Spotlight Q&A: MN Orchestra in Cuba

Minnesota Orchestra in Cuba

  The Minnesota Orchestra made headlines in May as the first major American orchestra to tour Cuba since President Obama’s announcement that the U.S. and Cuba would take steps to normalize relations and lift the U.S. embargo. Among the 100 musicians on the trip was harpist Ann Benjamin, who agreed to share her story with us. YPP: Tell us about your musical background. Benjamin: Everyone in my family started piano at age five. We also chose another instrument in fourth or fifth grade. I tried some other stringed instruments, but …

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Featured Facility: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN


When attendees at major charity event walked into the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, for a dinner gala and concert, they were expecting to see a hockey arena. Instead, spread out before them was an elegant dining room – set for 3,000 people. Finding a space large enough to accommodate guests of the event – without sacrificing the style and intimacy of a dinner gala – was a challenge. The solution? Constructing three levels of tiered platforms over the stadium-style seats, making more intimate seating than typically found …

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Future Threat? Robots Grabbing Spotlight

Robot performers

Most robots popularized in early sci-fi fiction stories or 1950s “B” movies were scary creations bent on destroying our world. Today, in contrast, real robots hold promise for improving our world as helpers. Rather than finding this evolution a source of comfort, some people consider it threatening. If robots can replicate certain human tasks, maybe good-paying jobs will be lost. Robots might become too smart and turn the tables on us humans. Where could this all lead? Cute Co-Stars. For a minute, forget the robots assembling your future car or …

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The Changing Approach to Safety: Act, Don’t React

If you haven’t flipped through the spring 2015 issue of Protocol magazine yet, here’s a good reason to do so: Anna Glover, head of safety risk management at the National Theatre in London, England, makes some excellent points about the way we all approach backstage safety today—especially in comparison to ten years ago. In her editorial, “The changing face of entertainment safety,” Glover points out that as recently as the early 2000s, safety seemed like “a bolt-on extra, to be considered after the fact.” Rather than training employees in safety …

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Western World View: Connecting Artists & Opportunities (Part 2 of 2)

Sybarite 5 Performing at the 2011 Western Arts Alliance Conference_Photo by Les Kamens, The Photo Group

Last week we started our conversation with Tim Wilson, executive director of the Western Arts Alliance (WAA), hearing about performing arts trends he’s seeing and how the economic recession impacted programming. This week we’ll learn about WAA’s international outreach. YPP: What are the trends in international work? Wilson: Venues are still interested in programming international artists, but post-9/11 security measures have made visa issues more difficult. It’s a technical, tedious and mystifying process; tax laws can be equally challenging. Some agencies and presenters hire lawyers to manage all these details. …

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Western Way: Connecting Artists & Opportunities (Part 1 of 2)

Whim W'him Performing at the 2011 Western Arts Alliance Conference_Photo by Les Kamens, The Photo Group

Established almost 50 years ago, the Western Arts Alliance (WAA) began as a booking conference but has evolved over time to become a service organization that helps connect performing artists or their representatives with venues in the western U.S. and Canada. We visited with executive director Tim Wilson recently to learn more about WAA’s activities and his perspective on the performing arts. YPP: What trends are impacting your organization? Wilson: Technology is changing our conferences. In the old days, we called the exhibit area the “resource room” – it was …

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Mirror or Lamp: Is Exposing Creativity Helpful?

University of Minnesota Duluth
Duluth, MN

If you could glimpse behind-the-scenes at the “work” of performing artists, would that inspire or intimidate you? Consider that question in light of the recent news that the Juilliard School – a renowned institution educating many of tomorrow’s performing artists – is launching a smart phone app promising exclusive access. Abrams’ Metaphor. The mirror/lamp headline is inspired by the late M.H. Abrams, an English professor at Cornell whose literary anthologies educated generations of college humanities majors. His book “The Mirror and the Lamp” described a thematic shift from neoclassical to …

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Spotlight Q&A: Marching Band Performance

Skye’s The Limit Photography

Marching bands epitomize precision – synchronized movement coordinated with stirring music – and highlight many summer parades. Just as marching bands rely on cooperation and practice to achieve success, the process of hosting a marching band festival also demands teamwork. Next Saturday, the streets of Owatonna, Minnesota, will echo with a dozen marching bands on parade, totaling almost 1,500 high school performers, competing in the 6th Annual Harry Wenger Marching Band Festival. We talked to festival director and board chair Kim Cosens to learn about this event and key factors in …

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7 Steps to Success: Choosing Your Seat

audience seating

We don’t mean street-corner scalping or queuing in the rush line. This week we’re focused on buying the right audience seating for your facility, whether that’s a high school or historic theatre. We tapped our expert – Andrew Forsberg of Wenger – for his seven steps for successful seat selection. (Try saying that three times fast!) 1) Know Yourself. What’s your facility and who do you primarily serve? Seats for a middle-school auditorium obviously face different demands and “patrons” than a professional venue. Paying audiences expect nicer aesthetics and pampering: …

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Creative Ceiling Solution: Alice Tully Hall

Alice Tully Hall

Renovations to New York City’s Alice Tully Hall, part of Lincoln Center, included adding a unique acoustical ceiling above the stage to enhance acoustics and complement interior aesthetics. The hall reopened in 2009 to wide acclaim. One of the project members was acoustician Larry King, who was working at Jaffe Holden at the time. King recently retired and we caught up with him to discuss this unique project. YPP: What were the project goals? King: Over years, Alice Tully Hall had become one the most heavily used venues in Lincoln …

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