The summer is usually a slow time for The Weill Music Institute (WMI) because most of the planning time happens between June-August in preparation for the 2017-2018 season. Despite the slight lull, I have been charged with a diverse set of tasks including sitting in on meetings, planning a personal project, and helping out with Social Impact Programs (SIP) events.
There are always very exciting meetings that I get to sit in on and even engage in sometimes. My favorite meeting that I have been able to be a part of was a meeting between the Social Impact Programs team and The Apollo Theater’s Education Team. This was my first time encountering how WMI interacts with an outside organization that works similarly to how they function (i.e. a company with some type of auditorium(s) with an in-house education and social impact team). This meeting was a follow-up to their first meeting where they talked about the context of each program. What was originally a meeting about sharing ideas, quickly turned into an active think tank for how each team could offer the other support in the similar programs that each organization was putting on separately. I have observed collaborations many times while I have been here the past few weeks, but it was exciting to witness what strong relationships between organizations can help them both achieve just by listening and having a dialogue about how they can improve upon what they already have. In addition to being able to see how important genuine, and not just transactional, relationships are in the world of the arts, I was also able to see how collaboration can diversify programming. Even though one organization can have the best ideas for how to have rich and diverse programming, that can only take them as far as the brilliant minds that are within that organization. Through having these important dialogues and brainstorming with other groups who are doing similar things in different ways, an organization can grow and flourish with fresh perspectives on ideas.
Most recently, I have been working on a project that will help form a plan for creating a community for the 70+ artists that work throughout the Social Impact Programs. When my supervisor and I were first coming up with an approach for this project, we outlined the different steps that I would need to complete before I could create a concrete report on my findings. The first step in that process has been the most difficult part of the process for me so far. My first step was to do a self-reflection about my own values in the relationships that I have with people, specifically as an artist and my relationship with other artists and as an administrator and my relationship with artists. My supervisor and I have been talking a lot about relationships and the complexities of them in different contexts. In business relationships, transactional relationships are often the norm. A transactional relationship is a relationship where both parties operate out of self-interest and both parties will only work out of reciprocity. When this type of relationship forms in arts communities, the community cannot function well and can only operate at surface level. Through doing my self-reflection, I couldn’t help but notice that my immediate reaction was to get into that transactional mindset when I’m working. My initial thoughts kept going back to “when I am employing artists, what do I give them and what do they give me, what qualities in my relationships with other people benefit me or what qualities do I possess that will benefit them.” It is dangerously easy to view people as a means to give you something when you’re in a working mindset. How often are we asked to help with a project at work or in school, only to think “if I do this for person A, then person A can help me out with this project down the road in return”? I’ve realized that the end goal is the relationship that you’re forming with the person that you’re helping or working with, not what you might “get” from them.
It has been a dream for me to work at a large music organization like Carnegie Hall, so being able to work at WMI this summer has started to paint a picture for what a future in arts administration could look like. I am not only learning about what a realistic career could be like in my field, I am learning what it takes to become a leader in this field.