Maybe it’s the smell of sunscreen in the air, the longer days and shorter nights, or perhaps even the obsessive attention to voiced dental fricatives, but it can only mean one thing — that summer festival season is upon us once again. That blessed time of the year when most of us can revel in “living the dream” for 24 hours a day. This year I am thrilled to be attending fresh inc 2013 hosted by Fifth House Ensemble at The University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha, WI. Before I head out this weekend, I chatted with Melissa Snoza, Flutist and Executive Director of 5HE, about all things fresh inc. Fifth House Ensemble has devoted their music business savvy, connections, and wisdom to the festival fellows who will be working with these fantastic faculty members and guest presenters:
Ezra Claytan Daniels, Writer and Illustrator
Jacob Ter Veldhuis, Composer
Aaron Todd Douglas, Actor/Director
John Henes, Alexander Technique Instructor
Lawson White, President, Good Child Music
Deborah Sobol, Artistic Director, Rush Hour Concerts
Nancy Bieschke, Cedille Records
Previous award credits include First Prize at the National Flute Association’s Orchestral Audition Competition, as well as being selected as a winner of Northwestern University’s Concerto Competition. She has been a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, has performed with the New World Symphony, the National Repertory Orchestra, the Aspen Music Festival, and was the only American flutist invited to the first Music Master’s Course in Kazusa, Japan. Melissa is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and Northwestern University, with principal teachers including Bonita Boyd and Walfrid Kujala. Melissa is not only a well-known flutist and teacher in Chicago – she also makes a mean spread of Brazilian food and a mouth-watering chocolate pecan bourbon pie.
What was the catalyst for creating the fresh inc summer festival?
We wanted to create a 2-week experience that would serve as a launching pad for emerging artists’ careers in multiple ways, and would also bring together the best of what 5HE has to offer in terms of artistry and entrepreneurship. We work side-by-side with participants in producing concerts, rehearsing new works, and presenting educational programs. The goal is to spark new ideas for ventures, and to provide a skill set to make them go.
The festival has a tag-line: “equal parts new music and new ideas.” Why is that concept important to the structure of the festival and the take-away of the participants?
It really is the defining characteristic. There are a lot of festivals where musicians can go to have great performance experiences, or where composers can go to have their music performed and receive instruction. We wanted to couple that with an open exchange of ideas between our ensemble members, guest experts, and participants that would help to fill the gap between what we learned in school and what we needed to know to start 5HE. Additionally, that skill set is evolving, so it absolutely is a two-way street. We learned so much from working with last year’s participants and guest experts, and are looking forward to the same this year!
Fifth House Ensemble is committed to music entrepreneurism and passing on those tools to other musicians. Can you identify common difficulties or snags that befall performers when it comes to business-savvy?
I think the biggest misconception is that success means that you don’t have to worry about these things. We have people say all the time that they’d like to be one of those artists that’s so “big” they don’t have to worry about marketing, financial management, networking, or anything of the sort. Our question is: who are those people? I don’t think they truly exist. Even if you’re able to have staff perform these functions day-to-day, or if you take a job with an orchestra where there is a management system in place as opposed to starting your own entrepreneurial venture, an understanding of how these processes work is vital. It makes you understand when they are being done well, even if by others, and have an appreciation for all of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. It also provides you with a frame of reference when things don’t go as planned, as with the many strikes and lock-outs that have taken place over the last couple of years.
What has been the most surprising thing about starting a summer festival dedicated to new compositions?
We’ve just been delighted by the opportunity to work with such a diverse group of artists, each with their own style. I was also personally so pleased to see that the people who were attracted to a festival like this were inherently cool to be around for 2 weeks. We’ve definitely had a logistical learning curve associated with the production side of the festival (everything from tech equipment for electronic works to providing room/board for 50 people!), but that has been part of the fun!
From your experience, how would you encourage performers to engage their audiences more fully?
Audience-centric experience design. I’d definitely encourage performers to think about the experience that they’re creating for their audience beyond the basics (repertoire, performers). Audiences make so many decisions about you before you play a single note (how was the parking? was the bathroom clean? who greeted me when I arrived?) that these details, along with how to frame the repertoire for the needs/wants of a particular audience need to be considered for sure!
What are you excited about for this summer?
I can’t wait to meet everyone!! Honestly, for many of us, the launch of fresh inc last season was the most professionally satisfying project we’ve ever been a part of. We have an incredible crew of folks joining us this year, and I can’t wait to get to it!
I simply can’t wait to get there either. My poor neighbors probably know my repertoire as well as I do by this point. While it is true that good fences make good neighbors, it is not quite as true that good high B♭s have the same ability… If you happen to be in the area and would like a simple run-down of the schedule click here.
Have questions or comments? Feel free to leave them below or tweet me @mezzoihnen.
- The Art of Losing Your Self by Melissa Snoza (necmusic.wordpress.com)
- Classical Music Embraces Indie Ethos: Fifth House Ensemble & wild Up (hypebot.com)
- Student Roundtable on Entrepreneurship (necmusic.wordpress.com)