Music Case Studies

American Composers Orchestra
Coming to America: Immigrant Sounds/Immigrant Voices [PDF]
by Kim Chan

Coming to America: Immigrant Sounds/Immigrant Voices was a project of the American Composers Orchestra (ACO), exploring civic dialogue within the field of classical orchestral music.  Spanning ACO’s 2000–2001 season, the project centered around chamber music concerts and informances at schools and cultural centers in New York City, bringing immigrant and refugee composers and their music into communities, and immigrant and refugee communities into concert settings.  Through dialogue, the project sought to link the music of four immigrant or refugee composers to questions central to immigration and cultural adaptation in American society.  The case study chronicles the many unforeseen difficulties that arose, and the programmatic and organizational conversations and reassessments that these difficulties sparked.  The project came to illuminate ACO’s mission and role within the civic sphere, as well as the challenges that are intrinsic not just to arts-based dialogue work but to processes of creating active, sustaining culture.  The case study includes a reflective essay by ACO Managing Director Michael Geller, Coming to America and Civic Dialogue: Implications for ACO and the Field.

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Wintergreen Performing Arts
Preserving the Rural Soundscape [PDF]
by Kathie deNobriga

This case study explores a year-long project in rural central Virginia and coordinated by Wintergreen Performing Arts, Inc. (WPAI), a music presenter primarily known for its summer classical music festival. In 2002, Preserving the Rural Soundscape linked together three separate elements. The first was the commission and world premiere of "Singing the Blue Ridge," a suite of songs by Dr. Judith Shatin, scored for electronic music, voice, and orchestra. The second element was a community dialogue process using a study circle to explore issues of land use, planning, and development—potent topics in a county known for its scenic beauty and threatened by rapid change. The third element was a school residency project in which fifth graders created original songs and explored sound as a science and an art. All three elements were stitched together through “soundwalks,” an opportunity to listen deeply to the rich layers of human and non-human sounds in the rural landscapes, or “soundscapes.”

Preserving the Rural Soundscape imparts lessons about the impact of organizational growth and transition on program implementation. The case study explores some of the socioeconomic tensions inherent in a retirement community/resort development located in a rural community, noting implications for audience development and civic engagement. It also documents some of the aesthetic conflicts that can arise during a civic engagement process when artistic quality includes several goals. Finally, the case study contains cautions about working slowly and intentionally to expand organizational capacity and the sometimes-invisible role of embedded organizational culture.


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