In October I was thrilled to learn that my collaborator and I, Liza Malamut, received a grant to support our upcoming production of the Schütz Christmas Oratorio, from the Paul R. Judy Center for Applied Research, a branch of polyphonic.org that rewards “creative, artist-centered enterprises that reflect new models of artistic innovation, organizational relationships, and operational sustainability.”
We were among 10 ensembles/individuals to receive the reward, out of 60 applicants. 100% of the gift will support our performing artists, who already are being generous with their time and talent. The funds are much needed – complementing our ongoing campaign, The Schütz Bucket Challenge – and it’s surely an honor to have our efforts recognized. But I might disappoint the Judy Center when it comes to those new models of innovation, relationships and sustainability.
My goal with Musica Nuova reflects similar to the goals of the grantmaker: offer a variety of ways to engage with the audience, seek out new listeners, possibly in unique venues, and be flexible in forces to present the most intimate of lute songs to a full scale opera.
But I stand on the shoulders of giants when it comes to artistic innovation. I learned Italian Baroque singing and how to turn a bunch of songs into a show from Grant Herreid, and I’ve just put it together on my own since then. This partnership with Liza is a welcome new relationship for me, but a better businesswoman would have forged more alliances early on. And operational sustainability. Right. Considering that I will spend in childcare about what I need to fundraise, you could say I don’t have the most sustainable model in town.
Part of the mission of the Judy Center is to conduct and support research on sustainable ensembles. I will be keen to read about what they find. Entrepreneurialism is the new buzzword in conservatories and beyond. But it’s one thing to think of an idea for a show, put together a website and put on your concert, and another to see it through year after year. I think it’s possible to have
This summer I had the privilege of working with Pro Mujer, a microfinance organization that serves poor women in Latin America. Microfinance provides poor people with small loans and other services to start and sustain their own businesses, an intervention that has been proven all over the world as a way to give the very poor – frequently women and families – a pathway out of poverty. Microfinance customers pay their loans back at the highest rates in the world, supporting the next crop of loans to others, and sustaining the lending organization to provide complementary services, like business training and health care. It was moving to think that women selling fruit in Peru were paying my salary.
Muhammad Yunus won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize after three decades of pioneering microfinance with the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.
Where is the Muhammad Yunus for classical music? If ticket sales have never covered the costs of performances, philanthropy is increasingly unpredictable, and live arts have to compete with technology for new audiences, where is our capital coming from? If funding from the Judy Center eventually facilitates a model for small arts projects that is as effective as microfinance, they might truly discover operational sustainability that we are looking for. Here’s hoping.