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Concert Marketing 101


Inspiring the next Sol Hurok

New England Conservatory recently announced the inaugural group of NEC’s Entrepreneurial Musicianship (EM) Nova Fellows, a new student-run music-presenting collaborative sponsored in part by a generous anonymous donor. EM Nova, a transformation of Symphony Nova, a professional development fellowship program founded in 2007 for orchestral musicians, will be integrating its operations into NEC’s entrepreneurial musicianship department.

Next fall’s six-fellow team represents a cross-section of the student body, with participation from the classical, jazz, and contemporary improvisation departments. The fellows will be directly overseen by EM faculty, providing resources for students’ creative paths. Interim NEC president Tom Novak points out that “This is an incredible opportunity for students to experience every component of producing a concert series. It is a great enhancement to the offerings provided by the entrepreneurial musicianship department, as NEC aspires to prepare students for the professional world.” Students will have an unprecedented opportunity for hands-on learning, as they will be responsible for all areas of managing the EM Nova program, which will offer not only new, eclectic presentations to the Boston community but also professional development and performance opportunities to students.

We had to learn more.

BMInt: According to the press release, your six paid student leaders “will program, produce, and perform concerts, community events, and student engagement experiences.” What does this mean in concrete terms? How will they be branded? Will these be Symphony Nova Events? Will Symphony Nova continue to exist as a concert-presenting enterprise? Where will events be performed?

Tom Novak: The events that the EM Nova Fellows will present will be NEC events, not Symphony Nova events. The excellent work that Symphony Nova has done for the past decade is providing the model for the projects to be organized by the Fellows under the auspices of the entrepreneurial musicianship department. Locations and dates have not yet been determined.

Is it an impresario-training program?

TN: This program is providing students a comprehensive experience of concert production and management with thoughtful guidance and supervision from NEC staff. Our aim is to give students the tools and knowledge to be able to successfully produce their own performances in the future.

Are you thinking more along the lines of A Far Cry, in which musicians self-present?

TN: The model is Symphony Nova, which presented a series of concerts annually. The skills learned could certainly lead to students self-producing concerts like A Far Cry and many other organizations in Boston.

So it’s about marketing as well?

Annie Phillips:Definitely—the students will be responsible for all aspects of the concerts, from programming and production to hiring and promotion. They will learn from their professional counterparts in the NEC administration as well as be overseen by EM advisors to learn best practices in translating creative ideas into successful concert events.

With what students and communities will the six Fellows be engaging?

AP: The specific communities engaged by the Fellows’ community program(s) will be up to them. The fellowship is meant to be entirely student-driven, with musical experiences developed for specific audience(s) by the student Fellows.

How will success be measured?

Julia Cohen, EM Nova Fellow: As we grow as a team we will work together to create goals inside the NEC community as well as in greater Boston. We will measure success through the performances that we create and facilitate, and the interest sparked from students and community.

Tom Novak: The primary objective for NEC is the learning for the student Fellows. However, we will also assess specific aspects of the performances, such as attendance, actual vs approved budget, etc.

Will the fellows be paying the performing musicians?

AP: The fellows will have budget available to contract other student musicians, who will be paid for their participation—and the EM Nova Fellows themselves are paid for their work.

How many events are likely to result?

AP: In its inaugural year the EM Nova Fellowship is intended to produce at least two concert and one community-engagement event.

Will there be possibilities for the fellows to work with larger presenters, other than Nova?

TN: We are going to be assessing the program after its inaugural year, to determine what changes / improvements can be made.

The inaugural class of EM Nova Fellows and their roles are:

Co-Executive Directors
Julia Cohen, a vocal performance major and acting minor, previously held fellowships with the community partnerships and entrepreneurial musicianship departments.

Sara Pajunen, a violinist and composer, has received classical degrees in both the United States and Finland, and currently studies in the contemporary improvisation department.

Marketing Director
Cordelia Tapping, a jazz singer and songwriter, has performed at the Vermont Jazz Center, in Music for Food concerts, as backup for Lake Street Dive, and on the stage of the Yellow Barn Music Festival in Vermont, as well as in Boston and New York neighborhoods on Yellow Barn’s Music Haul.

Engagement Director
Tyler Martin, a graduate student at the NEC, studies flute in the studio of Paula Robison. He has been a strong advocate for musical education, especially in underserved and minority communities.

Production Director
Nick Rosario, a master’s student in jazz performance for trombone, recently recorded and produced an original record, The Out Crowd.

Finance Director
Andrew Barnwell, a sophomore pianist studying with Victor Rosenbaum, works for NEC Prep, where young musicians can explore music, as student manager of the piano seminars. Barnwell was an NEC 150 fellow in 2017.

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