Monday, July 20, 2015

Crossing off my list

Originally published on Wolfgang's Tonic.

Making lists has been crucial to my development as an artist. For eight years I’ve set achievable goals for myself, giving me the drive I’ve needed to reach where I am today. On my most important list, titled as bassoonist, I make three categories: short-, medium-, and long-term. The long term goals are, of course, the most ambitious and it has only been over the last three years or so that I’ve been able to cross off and replace a number of the ‘to-dos’ in that category. On the 27th of July, I’ll be able to mark another task as complete.

As a member of the Les Voix Baroques I’ll be performing in a production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in two performances, the first being at Chamberfest, the second the Vancouver Early Music Festival. It isn’t the first time that I’ve been involved with the OCMS, however, and it will be interesting for me to experience another side of it as for three festivals (’09 – ’11) I performed various roles in the office or with the production crew - from telemarketer, to assistant administrator, to production liaison.

Seeing the inside of an international-size festival was enlightening to say the least and I’m lucky to have had a well-rounded view of one, too. Let me tell you, what goes on behind the scenes has little to do with what the average concert-goer experiences. When there are 100+ concerts in two weeks at the best of times the office buzzes with activity as the staff keep up with the day’s run-down. Keeping track of the tools, instruments, or crew needed for the next performance, collecting information from the previous, manning the phones for those calling in for tickets, managing any changes in accommodation for incoming or outgoing artists – all of that is dealt with as it comes in. At the worst of times – well, I’m sure you have a vivid imagination.

My ‘in’ with the OCMS was through music. A professor recommended me when OCMS made a call out to music departments for a few part-time positions and I seemed to get along well. Though I knew I still had a few years before I would be ready, I was keen to step on stage to perform at the festival – in fact, it was one of my top long-term goals in my first as bassoonist to-do list. It still is, I suppose, but only for the moment.

It was in my last festival where I developed my fondest memories. That year I worked with a crack team of staff, many of which were also twenty-somethings, with plenty of event-management experience. It was with Najwa, Dom, Matt, C├ęcile, Colin, and Jean-Marc where I was among friends, not simply colleagues – a feeling which has only been repeated during my time with the European Union Baroque Orchestra. Every day had its share of challenges, but evenings saw us unwind at the bar in the basement of St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts and have a laugh over whatever hijinks we were involved with earlier.

The experience I accumulated working behind the scenes with the OCMS has had a profound effect on how I conduct myself as an artist. I have the skills to administrate numerous projects simultaneously (I always have at least three things on the go), I know what materials and approaches are effective to market an ensemble, and, most importantly, I learned how important it is to deal with institutions as efficiently as possible, as making the life of festival staff easier can make all the difference.

When I got the call from Matthew White about the Dido tour I didn’t need to read past “Ottawa Chamberfest” before I had made up my mind. Though there were some other motivators (the most prominent of which being the chance to perform in a rare Dido with bassoon), sitting in my Maltese hotel room I was glad to hear I was going to get the chance to finally cross that performance off my list.

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