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Crofts/Adams/Pearse and Hemingway at The Rex Hotel in Toronto

It’s nice to look back, especially in the arts and arts organization business, where we spend so much time looking forward. In fact if I learned anything this season, it was that looking forward often prevents us from looking back and actually learning from our mistakes!

This season was special, not just for the great concerts we produced, or the amount we got to share our music. I was given a great chance to see how other presenters worked, and I was prompted to begin to assess what we’ve been doing for the past fourteen years, and whether I’m happy with the way it’s working (or not working)!

Best things first: it was a great season of music making! Shalabi, Martel, Weston and Watts, Hermitofthewoods. We started up an extended Open Source Series of seven concerts, curated by Tim Crofts, which basically doubled the number of shows we presented. It was great to have Tim as part of the suddenlyLISTEN artistic team for the first time (formally anyway).

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Crofts, Shalabi and Adams

Then, the April tour: 7 shows in 7 days with Gerry Hemingway: I learned SO much from playing and travelling with that great artist, and Crofts and Pearse too.

What did I learn? I learned a lot about planning and pulling off an insanely intense cross-Canada tour. I learned more about the outrageous dedication and generosity of the performers and presenters of adventurous music across Canada, and around the world: over and over I got to hear and see their (our) ethos of “just playing the music” or “just getting the music out there” despite all the forces to make us stop. It is an inspiration and honour to rub shoulders with these hard working men and women!

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Trevor Watts and Veryan Weston

Worst things: I was very, very busy! With all the concerts this year, coupled with a busy season with Symphony NS, and all the arts board work I’ve gotten involved with, the season was a big bite to chew. For the first time my busyness actually prevented me from gathering inspiration. That felt bad. But it made me think a bit more critically, and that is good. Hard but good.

How can we do better? How can we present concerts that will draw to people to our shows? How can we grow the audience for this challenging music? What makes people leave the house to go to a show? Are we falling back on “easy” concert models? Are people taking us for granted? (Please feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments, or email me!)

Our organization will be addressing all this in some strategic planning we’re doing in July. We’ll be making some sort of blueprint for suddenlyLISTEN for the next 3 or so years. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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Martel, Jackson, and Adams

In the meantime it’s really fun to take a little summer time to ponder all of these questions, ask my smart friends and colleagues about them, and generally ruminate on our music, what role audience plays in the challenging arts, how to cajole people into joining us in an evening of adventure.

2015/16 is season number 15 for suddenlyLISTEN.

I’m stunned to read that too.

This year, and indeed the past 14, have been like an improvisation: a blur of acting, reacting, listening and experiencing. Proposing and accompanying. I remember many moments. When the path has been clear, surrounded by my smart and creative friends, it’s been a smooth ride. When the path mists over, things get more challenging! It’s been busy but so, so much fun.

Thanks for reading, I’ll write more as the summer continues, we have some really exciting ideas, concerts and musicians you’ll want to hear this season…..