• Programming: Overview

    Successful music programs in institutional settings require the following:

    • • Well-trained, professional artists who commit to the work; contribute to group learning; and are flexible and diverse, personally and musically
    • • Programming that responds to the venue's needs by including the artists, host venues, and presenter staff in the planning
    • • Ways for participants to share music in a safe setting, while connecting to the outside world
  • Musical Connections Toolkit Asset ID 55153
  • Planning Programs

    Because host venues and user populations vary greatly, Carnegie Hall is committed to exploring the full spectrum of programming possibilities, from single events and short-term projects to artist residencies and multi-year partnerships. Certain steps and principles apply whether you are planning a series of single-concert events or a long-term partnership.

    The Host Venue


    How do you create a program that relates to your audience? Musical Connections artist Camille Zamora shares one idea.

    Familiarity with the host venue—the resident population, the staff, the physical facilities, and its programmatic goals—is the starting point for effective community work. Start by collecting basic data on the venue, including the characteristics of the resident population, the staff, and the physical space where your program will take place. We use a standard form.

    Download PDF: Host Venue Initial Contact Form

    If you are planning something more ambitious than a single performance, be prepared to address the following issues from the perspective of the venue staff. Their concerns and questions will help guide your programming decisions.

    • • Can you offer us something more than a single performance?
    • • Will our residents get to work or perform with visiting artists?
    • • Is there a skills development/exchange or educational component?
    • • Can the musicians contribute in some way to our existing music training activities?
    • • Will we be able to combine your work with that of our other creative programs—poetry writing, theater club, and so on?
    • • Can your project address our residents’ interest in music production and technology?
    • • Can we find ways to involve residents who have something to say but who currently have no outlet for their ideas, creativity, or frustration?

    Those questions and your answers will lay the groundwork for successful programming. Each venue, each project, and each circumstance will generate different goals and outcomes.

    Goals for Single Performances

    • • To share the transformative power of music with the host venue’s residents and staff
    • • To support or further develop a population’s pre-existing interest in music or music making
    • • To support the work of program staff—music therapists, recreation staff, social workers, and so on
    • • To provide relief from anxiety and stress, or boost the morale of residents and/or staff using music

    Musical Connections performances help to take care of the caretakers; they affect venue staff as well as those sitting in the audience. 

    • • To create new bonds between residents and staff through a shared musical experience
    • • To strengthen a venue’s connections to community—for example, a hospital concert with a health fair for local senior-care organizations or a concert that also supports and enhances the hospital’s community nutrition and wellness messaging

    Goals for Creative Projects

    • • To gain a deeper understanding of what’s possible at a given venue through collaboration with its staff
    • • To build a meaningful collaborative relationship between the presenter and the host venue
    • • To develop expressive opportunities (music, poetry, writing, public speaking, and so on) for both residents and staff
    • • To impart new skills and/or develop existing talent
    • • To provide an opportunity for men and women (particularly youth) to work together in mutually respectful and productive ways

    Reflection, Feedback, and Evaluation

    You’ve established a relationship with one or more host venues and their parent agencies, you’ve recruited a great roster of artists, and you’ve planned and successfully executed one or more projects. But your work is not done yet: Integral to the success of this kind of community work is extensive reflection, sharing, assessment, and evaluation. This important work, between and among your host venues' residents and staff, the staff of governing agencies, your roster artists, and your own staff, is built into the Musical Connections concept.

    Properly handled, whether by your own staff, outside consultants, or a combination, evaluation and assessment give you feedback on what works and what doesn’t, provide artists with professional development to give them support and enhance their performance, and yield essential data so you can communicate effectively about your program both internally and to the wider world of stakeholders and funders.

    Band leader Chris Washburne says, "Every single performance, I am now using things that I've learned from Musical Connections—I attend to my audience more."