If success is being in the right place at the right time, then New Music Gathering is a success incubator. It has been a week since the three-day conference, held this year at the noble Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD, ended and many attendees have begun that process of boiling down an incredibly inspiring moment to the practical implementation into real life. Boasting a schedule with abundant panels, presentations, performances, and more, New Music Gathering – only in its second year – is quickly becoming the place to share ideas and create meaningful connections in contemporary classical music.
As new music practitioners, social media is the predominant medium for networking. Lacking mixers, traditional conferences, and meet & greets like other fields, most of us have grown close to people we only know 140 characters at a time. New Music Gathering doesn’t change that so much as augments it. It seems only appropriate that the conference itself grew out of a Facebook exchange between Daniel Felsenfeld and Matt Marks who became founding organizers of NMG with Mary Kouyoumdjian and Lainie Fefferman. The prospect became ever more real when Maryclare Brzytwa offered the San Francisco Conservatory as the venue for the inaugural New Music Gathering in January 2015. This January, attendees experienced the fruitful efforts of Jascha Narveson joining the NMG team as Technical Director and David Smooke as the Peabody liaison and general badass. With the heroic, volunteer efforts they all put into this get-together, the attendees were able to experience a small part of the new music world materialize before their very eyes in a splendor of sight and sound. It is no surprise that the composer-performer speed dating is one of the highlights of the conference. We are all there to turbo-charge these relationships in real life.
Music lovers understand the benefits of being in the room. We get the visceral excitement of the senses from listening and seeing. Putting all of these interesting people together in one place, then sharing ideas conversationally and musically, exhilarates and incites the attendees to take that momentum back to their home communities. Which, just so happened to be the theme for this year’s New Music Gathering — community.
Community is undeniably a meaningless buzzword for those that don’t know how to see it, appreciate it, or create it. However, it is a very real and important concept. Ask anyone who understands the benefits of “being in the room.” Community is why we all show up in January and say, “I choose these values. I choose this place. I choose you with whom to walk along this journey.” If success is about being in the right place at the right time, then community is about making more right places and more right times.
So, three days packed with more than I could possibly see or hear is just a microcosm of our field as a whole and even smaller than that when we consider our place within the larger context of classical music. That is what makes New Music Gathering so special: agents of new music talking about ideas, strategies, and stumbling blocks. It is a group of humans attempting to be honest about the challenges in our jobs and lives. Yet, we celebrate that makers of music, no matter their station or way, are devoted to a practice that is much bigger than our place in it. That alone fires me up to make more right places and more right times. I couldn’t think of a better reason for a conference.
Feeling amped from #NMG2016 or inspired from everything you heard about it? Join the conversation and keep those good community vibes flowing by participating in #musochat on Twitter (most) every Sunday night at 9PM EST. Check out more here at musochat.com.
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