This post is by Chamber Project Artistic Director and clarinetist, Dana. What does it take to put together an entire season? The only way to find out is to do it!
We've got ten concerts, six programs, 18 pieces, 17 musicians, six venues (and a kitchen sink) all ready to go starting September 14th! This is our 5th Season, and by far our biggest and best one yet. Our concerts this year are filled with fantastic pieces, and we're really proud of the combinations we've put together (otherwise known as 'programming'). We've got a lot of musicians who are new to us and new to St. Louis this year. We will perform a number of pieces that we believe to be St. Louis premieres, along with some some old favorites - you're not going to want to miss any of this!
As you know, we're all trained as musicians; we are not trained as businesswomen or as marketing specialists, graphic designers, personnel managers and so on. Putting this all together has been very challenging, and very rewarding. When we got started, over 5 years ago, I stumbled onto this quote and it keeps me going! (yes, on the internet, so I hope it's real):
"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." Martin Luther King Jr.
When we started Chamber Project, we had no idea that we had no idea what we were doing. We've pushed ourselves and each other to learn new skills, to take risks and to be better musicians. We love music and we wanted to share it, so we kept going, even when we didn't know where exactly it was going.
Preparing and organizing this season has challenged us to be more creative, and more daring than we've been before. As I pondered what to say in this first blog about this season, I was once again struck by how much being a musician can prepare you for just about anything. As I thought about it, I realized that the skills you need to be an excellent musician are the same skills you need to start and run a non-profit arts organization. Even though every step of this has seemed new to us, our training as musicians prepared us more than we realized.
I jotted down a few of the key elements that jumped out for me about what this all takes. Maybe you'll find a little inspiration here, so I thought I'd share them.
COURAGE. As a musician, to get up on stage and let the world hear you play is pretty courageous. For us, producing a concert and not knowing if anyone would come - and then they did and they had a great time and everyone felt great. Courage, as my Mom said, is not the absence of fear, it's moving forward in spite of it. (Why is Mom always right?)
COMMUNICATION. Musicians have to communicate with each other - or it's not music, it's just people making noise at the same time. To put together a season of concerts, we have to communicate ideas, disagreements, information. We talk with venues, with other musicians, with - well, I could go on. To communicate successfully, you have to LISTEN. I could write a whole blog post just about listening....
COLLABORATION. Real collaboration. Which means not always being right and not always getting what you want. Trusting that the people might have a better idea than you do. This is true in playing music, and in anything else that requires more than just you to happen.
PATIENCE. This is a big one. The patience to practice the same thing over and over, the patience to wait while you build a skill on your instrument. Working together to create concerts requires a ton of patience. Waiting for someone to respond to something you think is urgent, waiting for the right ideas to come, the right people to sign on to your programs. Waiting for your slow internet to load the pictures into this blog.
PERSEVERANCE. Just keep at it. Keep practicing, keep following your heart to do what you love, even when it's a struggle. If it's on your instrument, or learning how to use Excel, or researching composers to find the piece that is just the right fit with that other one. Just keep trying.
And back to the MLK quote. It takes FAITH. Faith in the belief that music matters. That art matters. That through music, we are all able to be a little more human, to have fuller, richer lives. That all of this effort, all of this passion matters. We believe it does.
We hope you'll come to as many concerts as you can this year. We could not be more excited about what this season has to offer! We kick things off on September 14th with a program we're calling "YOUTH".
And on this blog, we're going to continue the 'Inside the Music' posts about each program, where you learn about the music before the concert from the musicians who are playing the concert. We're also going to introduce you to more of our musicians and have some guest bloggers. So stay tuned!