The following article was written for the MPAC 2022 Conference by Alyssa Roggow, MPAC's Artist Representative to the Board and the violist of the Cascade Quartet. The information is incredibly useful to future showcase performers and conference attendees so, with Ms. Roggow's permission we have re-published it here!
Photo: Twin Kennedy give an outreach performance to a school assembly through the Northeastern Arts Network (Sidney, Glasgow, Malta, MT)
The Montana Performing Arts Consortium (MPAC) is a group of presenting organizations that work together to bring excellent live music to all areas of the state, no matter how remote. Presenters are interested in school outreach because you, the artists, provide important cultural and educational experiences for kids who have limited access to the arts. School shows are often funded by grants, so the more info you can provide about the expected outcomes of your program (examples: “we will learn what a melody and a bassline are”, or “students will listen to examples of Latin American music and learn to identify salsa rhythms”), the quicker you’ll win over a presenter’s heart! It’s also important to realize that you’ll be working in some very small towns with very small school districts. Students will most likely have very limited knowledge of music, and you may have the entire span of K-12 students in a single audience. Showing flexibility and a willingness to adapt to your audience’s needs is another fantastic way to snag a presenter’s interest.
Educational Outreach Do’s
Provide a clear description of your outreach programs to presenters, highlighting the cultural and educational elements of your program.
Be interactive! Get the kids involved somehow, either as a whole group or through activities that call students up to the stage.
Be adaptable! Some towns are looking for a 45-min to 1-hour program, others for a longer residency. In many towns, you’ll be working with K-12 students in a single group, but others might ask you to target a narrower age range. If you can offer a range of options in your outreach programs, more presenters will be able to book you.
Be you! When it comes to school shows, a genuine connection with the kids is the most important thing – and that happens best when your presentation lines up with your skills and passions. Don’t be shy about proposing ideas that are near and dear to your heart, even if you’re afraid they might be too unconventional. Montana is a pretty unconventional place, so you never know what might be a great fit.
Educational Outreach Don’t’s
Don’t simply show up and play your show as if it were a regular concert. (see the “Be interactive!” bullet above)
Don’t ask classroom or music teachers to prepare kids in advance. It’s a nice thought, but very difficult to implement.
Don’t assume that students have an extensive musical background.
My name is Alyssa Roggow, and I’m a classical musician currently based in Great Falls, Montana. Since 2018, I have been principal violist of the Great Falls Symphony and violist of the Cascade String Quartet, traveling around the region presenting concerts and school shows. I received performance degrees from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Eastman School of Music, and I maintain private lesson studios in Great Falls and Shelby, MT.