After dinner* on day 1, Isabel and I headed back to our hotel room to gather intel (aka Google presenters and review their programming) in order to figure out how to talk about NCP and our upcoming projects. During this planning process, my deep-set insecurities as a musician/artist/leader of a fashion-oriented ensemble rose to the surface and I said, “I hate this,” to which Isabel replied, “This is fun!” I'm glad at least one of us thought so. Although I had recovered from my blunders during Speed Leads earlier in the day, my confidence was still slightly shot. (However, it did give me a whole new appreciation for those who support NCP.) A couple of thoughts crossed my mind:
• We should trash these booklets I spent weeks creating…they’re absolutely useless…useless!
• Maybe NCP can just perform in New York forever
• I should have brought my cat
• We need to get this down STAT or I’m going to fuck up during the interview at the Juried Showcase
Which brings me to the Juried Showcase. Each Launchpad artist was going to be interviewed for a brief three minutes at the event, which was a great opportunity to introduce our ensemble to presenters and managers, but it being so short meant that clarity was key. Making NCP sound interesting has never been a problem; describing it in a clear, concise manner has been a challenge. It always ends up being a mouthful, doesn't flow, and I’m pretty sure I’ve revised our bio about fifty times. As I mentioned in my previous post, we decided to describe ourselves as “a contemporary music ensemble that incorporates visual elements.”
We came ready with our notebooks, brochures, business cards, and our new, quick NCP description. And it worked! At our presenter meetings the next day, no confusing looks. Who knew that eight simple words would make me 100x less anxious? And after the initial one-sentence intro, we would delve into fashion and the multidisciplinary nature of our major projects. Now that we had gotten through these smoothly, I was ready for my three minutes in the limelight.
I won’t go into depth about my interview, because it was pretty uneventful and it went well. Isabel and I didn’t stay for the entire showcase, but we did have a chance to see a world music band, two theater groups, and two classical music ensembles perform. What I found interesting was that both of the classical ensembles had verbal sales pitches during their performance: one group gave a speech about outreach and having no boundaries (each member would take turns saying different parts of the pitch) and the other mentioned how they play in alternative venues and effectively draw audiences. Both also engaged in crossover projects in addition to their regular programming: one group did Radiohead arrangements (surprise!) and the other collaborated with a DJ to remix music they had commissioned. The speeches, combined with the crossover offerings, gave me the impression that there may be a sense of insecurity when it comes to programming classical music in the presenting world, and these ensembles are offering possible solutions. I didn’t find any of it particularly inspiring and in fact had a strong aversion to one of the performances. (For the record, I respect both of these ensembles as fellow musicians; their style just isn’t my cup of tea.) I thought, is this what we have to do to get booked?
This is a thought that often crosses my mind, as an artist whose responsibility it is to manage the growth of an ensemble and wants their ensemble to go places! It’s not the way an artist should think. Strategy is smart, but I’d rather we perform in fewer cities doing what we do best rather than add formulaic programming that works on presenters. Also, from what I’ve heard, touring isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A little more on that in my next post.
As usual, I got over the feelings of self-doubt pretty quickly. Thankfully, Isabel agreed that hell no, NCP will not be doing any Radiohead arrangements anytime soon. Unless Radiohead themselves wanted to take us on tour with them/record with them. TOTALLY different story.
We left to explore some of Gastown, where the showcase had taken place, so we headed out wearing our dorky badges (thanks to the shop worker at Old Faithful Shop for reminding us with an enthusiastic, “Hey, Isabel!!!”) and went to dinner at a restaurant that reminded us of home. All I wanted to achieve for that day was to get through the meetings and my three-minute interview, which I did, and to top it off I tried poutine for the first time and had cake for dessert. It was a good day.
* Sushi in Vancouver is AMAZING. We dined at a moderately priced Japanese restaurant and the fish that was served was exceptionally fresh and high quality; we could cut through it with our chopsticks.