Getting In Front of Presenters

By: Edna Landau

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Dear Edna:

I am a flutist, a soloist and chamber musician.  I am just getting started pursuing performances, after many years playing in an established ensemble.  I have a nice website with good audio and video tracks, but I have found that if I can get a presenter to see me live, it is much more likely to lead to a gig than just sending my materials.  I have been applying to showcase at regional presenter conferences, with only a little bit of success so far.  I was wondering if there are smaller showcasing opportunities. I know of only three:  Ohio (OAPN), North Carolina (NC ArtsMarket) and Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Presenters). Are there other state-wide organizations that host showcases for touring purposes? Is there a list somewhere of showcase opportunities? My thought is that starting small might be more successful in the long run. Thank you. —Zara

Dear Zara:

My thanks go to you for sending such an interesting question and presenting it so articulately. You are clearly already well informed with regard to this topic. In researching it further, I turned to one of my former colleagues at IMG Artists, Thia Knowlton, who told me about Tennessee Presenters, a consortium that hosts a conference along with ArtsConversation in the off years of North Carolina’s Arts Market, which includes some showcases.  My own Internet explorations did not yield a list of showcase opportunities outside the regional ones with which you are already familiar.  However I learned about numerous arts consortia that I didn’t know exist, in states such as Maine, Montana, Louisiana, Florida, Kentucky and Wyoming. Some research on your part might reveal whether they include showcases in their meetings. Some useful websites I discovered include South Arts, North Carolina Presenters and Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour.  There are some organizations that specifically offer showcase opportunities to artists interested in working with young audiences. One such organization is International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY), which has an annual conference that includes showcases. The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, Illinois, hosts SHOWCASE, an event designed to bring performers for young audiences to presenters’ attention.

My research on this topic also extended in a different direction. I have long admired the chamber ensemble, Fifth House, which has done excellent work in building new audiences in and around Chicago and working creatively both from the point of view of programs and chosen performance venues. I spoke with their pianist and Artistic Director, Adam Marks, who suggested an alternate approach to showcases. He agreed with your statement about the effectiveness of getting presenters to see a group perform live but felt that an informal concert in a community venue , or even a “salon concert” in a beautiful home, might provide a more meaningful experience for a presenter than the staged, carefully planned showcase for a homogeneous audience whom an artist may never get to meet, since they are often rushing off to another showcase after the performance. Furthermore, as he put it, “it can be more valuable to give a presenter a glimpse of how you interact with an audience than to put on a show for them.”  He suggested looking for opportunities to perform in cities where you are trying to target and cultivate presenters who might take an interest in you. Often you are on tour and passing through places where you may not have an engagement but where you’d love to come to the attention of local presenters. There are libraries who will pay a modest fee to present serious artists and that fee might be enough to at least cover your expenses. Once you have secured that opportunity, you can invite presenters to see you in a real-life concert, engaging with an audience similar to theirs. Of course, there is no guarantee that they will come but if your website is appealing and informative, your program is interesting and your approach to them is heartfelt and well written, your chances will be enhanced.  I think there is a lot of value in this approach. When I speak to students, I encourage them to look at every place they travel to, for any reason, as an opportunity to make new contacts and build future audiences.  When one thinks about things this way, almost everything becomes a showcase opportunity and one is not forced to depend on organized conferences and presenter meetings.

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© Edna Landau 2011


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