So NPAC is over, and as I sit in the terminal of Denver International Airport and tap away at my MacBook, I have a few nagging regrets. I wish I’d met more people, attended a wider variety of sessions, investigated more booths, picked up a complimentary Schott Music shot glass (what was I thinking?!). But my biggest regret is that I didn’t arrive in the Mile High City with all my homework done. If I’d had a better grasp on the step-by-steps of lobbying, advocacy, and outreach—the usefulness of survey data, for instance, in making the case for greater arts funding—I think I could have made much smarter decisions in the conference’s four caucuses. Although I had my composerly agenda firmly in mind, how can I articulate short- and long-term strategies at the national, local, and organizational levels without understanding the way arts policies and partnerships are formed? My knowledge of these intricacies is hardly encyclopedic, but I grok much more of them now than I did Wednesday, and I wish I could go back in time and reconsider the angles I pushed.
That reservation aside, NPAC has been a remarkably fruitful experience for me. I’ve finally connected face-to-face with so many movers and shakers (including the awesome AMC staff) whom I’d only communicated with over long distances before, not to mention a huge host of artists and administrators I encountered here for the first time. And I’ll sleep better at night knowing that all 3500 (roughly) attendees will return to their towns of origin, brains overflowing with arts priorities, to fight the good fight. The three chief missions with which we’ve been tasked—impress communities with our relevance, improve arts education, and increase diversity—are broad but by no means insurmountable goals. And if we all make small, specific contributions (what organizer, cheerleader, and all-around awesome dude Eric Booth called “trim-tab” contributions), I think we can reach them in my lifetime. Bottom line: Next time there’s an NPAC, figure out a way to get there. We’ll appreciate having you around.