Five Important Take-Aways from Chamber Music America’s Annual Conference

By Barry Kempton

I spent the second half of last week at the Chamber Music America (CMA) conference in New York. This is a gathering of a broad variety of classical and jazz industry colleagues including presenters, educators, artist/ensemble managers, educators, music enthusiasts and – most important of all – musicians, professionals and students.  It was a very enjoyable experience. 

I spent my time attending seminars on specific topics such as funding opportunities from the National Endowment for the Arts and “advanced level fundraising”, and a fascinating morning learning about a marketing strategies for chamber music as devised by pianist, composer and director of The SAVVY Musician, David Cutler.  I met with many artist managers to learn about their artists – new programming and opportunities we might want to present at The Schubert Club.  I heard two excellent keynote speeches, ten showcase performances by emerging chamber music ensembles and a couple of off-site concerts.  I caught up with several long time friends, and I’m pleased to say I made some new ones.  Sometimes, when I’ve reflected back on time spent at conferences, the memorable moments can be a little limited.  At this year’s CMA conference, however, many interesting and stimulating discussions and interactions are still fresh in my mind.  Here are just a couple of observations which strike me as worthy of sharing.

  • Artists and arts organizations build audiences and long-term support by becoming known for what they do well, not by adjusting what they do to what they think might attract the biggest audience.
  • Existing audiences like to read in promotional brochures who is performing and what’s on the program. New audiences usually don’t.  It’s likely not to mean much to them.  Need to think (and communicate) differently.
  • Making new audience members who are unfamiliar with our music, venue and/or organization feel welcome is most effective when undertaken by all constituents at a concert – musicians, venue staff, the admin team, board members and the regular audience members.
  • There are some truly amazing young ensembles entering the profession, performing to extremely high standards with extremely polished presentation skills.
  • We are bombarded by so much information these days, written and graphic, that it’s vital to take a lot of care writing with style, focus and concision.

So I’d better practice what I preach and stop right there!

Happy New Year everyone.

Photo Above:  Spektral Quartet playing their CD release party at New York’s SubCulture