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Students attend NYC performing arts conference

01/22/2014

Photo credit: Alex Butfilowski '15

Take traditional opera such as King Lear at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) to the more contemporary Thumbprint at the Baruch Art Center, add that to a plethora of dance, theater and musical performances, and you have the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference, an annual event for arts professionals.

There, presenters, agents and artists have the chance to network, conduct business, discover talent and share knowledge pertaining to the industry. Nine MCLA students recently returned from this whirlwind experience in New York City, where they spent six full days and attended dozens of performances from 8 a.m. to midnight.

Funded by the Alice Shaver Foundation, the trip each year provides an opportunity for some of MCLA's arts management and fine and performing arts students to explore the field of arts management through a vigorous schedule of professional development seminars, artist showcases and cultural experiences.

"It was wonderful," said Dr. Lisa Donovan, associate professor of arts management, who accompanied the students to the conference with Jonathan Secor, director of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC). "The students who went are top-notch. They were curious, fully engaged and soaked up every opportunity."

Josh LaPierre '14 of Hubbardston, Mass., said the highlight of the conference was the opportunity to attend Global Fest.

"Getting to see 12 different world music bands in one night was exceptional, and it was a thrill to let loose, dance and enjoy the music with my amazing fellow APAPers," LaPierre said.

In addition to the performances, the students attended professional development seminars.

"The really neat thing about the seminars is that high-caliber presenters, performance groups and arts organizations from across the country presented lessons learned and shared promising practices," Donovan explained. "The students got to see a range of thought leaders in the field, and heard about cutting-edge techniques and on-the-ground knowledge about what's happening."

Veronica Gibson '14 of Springfield, Mass., said their jam-packed schedule was a great test of discipline and organization.

"It was a reminder that you can be discovering, learning, and advancing so much every day if you actually put aside the time to do it," Gibson said. "The seminars were an excellent experience and the panels were great. I got to learn from and share insight with professionals, which was very exciting. 

"The showcases were incredible," she continued, "and inspired me to be more open to working with more contemporary and alternative areas of art. They were some of the most intense experiences I've had as an audience member." 

Although other students were in attendance as volunteers, MCLA's students had the unique opportunity to be listed as staff, so they were treated as professionals. As part of the trip, they were given a budget and an assignment to plan the next MCLA Presents! season.

"They had to attend showcases, look at what's out there, take the time to price out the things they were interested in, and generate a compelling theme that they could connect to their season," said Donovan.

Back at MCLA, the students are busy pooling their ideas for a presentation on which artists should perform on campus.

"Every year, Jonathan draws from those presentations," Donovan said. "He uses their lens to see what students are interested in, and he brings a few of those artists the following year to MCLA."