Getting notice for any new music project is a tricky task. However, once you add kids into the picture, the process can be daunting to almost impossible. Yes, the halls are filled with the parents, teachers, and friends who are supportive and enthusiastic patrons. But how do you go beyond that? How do you legitimize the right of young persons’ music to be listened to by an audience beyond their peers?
Part of the problem, I fear, comes from us. Even within the new music community there is a lack of knowledge and interest in student ensembles. Sometimes institutions that have a youth program component treat those activities as the runt of the litter, giving them the leftovers of their publicity staff’s time and financial resources. More than once I have become part of an organization, lured in by their desire to have me help them with bringing new music to the youth in their communities. However, once committed, my role was more as a figurehead than anything else. Suggestions on how to integrate their mission with music education would be dismissed or given minimal support. There were even cases where my pedigree was used to help secure funding that was to be for a young peoples’ project, yet the funds got funneled into another branch of the organization.
I recently learned about an amazing project called Album for the Young (A4TY) spearheaded by Katy Luo, who is on the piano faculty at the Bloomingdale School of Music in New York City. The primary focus of A4TY is to introduce student players of beginner to intermediate level to music by living composers. What makes this program unique, though, is that in addition to commissioning new works by “professionals,” Luo also programs works written by the students themselves on the concerts. The series has been a huge success among participating composers and the Bloomingdale School community. However, they haven’t been able to garner outside publicity or an audience for this innovative series.
We need to help music program’s such as A4TY get publicity and support for their goals. Whether that is by helping with publicity or attending their concerts or volunteering our time to help a teacher rehearse a piece, we have a responsibility to teachers and students willing to invest in new music, even if it is not our new music. If we want the young to listen to new works when they are grown, we need to support their playing when they are young. A4TY’s next concert is happening in New York City on Friday, May 11, and will feature music by Elliott Sharp and Tom Johnson, as well as several works by students. If you happen to be in New York that weekend, be there!