Interview with Laura Hartenberger

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(10th Grade Student at the Oakwood Collegiate School in Toronto – November 2000)

Q. What is a regular day like in your life? What sort of daily activities does your job involve?

A. My daily activities have changed quite a bit over the years. Every day is unique and different in some way. Today, November 28, 2000 is a typical day, for example. After waking at 7:00 AM, and after an hour of the usual morning personal hygiene, my work day begins with an hour (or more) on the computer responding to emails. This morning there are two orders for NEXUS CDs in the email pile, so each will take about 15 to 20 minutes to prepare – gather the CDs, prepare invoices and mailing labels, package the CDs for mailing, take them to the post office, and lastly, enter the information in my computer for accounting.

Other email responses have to do with a combination of personal projects (I am planning for a residence at the Banff Centre for Management in June 2001), NEXUS projects (NEXUS is working on several new commissions with important composers to create new pieces of music), and projects involving my work on the Board of Directors of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (mostly having to do with the Orchestra’s significant educational activities in Rochester – 58 concerts and over 360 other related community education events each season).

At 10:00 today, I will drive to the Rochester Philharmonic Office where I will prepare materials to be mailed to the 24 members of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s Education and Outreach Council, of which I am the Council Chair, which means I help to organize the Council’s activities in overseeing all of the Orchestra’s education programs. The materials need to be copied, stuffed in envelopes, and mailed to the Council members before the monthly meeting next week.

At noon I will be having a business lunch with the Orchestra’s Education Director, during which we will be discussing various topics related to the education programs.

After lunch I will return to the Orchestra’s office to plan for the Rochester Philharmonic League’s Young Artist Awards Auditions, which will be held in March 2001. These are cash awards to high school instrumentalists, and vocalists, who audition before a panel of judges. Some award recipients will have a chance to perform a concerto with the Rochester Philharmonic. I was asked to be the Chair this year, and the responsibilities will include preparing announcement forms, organizing volunteers, selecting judges, and generally overseeing the entire process.

In the afternoon I will return to my home computer to work on various commitments I have under way (for example, writing articles on music, preparing materials for the Banff residency, or sending correspondence to colleagues in the music field). On the way home I will take care of some daily errands (mailing at the post office, grocery shopping, banking, etc.). Also, when I get home, I use this time to respond to telephone messages and faxes I have received during the day.

The mail usually arrives in the mid-afternoon, and it usually involves an hour (or more) to sort through and file, so that I can respond later. For example, there may be various requests regarding NEXUS CDs or my publishing business which need attention – forms from the American Federation of Musicians (the musician’s union), the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, or the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. There may also be orders for CDs or music which I publish.

At 5:00 PM I usually try to take about an hour to read the newspapers, local and national, before dinner.

After dinner, I usually finish up on the day’s activities, involving an hour (or more) on the computer. Then with personal time remaining I will work on my own projects, usually involving composing or arranging music. Today I will spend time on revising a piece for marimba, percussion and orchestra called ROSEWOOD DREAMING; I will be revising some of the orchestra parts – making deletions from the score to make the piece shorter. This is work that has been ongoing for about 2 months and will continue for another month or so. I am also working on arranging piano pieces by the American composer Edward MacDowell for solo marimba, to be published sometime soon. All of this work is done on my computer.

At 9:30 or 10:00 PM I usually wrap-up my day’s work-related activities and spend time with my spouse, Ruth, in conversation, or reading (I’m now reading a book about globalization called ‘The Lexus and the Olive Tree’ by Thomas Friedman), or maybe just watching TV if there is something on of interest.

Even though I am a musician, I will not even touch a musical instrument today. If a NEXUS concert or rehearsal is approaching I will use my personal evening time for practice/preparation. Usually though, most of my daily time is spent processing information on a computer. In a very real sense, I am an information processor or computer operator for most of the day. This is the biggest change to occur for me over the years in my work.

Q. What made you decide to be a musician?

A. I decided to become a musician in high school, only after realizing that I wasn’t good enough to become a baseball player. The things that influenced me most were:                                                         a) I had the good fortune to be be surrounded by good teachers who loved music and drumming, and who served as perfect role models;                                                                                    b) I had the good fortune to be in an educational environment in my schools that provided many opportunities for me to pursue the study of music:                                                                              c) I had the good fortune to be able to go to weekly concerts of the Philadelphia Orchestra using free tickets provided to my high school;                                                                                              d) I had the good fortune to be surrounded by peers who also were inspired by music and music-making (including your father);                                                                                                            e) I had the good fortune to have supportive parents.

Q. What personal characteristics are helpful to have to be a successful musician?

A. I think the most important things to have are:

a) a positive attitude;

b) a love of music (as opposed to a love of playing an instrument, which is not enough);

c) a willingness to be committed to acquiring necessary performance skills;

d) an ability to share one’s love of music with others, not only through performance, but also through speaking and writing;

e) an ability to listen (to receive information from others and to put one’s self in their shoes)

Q. What are some of your favorite parts of your job?

A. My most favorite thing of all is to perform, especially with NEXUS. I especially enjoy performing with orchestras. It’s also fun to perform my own music. My second favorite thing now is to help young people – performers and non-performers – to develop a love of music. Lately, I have been doing this more and more through teaching residencies and through my work with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s Education and Outreach Council.

Q. What are some of your least favorite parts of your job?

A. It is a reality that usually in order to get something done, there is a certain amount of tedious work that goes along with it as part of the process. In this category are tasks like practicing on an instrument, photocopying information, addressing mail labels, stuffing envelops, etc. I have come to accept these less favorite tasks because without them, I wouldn’t be able to do my favorite things.

Q. What kind of general skills do you use in your job that could be transferred to different fields other than music?

A. a) processing and organizing information (operations/accounting);

b) working with others to accomplish something (managing/facilitating);

c) speaking and writing (promotion/advertising/advocacy);

d) project planning and execution (producing CDs, publishing, concerts);

e) strategic decision-making (seeing my tasks in relation to the tasks of others).

Q. What are the biggest challenges in your job? What are some of the benefits?

A. The biggest challenge today is keeping up with the rapid changes that are happening everywhere. It’s necessary to be concerned with a lot of things that used to be the respon-sibility of others. For example, instead of just calling a travel agent to plan a trip, today it’s almost essential to make most arrangements on one’s own, because there are so many more options available. This is true in almost every area of life, from selecting a flavor of coffee, to planning a concert. Responsibilty for decision making is flowing to users and away from providers. For the provider (performer of music) this means that it is critical to listen to the users (audiences) more attentively in order to better discern how they are choosing to be involved. In addition, in the music world there is ever-increasing competition to better reach the users; there are more performers, more highly technical performances, and a world-wide market with which to keep up. The biggest challenge for NEXUS is to try to keep one step ahead of the competition. It’s getting harder and harder to do so.

Q. Do you have a lot of job security? Are there lots of opportunities for people in this field? Looking into the future, is there anything that concerns you about your job?

A. I don’t think there is much job security in any line of work today. Most people change jobs every 3 to 5 years. However, opportunities are everywhere. Having the skills to be flexible, having the ability to listen to what one’s market (the other people one serves) is saying, and having the creativity to make changes to serve one’s market better – these are the best forms of job security a person in any field or work can have today.

Q. What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

A. a) find a good teacher – one who motivates you and with whom you enjoy being;

b) find the time to go to concerts, especially by performers who play the kind of music to which you aspire;

c) as soon as possible, go where the kind of music you aspire to is being performed regularly, and insert yourself into that network so that you know the network and the network knows you;

d) every time you perform, consider it to be the most important thing in your life – do your best to make it as good as you can make it for the listeners;

e) try to keep music-making fun – always remember what it was about music that you liked when you first started to play;

f) listen to your colleagues, to audiences, to managers, to students, to everyone until you clearly understand what they are saying; then decide what is best for you to do.

Q. Do you find your job rewarding? Are you glad you decided to go into music?

A. Never in a million years would I ever have decided to do anything else.