Building a Program for the NFA Convention
by Alice Dade – Assistant Program Chair 2014 NFA Convention
Phil Dikeman and I became friends when I started subbing with Detroit Symphony in 2009, where Phil was Assistant Principal as well as Acting Principal. We were known to shop together, dine at the glamorous Sonic, and bond over our enjoyment of cooking. We also figured out that Phil was a judge when I competed in the NFA High School Soloists Competition in 1998!
In 2011, Phil and I were about to begin new careers as professors at Vanderbilt University and The University of Missouri. Since both of us came from orchestral backgrounds, this was completely new territory. We were on the phone or texting each other quite a bit with student success stories, ideas for studio classes, revisions of syllabi, and all things new professor. I don’t think I would have gotten through my first year in Missouri without his advice or good listening skills.
When Phil told me he had accepted the offer of Program Chair for the NFA Chicago 2014 Convention, I knew he had his work cut out for him. It’s a notoriously difficult, time consuming position which people have told me is another full time job. He then asked me if I was interested in being his Assistant Program Chair. I heard myself saying yes without thinking, and couldn’t believe what I was committing to! What exactly did this job entail? But, this was Phil—had it been anyone else I may have asked for time to think about it.
For a few months, there was an underlying sense of panic in all of our phone calls. Once in awhile we received emails from NFA members with questions about the gala concert, or concerts they were interested in performing in Chicago. At this point we weren’t sure how to answer anything, which added heat to our bubbling panic. Thankfully we caught ourselves and started a tradition of saying, “NFA 2014!!” much like Molly Shannon in Superstar, at the end of emails and phone calls. We knew we had to keep our sense of humor intact. We also knew that attending the New Orleans convention in 2013 would answer a lot of questions.
New Orleans was integral as we met Ann Welsbacher, Publications Director, and Brian Covington, Web Consultant. Brian created the database of proposals with a user-friendly search tool. We could search by the title, performer, proposal number, or choose to see one category at a time. As an NFA member sent a proposal it was entered into the database and sent to us via email. Ann walked us through the schedule grid, essentially the Events at a Glance schedule found near the end of an NFA program book, as well as the program book itself. All of this gave us a basic idea of how to get to work once the proposal deadline had passed.
We knew it was October 11th because the proposal emails suddenly stopped. It was time to compile programs. We read through every proposal and took notes of repertoire we didn’t know or pieces that seemed to fit together on a concert. Phil and I found it helpful to compare notes on the phone. We also created a dropbox folder with our brainstorms of concerts as well as lists of proposals to accept.
Once we had chosen recitals, chamber concerts, workshops, panels and lecture recitals from the database, we needed to send out the letters. This was a memorable night as Phil and I were up until about two or three a.m.! We divided the list into categories so the work was shared between us. There was also a lot of double/triple checking in this step, we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss any proposals!
It was time to enter them into the grid, now color-coded and specific to the Chicago Hilton, thanks to Sandy Saathoff. Rooms were set-aside for flute choir, presentations in need of audio/visual equipment, and competitions. Our next questions were: how many scheduled concerts or lectures should there be in one day of a convention? Better yet, how many concerts should we schedule in one hour?
Phil and I then took inventory of previous conventions. For instance, Saturday in Las Vegas 2012 there were 16 concerts, in addition to 4 exhibit showcases, 5 lectures, 3 lecture recitals, 2 panels, and 7 workshops. Since every convention venue has a different amount of space, we would be working with different numbers. However, we did come to realize that each day, actually each hour, needed to be well balanced. There should be a concert or workshop for every type of flutist, whether they are amateur, professional, someone who specializes in new music, baroque specialists, flute choir enthusiast, or college student.
There were more late nights of typing programs and moving concerts because of scheduling but the bulk of the work is now finished. The program book is ready for print! Some things pop up here and there but we are at the point where we’re looking forward to seeing these programs come to life.
On the first full day of the convention, Alexa Still will present a panel discussion and workshop on Arnold Jacobs, someone I’ve always thought was fascinating. There is also a panel discussion titled “Off the Beaten Path” with all of our pushing the envelope flutists including Greg Patillo, Hillary Abigaña, Ali Ryerson, Shivhan Dohse, Barbara Siesel, and David Weiss. Jeanne Baxtresser and Alberto Almarza will present a career mini-conference on teaching and collaborative teaching. That night the Gala concert is so exciting as Carol Winenc, Life Time Achievement Award Winner Maxence Larrieu, Christina Jennings, Jonathon Keeble, Nicola Mazzanti, and Cecilie Løken will perform.
After an exciting first day, there are still so many artists and events to look forward to, including Mimi Stillman, who will give her NFA premiere performance. Jonathan Keeble will perform a flute and harp recital, including the beautiful piece Dance of the White Lotus under the Silver Moon by Stella Sung. Carol Wincenc and Judith Mendenhall will present a Moyse Workshop and Nicole Esposito and Michel Bellavance will present a joint recital. I will not miss the Flute Lover’s Luncheon as Claire Chase is the guest speaker. And finally, for the piccolo player in you, Mary Ann Archer, Christine Erlander Beard, Peter Sheridan, and Cynthia Ellis will present a Potpurri of Piccolo.
Mark Sparks will present a recital, as will the flutists of the L.A. Philharmonic. The Chicago Flute Club is now twenty-five years young and will present four new works commissioned by the organization. Zart Dombourian-Eby will present a masterclass for amateur flutists and Nancy Stagnitta will present a workshop for the new to jazz flutist. The performers of the Gala concert on Saturday night include Julien Beaudiment, Leone Buyse, Robert Dick, Mary Kay Fink, and Sarah Jackson. And to end the convention, Sir James Galway and Lady Jeanne Galway will present a concert with pianist Philip Moll.
We have worked hard to schedule this convention in a way that you will be able to see every concert or event you would like. Thanks to Phil Dikeman, Kelly Jocius, Executive Director, Kris Mayo, Beth Chandler, Zart Dombourian-Eby, and the NFA board, this convention will be great. I can’t wait to get to Chicago!
Alice K. Dade is the Assistant Professor of Flute at the University of Missouri, Principal Flute of Festival Mozaic, and Artist Faculty of Medellín Festicámara in Colombia. Previously, Alice was Acting Co-Principal Flute of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Alice writes a column for Chicago Flute Club’s Pipeline and has been published in Flute Talk Magazine and The Instrumentalist. A graduate of The Juilliard School, Alice studied with Carol Wincenc, Robert Langevin, and Sandra Church.