Home Artists Touring is a vehicle for artistic change

Touring is a vehicle for artistic change

Betsy Kowal, For USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Published 12:07 p.m. CT Oct. 28, 2017

What do W.A. Mozart, Aaron Copland, George Harrison and one of our Fox Valley musicians all have in common? A life changed by performing on the road with their music.

As touring promises change, what is it exactly about going on tour that catalyzes growth? How does performing outside of our local sphere facilitate a lasting shift in perspective? From connecting with new artists to experiencing the heartbeat of an unfamiliar city, the experiences on tour have the potential to significantly alter an artist’s output.

Sarah Clewett, oboist and Lawrence University 2017 graduate, has always been drawn to music therapy. However, it wasn’t until a recent tour to Minneapolis that her desire to pursue music therapy professionally solidified from a possibility to a passion.

Karner Blue Education Center, a school serving students with disabilities, provided Sarah with an opportunity to experience first hand the extraordinary benefits of music therapy both as a musician and participant.

This experience at Karner Blue not only showed Sarah her passion for music therapy but also unveiled some of her values as a musician. After performing classical music outside of a concert hall, Sarah realized that the expectations of traditional concert etiquette are exclusionary for multiple populations of people; maintaining silence and sitting still is unrealistic for some without hardship.

The group she performed for at Karner Blue was predominately autistic and she realized that their need to move, vocalize and interact during the performance wouldn’t be compatible in a traditional concert setting.

This led Sarah to grapple with the question, “How can we make classical music an experience that everyone can have?” Sarah’s experience on tour spurred two conclusions for her career: her desire to pursue music therapy professionally and the desire to increase accessibility for all people to come and connect to music.

After the tour, Sarah’s experience helped to sculpt the way she approached her senior recital. In the classical tradition, recitals are spaces where the audience typically sits silently and listens exclusively to the performers on stage; taking the insight she gained at Karner Blue, she chose to shift the expectations and experience for her audience.

The opening of her recital was a performance of The Heart Chant by Pauline Oliveros; this piece is performed by having those in attendance place one hand on their heart, the other hand on their neighbor’s back, and to then join in a shared vocalization. Sarah was able to break from the structure of traditional concert etiquette and create an experience that fostered active participation and connection through music.

At its core, touring inspires change. Whether the experience affirms a career path or spurs artistic insight, one thing is for certain: when a musician returns home, the experiences from touring inform and reveal the artist they would like to become.

Betsy Kowal is the tour and outreach coordinator at the Lawrence Conservatory, a member of the Fox Arts Network. FAN is a grassroots arts organization made up of nonprofit arts groups serving the Fox Cities and surrounding communities with a goal of encouraging trial in all art forms. Email [email protected]

VOICES OF THE ARTS

A community columnist from the Fox Valley arts community writes on issues, trends and observations from the arts world each week in Life. Today’s columnist is Betsy Kowal, tour and outreach coordinator of the Lawrence Conservatory.

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