Bill Baker's Blog

Perspectives on the Media from New York Public Television

When the arts mean business, profile in FORDHAM magazine

Evan Leatherwood | May 14th, 2013

The Business of the Performing Arts in the 21st Century, sponsored by Fordham and taught at the Juilliard School’s Lincoln Center campus, is a 14-week plunge into the business realities of the institutions that populate and profoundly influence the American cultural landscape—from the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic on down to the smallest regional dance and theater companies. Baker’s goal isn’t to depress his hopeful audience, he says, but rather to inspire them to beat the odds by understanding the industry they’re entering. [full article]

Three business lessons from the New York performing arts scene

Michael Hurtig | April 20th, 2012

by permission from AMA Shift

by William F. Baker and Evan Leatherwood

The American not-for-profit performing arts scene is as cut-throat as any commercial market in the world. Rich patrons and demanding audiences have long rewarded talent, but tough times are defining another prerequisite for artistic success: entrepreneurship.

Faced with a sharp decline in government grants and private philanthropy, dancers, singers, actors, and musicians have been forced to fight hard and innovate just to stay in the profession they love. Here are three concepts from the performing arts world that would play well in any industry.


Update: El Sistema continues its success in Venezuela and abroad

Michael Hurtig | February 27th, 2012

Last year at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning Conference, we covered a panel that was held on the topic of El Sistema – a highly admired and emulated program developed in Venezuela to improve the lives of children through classical music. El Sistema began 33 years ago, and as evidenced by last year’s panel, the program has gone on to inspire a great number of teachers and musicians both here in the United States and elsewhere across the world.

In Venezuela, the program continues to thrive and currently provides 310,000 children free access to musical instruments and instruction, according to a recent New York Times report. By 2015 the program’s founder José Antonio Abreu hopes to increase this number to 500,000. The success has been enough to earn it government support to the measure of approximately $64 million annually, in addition to a large base of financial support from private donors and foundations.

Here in the United States, the example of El Sistema has inspired organizations such as El Sistema USA to attempt to recreate the success of the program among American children. Across borders, the core philosophy of El Sistema remains the same: using music to foster cooperation, dedication, and feelings of community among children. The program’s goal: to raise children above some of the poverty and adversity they may face, brightening their future.

With the Vegetable Orchestra, music is more than just food for the soul

Michael Hurtig | January 11th, 2012

For the musicians of the Vegetable Orchestra, peppers make up horns, hollow pumpkins replace drum sets, and bound celery sticks resemble guitars. In an age when music is defined by its viral prevalence, The Vegetable Orchestra is literally going back to its roots.

The eleven-person orchestra records and performs all of its music by using fresh vegetables as instruments. (more…)

New York City’s SONiC Festival Brings 21st Century Compositions to Life With Style

Michael Hurtig | November 1st, 2011

New York City’s American Composers Orchestra presented its inaugural Sounds of New Century (SONiC) Festival October 14th– 22nd. The festival included performances of works by over 100 composers age 40 and under at various venues throughout New York City.

Composer Derek Bermel and pianist Stephen Gosling co-curated the 9-day event that began at Zankel Hall with a performance by the ACO featuring five of new pieces under the direction of conductor George Manahan. Throughout the festival, orchestras and ensembles also took up stage space at many different venues all over Manhattan, including the Miller Theater at Columbia University, The Stone, Symphony Space, Roulette and more. In total, 16 extraordinary performances featuring at least 18 world premieres, eight US premieres, and eight New York premieres were showcased.

The American Contemporary Orchestra premiered new compositions at the World Financial Center October 22nd

The SONiC festival concluded on Saturday with a free symphony concert at the World Financial Center in the Winter Garden atrium. Once again, ACO Music Director George Manahn led the orchestra as they premiered a number of new compositions by Ruby Fulton, Paul Yeon Lee, Bryce Dessner, Ryan Gallagher, Andrew Norman and Suzanne Farin. This final performance was hosted by John Schaefer and presented on WNYC’s New Sounds Live.

Q2 Music, New York Public Radio’s Internet radio station will broadcast audience favorites in a special program dedicated to SONiC. Notably, the festival made great use of ipads at performances to collect votes in real-time from audiences, in addition to distributing a smart phone app to audiences for off-site voting.

For further information on the festival,  visit http://sonicfestival.org/

The Creator’s Project

Michael Hurtig | October 31st, 2011

On October 15th, the Creator’s Project came to Brooklyn. The event was an art and technology festival sponsored by Intel and Vice Media which featured musical performances from DJs and indy groups, installations, and film/video screenings. The mission was to bring together art works by young people that use new technology. The atmosphere was buzzing, and the variety of offerings, split across a number of different venues in DUMBO, made exploring the project an adventure. For a clear view of what was on offer over the weekend, take a look at the video above.

At the Metropolitan Opera, a New Ideology

Michael Hurtig | October 25th, 2011

The New York Times reported earlier in October that the Met has recently seen “a record amount of contributions for the fiscal year that ended in July.” The recent successes of the institution, including its HD broadcasts which reach 1,600 theaters in 54 countries, are in part owing to Gelb’s “‘effort to democratize opera'” as the Met seeks to reach new audiences. Read more at nytimes.com

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