Gary Race  

Getting The Show On The Road, Part I: Ideas

Gary Race
April 10, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

Have you found yourself in the position of being asked to put together an ensemble performance with some of your orchestra colleagues for in-school performances or a community outreach program, and not quite knowing how to go about it?

It was almost ten years ago that Yvonne Caruthers, National Symphony cellist, first met Gary Race, a consultant who was working with the NSO Education Department to develop their education and community outreach programs. She was very impressed with the work he did to get them started. So when I asked her to solicit articles about outreach programs, it was natural that she should turn to Gary to write down the approach he'd used with the NSO. Gary credits his extensive experience with the Head Start program and developing outreach programs for several opera companies for his expertise in this area.

Gary has written an excellent three-part series, leading orchestra players through the process of putting together an educational or outreach ensemble program. The first installment, Ideas, lays some ground rules and describes the first meetings, where players take on various roles (such as the Idea Stimulator and the Conversation Director) to get those ideas rolling. He goes on to present a list of questions the group can discuss to help put together an agenda. The goal is to generate enough ideas that, at the second meeting, the group can write a script for their performances.

Stay tuned for his next two installments: Part II: Preparation and Scripting(already posted), and Part III: Rehearsal and Performance (coming in July).

- Ann Drinan


It has been almost a decade since my first meetings with members of the National Symphony Orchestra. The National Symphony Orchestra Education Department, part of the Kennedy Center Education Department, decided it was time to develop a larger and more varied outreach program for area schools and in-house presentations. Previous engagements with the Kennedy Center and extensive experience in program development for the Pittsburgh-based Gateway to Music and the Performing Arts made me a more qualified consultant (on paper at least!) than some. But it was my years as a Head Start teacher, and creator/director of outreach programs for five opera companies, that really informed my work. In the “old days” I was part of the performing ensemble as well and, in this capacity, I have passed through the halls of more than 500 public and private schools across the United States.

In my time with Gateway, I observed many in-school programs, my own and those created by others. As a consultant, I continue to observe the results of planning and development in a variety of programs. These observations have helped to define some principles that form the basis of the initial conversations I conduct with performance groups. In this, the first of three articles, I focus on these principles and pose some questions that I feel should be addressed at the start of the development process.

Some Important Assumptions

Before I begin, I make the following assumptions about the members of the group:
  • They have come together (or decided to come together) as a musical performance group. No amount of educational material will compensate for the music making that must be in the program. It does not matter WHAT the instrumentation is, as long as the members are willing to find, arrange, and/or create repertoire for that combination.

  • Each member has an interest in performing and educating students through that performing. It does not matter at this point that the members of the group have the SAME goals. That will be negotiated later.

  • Each member is aware that the program will take time to develop, rehearse, and revise. Some of this time may be compensated, but there is always extra work to be done in the development process.

  • Everyone is aware that the presentation of these programs will increase their time committed to performing, and that performances often will occur at a time and place that is not “ideal.”

  • Everyone agrees that (contrary to many opinions), “A bad first experience with the arts is worse than no experience at all.” If the group is not committed to quality, stop right now! The world does not need another half-baked arts education program.

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