual communities, college campuses, festivalgoers. That’s why we do what we do — also because there is so much talent out there! The APAP convening reminds us how much.

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