The sheer magnitude of this undertaking is borne out by the numbers. A single chamber music concert at the Lobero Theatre, for example, involves an average of 30 to 50 hours of rehearsals, while the Summer School and Festival as a whole includes more than 1,000 private lessons, as many as 17 masterclasses per week, dozens of public performances, hundreds of musical works, and thousands of pages of scans to copy and distribute that music. It also falls to Artistic Operations to coordinate itineraries, transportation, lodging, and special requests for more than a dozen guest artists and conductors, not to mention finding longer-term housing for the vast majority of the Academy’s faculty.
Part of Paggett’s job is planning carefully so that things go right, but equally important is planning for when things go wrong. That’s why he spends a significant amount of his days anticipating possible issues and preparing potential solutions in advance. He describes his job as having three “levels”: plan thoroughly so that things don’t go wrong, prepare a plan B for when things do go wrong, and be ready for when something happens for which you don’t have a plan. “The biggest challenge – and the biggest joy – of the Festival is that it’s live performance. Anything can happen at any time.” During the 2019 Festival, for example, one chamber work called for some interesting instrumentation, including pitched wine glasses and an electric milk frother. Between the dress rehearsal and the concert, however, someone at an off-site venue mistakenly dumped the water from the wine glasses (which had been very carefully tuned) and threw out the milk frother. One would hardly think that the unanticipated problems at a music festival would include a last-minute search for barista equipment, but, as they say, that’s showbiz!
Helping the AO team to execute these intricate and well-thought-out plans during the Festival itself are more than a dozen summer staffers. Two Artistic Program Coordinators are responsible for everything from keeping instrumental fellows on schedule to collecting program information for masterclasses and Picnic Concerts. An Orchestra Personnel Manager oversees orchestra rehearsal and sectionals, ensuring that every member of the orchestra is in the right place at the right time, while a Music Librarian and an Assistant Librarian handle the many, many pieces of music used during a single summer. The Percussion Manager is responsible for handling all percussion equipment, a job which requires complicated moves between multiple venues. Vocal Institute Director of Administration Aaron Grant and two staffers oversee the administrative duties for the Academy’s esteemed vocal program. Guest artists, speakers, conductors, and other visiting VIPs are taken care of by an Artist Liaison. Rounding out the summer staff are the all-important stage crew members: approximately five who focus solely on opera productions and another three who handle masterclasses, rehearsals, and other performances on the Academy’s campus.
Planning and executing the artistic components of a Summer School and Festival are complicated endeavors. Planning involves conversations that begin months – sometimes years – before a single note is played or sung, and execution requires a rare combination of attention to detail and ability to think on one’s feet. But at the core of every artistic decision, every meticulously thought-out plan, is one unifying theme: the creation of a world-class, transformative educational experience for the Academy’s young musicians. “One thing we’re constantly asking ourselves,” says Jamie Broumas, “Is what can we offer the fellows that they aren’t getting at conservatory? What can we offer that can uniquely equip them for their future careers?”
You might say, then, that the Festival is in many ways more a means than it is an end. Top notch musical programs that appeal to our loyal audience is always what we strive for, but it’s the journey to those performances that encapsulate the Music Academy’s true raison d’être. Or perhaps, simply this: for the Music Academy, the means is the end.
– Henry Michaels
Resonance editor, Audience Services and Community Access Manager, Music Academy of the West