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Ariel AVANT: Q&A with Thought Leaders

In addition to its Presenting Partners, Ariel AVANT’s 2020 “Impact Performance” competition is also fortunate to enlist the expertise of five industry thought leaders.  These leaders, each known for finding new doorways (or creating them) in the architecture of classical music, will contribute their inquiry and multifaceted consideration to the dialogue around submitted applications.  We asked each of them three questions to learn more about their thought process.  Read on to hear their perspectives!

Ariel AVANT: What’s an emerging opportunity that can be developed in the classical music performance world / how can classical music expand its impact in the present moment?

Alain Barker: Classical Music is going through a ‘break-out’ moment with all kinds of media, leading to an expansion of the artform and enabling connection to millions of people around the world. As with other transformational times, the emergence of the new platforms and technologies fundamentally changes the ways in which the artform can be imagined, created, performed, distributed, and experienced.

Ben Dietschi: I can’t imagine a more exciting time to be bringing masterworks to life. The array of cultural and artistic perspectives in our global community is breathtaking. I think that the classical music scene could be more adventurous and provocative about exploring diverse contexts, placing works in conversation with other cultures, genres, aesthetics, and periods of history. In doing so, we receive a multifaceted artistic and audience experience

Nina Moe: Classical music performance must engage in conversation with the 21st century. We’re at an inflection point in classical music that can open us to new interdisciplinary and philosophically complex projects.

Samantha Pollack: Composers have been writing for specific artists since the dawn of time, and maybe it’s not in any greater volume now, but it FEELS like I am hearing more of commissions by instrumentalists from friends who are composers. I love that mix of personal and professional symbiosis, and how it just always seems obvious when a piece has been written for someone they know. This is a way to expand repertoire, to expand networks, and to provide a compelling story behind a piece.

Lecolion Washington: Classical music can expand its impact by realizing that the word “culture” in “arts and culture” cannot be activated without an emphasis on identity. One cannot discuss and/or champion for culture while ignoring identity.

Ariel AVANT: How does your institution reflect the values of the AVANT initiative in general, and/or the “Impact Performance” competition in particular?

Alain Barker: The OECD (Office of Entrepreneurship and Career Development) at the IU Jacobs School of Music is a hub of creative activity with a mission to explore and support emerging pathways to a successful life in music.  The AVANT Project adds to our collection of activities that includes mentoring, curriculum, project development, organizational partnerships, and more.

Ben Dietschi: At the Institute we are deep advocates for bold, transformational art. We believe that creative practice is an essential expression of the dignity, aspirations, and achievements of individuals, communities, and societies.  Personally, my work has always been fueled by a desire to identify and amplify adventurous music-making which expands individual horizons and spurs cultural innovation and evolution.

Nina Moe: We know artists are already engaging in these conversations. What they – and we! – need is a sustainable platform to launch those conversations out into the world. AVANT is that platform. The Lynch Foundation forges partnerships with organizations like Ariel Artists whose innovative ideas have the potential to sustain, multiply and influence the lives of others.

Samantha Pollack: Now more than ever, audiences are turning to artists not simply for technical dazzle, but to see their humanity within their art. There’s a hunger by audiences to know more about an artist’s thought process and how they’re affected by external influences in a way which is authentic as opposed to purely thematic.

Lecolion Washington: The Community Music Center of Boston’s focus area this year for our concert series was to feature women and POC composers and performers. CMCB is also an organization that is working to use identity as a building block for program design.

Ariel AVANT: What would you say to an artist considering applying to the “Impact Performance” innovation competition?

Alain Barker: This is an amazing opportunity for you to connect to your core mission as a performer in a world that requires fluency in not only your art, but also in deep cultural awareness and technology. Likewise, the competition allows you to reimagine classical music as a societally responsive artform, one that is able to express deeply meaningful and impactful stories in the 21st century.

Ben Dietschi: Striving for excellence and individuality in an artform with centuries of history can be daunting. Nurture a sound that emerges from the idiosyncrasies of your lived experience. You are informed by the canon, but should be unapologetic about drawing from your intersectional identity and the modern moment and in spinning your craft.

Nina Moe: We are here because we trust in your brilliance and in the power in your work. Show us your best ideas and we will evaluate them with an open mind.

Samantha Pollack: In these surreal times, every artist is thinking beyond the stage, considering their impact and considering what makes their art unique. Through all of the current struggles, remember the “why/what”: WHY am I sharing my art with the world, WHY should audiences feel compelled to tune in, WHAT do I want audience members to remember? 

Lecolion Washington: One cannot seek change while also actively strengthening the status quo. Whichever one you do the most is who you are.

About the Thought Leaders

Alain Barker, Director, Music Entrepreneurship and Career Development 
Indiana University Jacobs School of Music – Bloomington, IN

Alain Barker is founding director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Career Development at the IU Jacobs School of Music, with a career that includes arts organization development, arts policy research, communications and marketing, performance, and teaching.

Ben Dietschi, Senior Consultant
DeVos Institute of Arts Management – Washington, DC

Ben Dietschi is a senior consultant with the DeVos Institute of Arts Management, where he assists arts and culture organizations in reaching their full potential. Prior to joining the institute, Ben served as Executive Director of Soundstreams, Canada’s leading contemporary music and opera producer.

Nina Moe, Operations / Data / Finance
The Lynch Foundation – Boston, MA

Nina Moe‘s leadership experience spans the performance, nonprofit, and funding spheres.  A former orchestra Executive Director, she now runs operations at The Lynch Foundation. Nina is currently pursuing an MBA from UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business.

Samantha Pollack, Director of Programming
Washington Performing Arts – Washington, DC

Named a “Rising Star in Classical Presenting” by Musical America, Samantha Pollack is the Director of Programming at Washington Performing Arts (WPA) in Washington, D.C., programming over sixty performances in a dozen venues throughout the D.C. region each season in the genres of classical (orchestral, chamber, and recital), jazz, global music, modern dance, and gospel.

Lecolion Washington, Executive Director
Community Music Center of Boston – Boston, MA

Lecolion Washington is the Executive Director of the Community Music Center of Boston after serving over 15 years as a bassoon professor. Washington is dedicated to supporting the next generation of arts activists/entrepreneurs.

Impact Performance Competition Guidelines

Ariel AVANT’s Impact Performance prize goes to the most compelling interdisciplinary and/or multimedia performance designed to generate productive conversation and offer positive means of action addressing a social justice issue, particularly one related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) prioritized to be achieved by 2030. Applying artists should also propose one or more new works (of at least 10 minutes total) which will be commissioned for the performance itself and integral to its implementation. 

In an effort to mitigate existing bias, the competition will be judged by three tiers of judging panels made up of varying ratios of concert presenters, industry thought leaders, and Ariel roster artists, all from diverse backgrounds. The best ideas win, with four levels of recognition: Grand Prize Winner, Second and Third Place winners, and a Heart winner, an honorable mention for a proposal “with heart.” The grand prize includes a $20,000 touring fund to support five performances with paired engagement events, a $10,000 development and commissioning fund, and a two-week incubation residency for beta testing at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Second and third prizes are honorariums of $3,000 and $2,000, respectively.
The AVANT competitions are open to classical music soloists and chamber ensembles of every background, regardless of age, ensemble instrumentation, race, gender identification, sexual orientation, or any other factor. 
The only eligibility requirements to apply are the following:

  • An active performance history of at least two years
  • Established membership of at least two years (in the case of chamber ensembles)
  • The total number of touring artists/collaborators (including accompanying technicians) must range from 3-6 people
  • Applicants must be able to tour in the United States during the Grand Prize touring period (approximately September through December 2021)
  • Commissioned works must be completed and delivered to artists/collaborators well in advance of the Grand Prize touring period
  • Applications Due: June 1, 2020
  • Semi-Finalists Announced: July 2020
  • Finalists Announced: August 2020
  • Grand Prize Winner Announced: September 2020
  • Approximate Touring Period: September – December 2021

For Full Competition Guidelines, Visit:

Competition Timeline:

Applications Due: June 1, 2020
Semi-Finalists Announced: July 2020
Finalists Announced: August 2020
Grand Prize Winner Announced: September 2020
Approximate Touring Period: September – December 2021