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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