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Topic Summary
Posted by: berto Posted on: Jun 11th, 2003, 10:02am
Congratulations for a well-run and thoroughly enjoyable Whitewater Early Music Festival 2003!
What next for 2004?
--How about still more beginner classes?  Keep Beginner Krumhorn, Beginner Viol, Beginner Recorder, and add:
  --Beginner Wind Band (for sackbut, shawm, etc.).
  --Beginner Percussion (there is much more to hand drum and tambourine and ... technique than simply banging and keeping the beat).
  --Beginner Other ...
In general, beginner classes are good for outreach and attracting newcomers to early music.
--Retain and even expand the choral classes. This, too, is good for outreach, as many people don't play instruments, but many, many people sing. (Spread the word among the numerous choral groups throughout the Midwest and beyond.)
--Continue to diversify. No disrespect to the recorder (an instrument I love, and still and forever my Number One), but it was good to see so many people singing and playing other instruments.
--Somehow attract more young people and teens. Is holding the Festival the first weekend in June, when school is still in session for many kids, a significant barrier to participation?
--Perhaps as an option, add another day or two, starting it on Wednesday or Thursday evening. (Yes, I know that this is a controversial suggestion.)
--Instead of the Saturday evening dance, substitute a concert performed by the Festival instructors. Or better, keep the dance, extend the Festival, and schedule the instructors' concert for the added evening. Give the instructors their chance to shine! And give attendees more value for their money!
--Videotape the Festival-ending attendees concert (also any instructors concert?) and offer the tape(s) for sale.
Any reactions? Any other suggestions? We were invited to return our post-Festival questionnaires with suggestions like these, but here's an opportunity to express some second opinions and to kick some more ideas back and forth in public.
Posted by: MasquedPhoenix1 Posted on: Jun 11th, 2003, 1:09pm
As always, we would love more diversity, but that requires more people with diverse interests to show up!  It would be great to have more singers.   This year there were only 11-12 people in the full choir class.  You can't expand the classes without the people to expand into them!  It is a chicken-and-the-egg type problem.  If we offer more classes, will more people come?  Or will there just be less people in each class which will preclude playing some of the music the teacher would like to offer?  Beginning instrument classes are great, but where do you get the instruments since someone trying out a new instrument is not likely to own one?  I'd love to offer a beginning harp class, but where does one get a bunch of harps for rent, especially when you won't know how many people may show up?  Even if you ask for beginning instrumentalists to register on the form, you won't see those until the month preceeding the festival, and plans generally need to be made long before that.  The percussion class would be easiest to do, but I'm not sure who would teach it.
Outreach is always an issue.  We list the Festival with a couple of major early music publications already.  If anyone knows of others we should send info. to, please post their contact information!
Taping the final concert might be workable.  We would need one or two volunteers with camera and someone knowledgable and willing to edit.  I think reproductions could be had reasonably, especially for a digital format.  Hiring a professional to record might be possible in the future if we were able to see enough interest in a "home-made" version.
I stand by my argument that there are already longer festivals for those who want them.  I would love to have more time for my classes- I never cover all the things I've found to bring with- but I also realize that more time=more costs=less people who would be able to come=greater financial uncertainty.  Most of the larger festivals have some sort of full-time organizers or institutional support from a university or performing ensemble.  There are many people who have the time to do fundraising and other things necessary to take some of the risk out of running these things.  The Oak Park Recorder School is a group of 5 people (3 of whom bear the lion's share of the work) having full time responsibilities elsewhere who do their darndest to stay in the black from year to year.  We love doing it and appreciate the rewards of a job well done, but the reality is that it takes a lot of time and we have no cushion of money should a year prove unprofitable.  If we take the risk to expand, we also risk losing money we don't have which could all-too-easily lead to no more Festival, period.  That is a scary statement, but it may be worth it to read it twice just to be certain the gravity of the statement has had its effect.
I am not saying these things to be discouraging, I'm merely trying to keep the reality of running the festival in focus.  We already have a bunch of great teachers, but festival attendance is such that each class will average around 10 students.  This provides intimacy and personal attention which is good, but it means that some classes don't have enough participants to do what the teacher would like.  We are adding more great teachers next year, but if the student population does not increase, then we can not justify having so many instructors in the future.  And the instructors at Whitewater are very generous to boot- no-one is ever promised a set fee.  It fluctuates depending on how many people attend.  Even at its best, it is still less than most of the instructors could command for a one-day workshop elsewhere.  The balance is delicate- the instructors are dedicated and love doing this, but there is always a risk that the money may become so spread out that some of the teachers may find it is not practical to keep coming.  We do our best to make sure that doesn't happen.
Assuming the festival stays the same length, there are practical issues to deal with in presenting a faculty concert.   Since the faculty comes from all over the country and does not have the opportunity to rehearse together before coming, when can they get together to produce a program?  Even if they did solos, when could they rehearse with an accompanist and who would pay for the accompanist assuming they didn't bring their own from home?  As a member of the faculty, I can tell you that free time is non-existant.  I'd love to perform with Dave Echlard and the others, but we'd need to rehearse and I don't see the time available for that.  And for as interesting as a faculty concert could be, how many concerts are available for people to see during the year?  Not enough, to be sure, especially if you live away from the big cities.  But how many times do you get the chance to learn and perform period dances?  Far fewer.  And judging by the amount of people that show up, the dance is a popular feature.  Personally, I would be happy to see fewer dances performed with more repetitions.  That way people could start to feel at ease with the dances and get more enjoyment out of them rather that being paranoid about which direction to go next all the time.  That would also allow the band to play more.  I played with the band my first year and quickly realized that you got a heck of a lot more out of the experience if you danced.  
We used to let the faculty and whatever attendee ensembles who would like perform something on the final concert if they wanted.  Dave Echlard performed a wonderful solo to a taped accompaniment one year, Clea performed a solo with Bill Nelson on piano one year (they rehearsed in 5-minute snatches betwwen classes).  It was great to hear them.  But those concerts took nearly 3 hours-a couple went over the three hour mark.  If you were at the final concert this year, how many people did you see leaving early and it was only a bit over two hours?  That is our performance opportunity, and most people would rather see it shorter than longer no matter who we put up there.
We love to hear suggestions and have incorporated many over the years.  But I wanted to give voice to the reasons why we don't do some of the things people ask about all the time.  I love the fact that people love the Festival so much they always want there to be more of it. Much better than the other way around!  Remember, the ARS and Early Music America keep lists of festivals around the country of all lengths and for all interests.  There are sure a lot available!  And I would go to each one of them if I could.  But for those of us for whom time and money are significant factors, it is nice to have the smaller, concentrated festivals as well- better a brief opportunity than none at all.  The Madison festival is a good option for those who want a longer experience locally.  And what about the Hoosier Hoot?  
But we are always open to suggestions.  Just keep the reality in mind.  Is there some major grant out there that someone would have the time to pursue to allow us to have a longer festival?  Let us know!  It would be nice to have the flexibility to take more risks, but our primary goal must always be to stay afloat so that there can be a Festival the next year.
(And on a personal note, if anyone knows of a job I can get that lets me have more days off so I don't spend more than half of my yearly allotment in the days surrounding Whitewater...)
Keep on thinking big, but keep that grounding in reality as well.  Ideas are wonderful.  Practical solutions are even better!
And above all, please keep on coming back!
Posted by: berto Posted on: Jun 11th, 2003, 3:19pm
It's just a wish list. Several items might be ill-advised, several more might be naive, a few might be outright stupid. But maybe one has merit and is doable next year; another, one or two years after that. (On the Festival questionnaire, weren't we invited to "go wild"?)
Yes, there is wisdom in taking things slowly, growing in small increments so as to minimize the risk. For sure, don't risk all on premature and grandiose expansion.
>Is there some major grant out there that someone would have the time to pursue to allow us to have a longer festival?
Great idea. I/we/someone should try it.
About instruments for the beginner classes: This year, who would have thought that the UW-Whitewater would have at least two loaner sackbuts (not just trombones, but the "real" thing) for the wind band class participants to play? I'm not saying that this is an easy problem to solve. But I was surprised by the large number of beginning viol players up on that concert stage. Where did all of those spare loaner viols come from?
Outreach suggestion: For the choral classes, aren't there many, many choral groups around the Midwest and elsewhere? They must have their own publications and web sites and e-mail lists and Internet discussion fora and... Maybe some targeted advertising going beyond early music circles and directed specifically at the choral community?
Amen to "fewer dances performed with more repetitions." There was too much dead time, especially from the band's point of view. (One woman was smart: she brought along her knitting to occupy the time between numbers.)
Um, I think I'll just shut up about extending the Festival. Forget I said it.  Wink
Posted by: berto Posted on: Jun 12th, 2003, 8:31am
About the "faculty" concert:  Given the difficulties you describe about pre-Festival rehearsal, one could have:
--Festival faculty who want to perform solo
--Festival faculty who will perform in groups but are able to rehearse before coming to the Festival (e.g., Karen and Ron doing a cornetto/sackbut duet)
--attendee soloists and groups (perhaps restricted to performers with proven public performance track records and/or in well-established groups)
In other words, no longer just a "faculty" concert, it would be more like the Xmas and spring CARS concerts, with performers--both faculty and non-faculty--registering in advance of the Festival their intention to perform.
You might want to have some sort of screening process in place, though, to keep the performance levels fairly high. That is, find a way to exclude the beginners and the untalented and the stage-frightened and...

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