I reject your cattle call
From performance grind to running a music festival
“It’s lonely to practice all the time,” says Dave on our recent Zeitgeist Radio interview, “to go to those like cattle call auditions. Say a bass player job in the Baltimore Symphony is open. There's one spot out of eight spots… a hundred people apply for it. Maybe you have to record yourself playing your instrument and send it in first to prove that you're good enough to audition. And then you get there and there's 50 other people there, vying for the one spot.”
Dave plays upright bass and studied performance in conservatory. But after a shoulder injury put him off from playing for a while, he got a taste of a different side of music: administration. And he realized he couldn’t go back to the “cattle call.”
“It's just awful. I did that twice. I took two auditions like that. It's kind of soul crushing.”
But with administration, he found he could combine his love of classical music with other skills he loves and is good at like logistics and problem solving.
Dave found a job as the general manager of a music festival in San Luis Obispo, CA, called Festival Mozaic.
This festival started as a Mozart Festival (the “z” in Mozaic is a throwback, now you know!). But as the festival and team grew, they realized their mission was bigger than playing classical “standards.” The made a mission statement and some highly detailed values, which made for a treasure trove of conversation with Dave!
Ever thought about running a classical music festival? Here’s how these guys do it.
Value I. Embrace Artistic Excellence and Elevate the Experience
Dave and I talked a lot about this value, because it’s pretty amazing how the Festival approaches this.
“these are the same musicians you would see at disney hall, or at the new york symphony,” he says. And Festival Mozaic makes it possible for you to sit at unique local venues and talk with them. Even at the more traditional performance halls the performers will come out to interact with the audience after the concert. I’d call that an “elevated” experience!
Value II. Be Involved in the Cultural Community at Large
They also position their concerts to be in non-traditional places. So you could have no knowledge of classical music, and bump into one of their “notable encounters” at a local business.
“I think that's a great way for somebody who doesn't know anything about classical music to experience it for the first time in this kind of informal.”
They host family concerts in the park. The musical director does high-level master classes at the local schools. They do fun concerts for middle schoolers.
Good relationships with schools is a good decision for legacy, too. “We do everything we can to get students to come in. If we've got seats open, we want students to sit in those seats. We'll give you a ticket. Just give us a call.”
Value III. Be Good Stewards
This value is mostly around financials, which while important isn’t really in Dave’s realm. “That's really looking ahead to make sure we're around for 100 years, not just 50,” he says. And they are lucky: “That piece of has been going quite well.”
Value IV. Make Serious Music Seriously Fun
Dave introduces the word “unclassical,” which he defines as classically trained musicians playing non-classical music.
Not only have they worked to make the classical concerts fun, they also bring in artists from other disciplines: flamenco dancers, singer/songwriters, celtic, and more.
And of course I’ve got to ask about stories… of things going well of course, but also of things going sideways! He doesn’t disappoint.
Follow Festival Mosaic:
festivalmozaic.org, or @festivalmozaic on Facebook or Instagram.
Fun as this job is, Dave's Zeitgeist moment was around playing in a completely different ensemble with his wife, a talented vocalist in her own right. Check out their band:
Rosewood & Honey (rosewoodandhoney.com, @rosewoodandhoneyband on Instagram).
He also plays with the San Luis Obispo Symphony, which you can follow here: slosymphony.org