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Virtual Visionaries

Are you curious about how artists build freelance careers? Or wondering how they develop arts organizations from the ground up? Are you looking for pro tips on crafting identity-driven works of art? How to tackle social issues through your practice? Leading beyond crisis? Or just eager to connect with professionals on the day-to-day challenges of being an artist today? Join us for conversations on these topics and more.

Virtual Visionaries was a 10-week series presented in the summer of 2020 in partnership with several of our peer programs at institutions across the country. The series brought together professionals across the performing arts for weekly virtual discussions on Zoom. We’ve selected a diverse group of leaders at various stages of their careers to engage in open conversations about topics ranging from personal finance issues, to developing identity-driven work, along with a variety of entrepreneurial approaches relevant to young arts professionals. Each week our guest speakers will also author a blog post, providing a sneak peek of the virtual sessions and providing a basis for our virtual discussion.

This series is made possible by the transformative support of the Meta Weiser EXCEL Fund, a generous anonymous donation, and through partnership with several important collaborators. We are thrilled to have assembled a coalition of peer institutions as co-sponsors of this series, whose students, alumni, and stakeholders will all be encouraged to participate.

The series co-sponsors include:
Eastman School of Music’s Institute for Music Leadership 
Manhattan School of Music’s Center for Music Entrepreneurship
Michigan State University’s Running Start Program
New England Conservatory’s Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department
Roosevelt University’s Center for Arts Leadership, Chicago College of Performing Arts
University of Colorado-Boulder’s Entrepreneurship Center for Music
University of North Texas’ Music Business and Entrepreneurship Program
Wayne State University’s Music Business Program

We look forward to this opportunity to connect you directly with this dynamic group of performers, teachers, administrators, community activists, and scholars.


Week 1 (May 25-29)Tara Faircloth headshot.
Personal Finance for Artists with
Tara Faircloth
Blog post 

This session is designed for independent artists, performers, or contract creatives with irregular income. Join acclaimed stage director Tara Faircloth for a workshop on budgeting for the freelance lifestyle, using a systematic approach to finances that will help you plan for the pitfalls of the up-and-down income inherent in a contract worker’s life.


Week 2 (June 1-5)Tanya Kalmanovitch headshot.Ryan Muncy headshot in performance.
Forging New Paths with
Ryan Muncy and Tanya Kalmanovitch
Blog post 

This conversational session features two versatile, dynamic figures from the NYC music scene, exploring their enterprising careers, the changes they are seeing in the field, and advice for young artists on the cusp of transitioning into professional life. Ryan Muncy is a long-time member of International Contemporary Ensemble, where he also serves as Grants Director and Co-Director of their OpenICE initiative. Tanya Kalmanovitch is a Canadian violist, ethnomusicologist, and author, notably named to the 2018 Grist 50 Fixers, diverse innovators with bold solutions to humanity’s biggest challenges.


Week 3 (June 8-12)Julie Nakagawa headshot.Kari Landry publicity photo Matt Landry publicity photo
Running an Arts Organization with
Akropolis Reed Quintet and Julie Nakagawa
Blog post

Join Matt and Kari Landry, co-founders of Akropolis Reed Quintet, and Julie Nakagawa, Artistic Director of DanceWorks Chicago, as they share experiences building these vibrant organizations from the ground up. This conversation will explore some of the key challenges they have overcome, and share insights for sustaining enterprises beyond volatile circumstances.


Week 4 (June 15-19)Balance Duo publicity photoAmy Bormet headshot
Freelancing Musicians with
Amy K Bormet and the Balance Duo
Blog post

Three dynamic freelance jazz musicians will share how they are navigating the realities facing freelancers, and how they stay inspired to develop new work in creative ways. Amy K. Bormet is an in-demand pianist, vocalist, and composer based in Washington, DC. An advocate for women in music, Amy created the Washington Women in Jazz Festival. Balance Duo is a collaboration between saxophonist Marcus Elliot and pianist Michael Malis, who have been called “two of Detroit’s most important young jazz musicians” by the Detroit Free Press.


Week 5 (June 22-26) Todd Bunopone headshotSarah Witney publicity photo
Managing the Artist Lifestyle with
Sarah Whitney and Todd Buonopane
Blog post

Acclaimed Sybarite5 violinist and musicians coach Sarah Whitney joins forces with Broadway and TV veteran Todd Buonopane to explore the possibilities and pitfalls of managing a busy artistic life. How do you stay balanced when you have multiple projects in the works? How can you stay motivated when your performing arts schedule becomes suddenly upended? Join us for an engaging, practical conversation that breaks down these topics and more.


Week 6 (July 6-10) Rosy Simas headshotDonia Jarrar publicity photo
Art Inspired by Identity with
Donia Jarrar and Rosy Simas
Blog post

This session probes strategies for crafting work around your personal identity, avoiding pitfalls around sensitive topics, and framing your artistic voice in ways that resonate with others. Dr. Donia Jarrar is an Arab and Muslim-American composer, pianist, and interdisciplinary artist, recently awarded the 2019 Discovery Grant for Female Composers from the National Opera Center of America for her work Seamstress, a documentary multimedia opera based on oral history interviews conducted with Palestinian women and girls from her community. Rosy Simas is a dance artist, administrator, and advocate. Director of Rosy Simas Danse, her work is centered around Native cultural and political persistence, informed by her roots as part of an intertribal urban Native community.


Week 7 (July 13-17)
Leading Beyond Crisis withLara Zabel publicity photoOmari Rush headshot
Omari Rush and Laura Zabel
Blog post

These two leading arts executives will share their perspective on what the future may hold for the artists and local non-profits, and how leading service organizations are imagining what new resources and/or programming might need to come into focus in order to sustain the arts in our communities. Omari Rush serves as Executive Director of CultureSource in Detroit and as the governor-appointed chairman of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Laura Zabel is Executive DIrector of Springboard for the Arts in Minneapolis, and as a 2014 Bush Foundation Fellow, was named one of the 50 most influential people in the U.S. Nonprofit Arts.


Week 8 (July 20-24)Gabriela Frank publicity photo
Art for Social Change with
Gabriela Lena Frank
Blog post

Celebrated composer, educator, and arts advocate Gabriela Lena Frank explores the social dimension of her art-making, including how lessons learned from her own inspired efforts could translate into socially-informed projects today. Currently serving as Composer-in-Residence with the storied Philadelphia Orchestra, she has been recognized with many significant awards, inclusion in the Washington Post’s list of the 35 most significant women composers in history, and leads the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, a multifaceted organization that highlight the power of creativity and arts citizenship as it supports and incubates a diverse cohort of music-makers.


Week 9 (July 27-31)
Portfolio Careers, Then and Now with Katherine Banks headshotBill Kalinkos publicity photo
Bill Kalinkos and Katherine Banks
Blog post

This session features two artists with dynamic professional portfolios, exploring the ways that their work has shifted in light of recent disruptions. This conversation will highlight challenges and opportunities for adaptation, and the possibilities of repurposing transferable skills towards new professional activity. Bill Kalinkos enjoys a diverse musical career as a member of critically acclaimed groups such as Alarm Will Sound, Ensemble Signal, Deviant Septet, Eco Ensemble, and Splinter Reeds. Katherine Banks is a Midwest based actor and educator. Last season, she reprised her role as Joanne in Mindhunter (Netflix) directed by David Fincher. She has performed widely across the Midwest in award-winning productions, teaches at Greenhills Middle School in Ann Arbor and works as a freelance corporate spokesperson and communication trainer.


Week 10 (August 3-7) Sydnie Mosley headshotLeah Claiborne headshot
Engaging Communities with
Leah Claiborne and Sydnie Mosley
Blog post

Two artists with deep community engagement practices share ways to interface with communities around them in genuine, beneficial, and healing ways. The conversation will also address practical tips for how to begin fostering this type of work in your own communities. Pianist, scholar, and educator, Dr. Leah Claiborne, promotes diversity in the arts by championing piano music by Black composers in her performances, research, and teaching. Dr. Claiborne is the coordinator of Keyboard Studies at the University of the District of Columbia. Sydnie L. Mosley​ is an award winning artist-activist and educator who is interested in creative work that is both artistically sound and socially aware. ​She produces experiential dance works with her collective SLMDances. Through their choreographic work, the collective works in communities to organize for gender and racial justice.

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