To help prepare for Wednesday, fellows have been working with some of our Innovation speakers, including Claire Chase and Kelly Hall-Tompkins, as well members of Music Academy’s senior leadership and both Jennifer and me. These fellows have had opportunities to spend hours advancing their project and pitch.
Like other advisors, many of my meetings with fellows begin as entrepreneurial brainstorming sessions with a focus on ideation (often utilizing a design thinking approach). Conversation then regularly transitions to artistic and business planning, plus market analysis and impact development. Further exploring the needs the venture addresses as well as its possibilities for innovation are other central themes. Admittedly, as someone who leads a career development center for musicians and teaches entrepreneurship and music business courses at the collegiate level, there are some key parallels to learning that in other setups often happens over months. However, the MARLI program, including the Fast Pitch component, has been designed to expedite the study and implementation of key concepts, especially around the need for 21st-century musicians to be advocates for their art and indeed their own artistry.
Do you get the sense that the challenges of the pandemic and the ongoing discussions of race in America are having an impact on the kinds of projects the fellows are working on or proposing? Put another way, are the projects you’re seeing tending to embrace traditional classical music norms, or challenge them?
JB: Yes. The fellows are amazing musicians, but they certainly live in the world. I’ve seen a number of projects (for the Digital Challenge and other creative projects the fellows are creating) address the pandemic, racial unrest in the U.S., and other hardships in our fellows’ communities. Even with more “traditional” projects, there is some nostalgia for when we could come together and enjoy music and fellowship with friends and family. It really shows that music—even classical music—doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Artists have always used the world around them for inspiration.
As we approach the conclusion of MARLI and the Creative Extension, what do you feel will be the most enduring impact of this endeavor?
JB: It’s hard to say since we’re not done yet! I hope it’s that the fellows always know they have access to not only their instrumental faculty members, but also the Music Academy administrators, Compeers, guest artists, and Innovation Speakers. Returning fellows have talked about the deeper connections they have made during the virtual program (ironic, isn’t it?). I hope fellows know that everyone they came in contact with this summer is now a part of their personal network. Hopefully, they will nurture those relationships for the rest of their careers.
CMD: We’ve had some wonderful feedback from fellows, speakers, faculty, and the larger Music Academy community about the impact of our time together. Though we are all hungry for more in-person interaction and music making, this summer’s setup for this has had some unexpected benefits, including being able to have such a range of noted Innovation Speakers share varied perspective.