We define a creative project as any generative project in which participants and professional musicians come together in a series of working sessions culminating in one or more performances. A creative project might be a series of workshops on music production and songwriting for teens at a juvenile justice facility or a yearlong songwriting workshop at a senior service organization.
Projects of longer duration require two types of personnel: one pivotal figure, called the project leader, who plans and coordinates activities between and among participants and artists, and roster artists, who interact with participants during working sessions and help plan and participate in the culminating concert.
We have found that individuals with some or all of the following traits and/or backgrounds make the best project leaders:
Collaborations among professional musicians and songwriters—what’s the process like?
Choose your artists or ensembles in collaboration with the project leader. Consider combining different types of artists: Pairing a hip-hop producer with a classical string quintet, for example, can generate surprising results during the creative sessions, as well as a more varied and engaging concert program. Organize a meeting between the project leader and the roster artists early in the planning to ensure that everyone understands his or her roles and the structure and goals of the project. This is also the time to begin defining the project’s musical and extra-musical aims and exploring how the artists will interact with the host venue’s staff.
Having the right participants is crucial for the success of the project. Before planning begins in earnest, the project leader and the roster musicians need to determine the musical interests and abilities of the participants, either by questioning them directly or by getting information from venue staff. Here are some essential steps:
Remember that creative projects have two components: the generative work and the culminating concert. Planning for both should begin at the outset, as the shape of the final concert will greatly influence the structure of the creative sessions. Things to consider from the start: Who will attend the concert? Will it be open to the public? Venue staff? All venue residents or only some? Will participants in the working sessions also perform? Who will explain the workshop process at the concert? A participant, roster artist, the project leader?
The overall project plan is important but should not be set in stone: Because this is generative work with the goal to stretch participants’ musical abilities and heighten their engagement with the planned concert, it is important to allow them some leeway during creative sessions. However, while it is desirable to have some flexibility, it is best if it happens within a structure shaped by pre-determined talking points and activities developed by the project leader and roster artists in collaboration with venue staff.
How does it work? Musical Connections artist Jeremy Thal discusses the process of facilitating a creative workshop with youth in detention.
Make sure the details of both the creative sessions and the concert are shared with everyone involved before the project begins. Remind them that the aim of the concert is to feature participants as part of a collaboration, rather than to showcase individual talents. Early in the planning process, work out details of the concert day with venue staff: the schedule, the logistics, a strategy for promoting and publicizing the concert, and so on. Remind venue staff to publicize the concert and generate excitement, particularly within the facility.
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