Thursday, May 17, 2012

After Hours at BLO - Thoughts from a singer, opera lover, and development geek


My name is Ceceilia Allwein, and I work at BLO. My official title is Development Coordinator, which means that I manage direct mail, telefund, digital outreach, print advertising and pretty much any other communications that come out of development in service of the annual fund. It’s a super creative job, and I love it! 

At the end of my day at BLO, I don’t go home though.

I hop on my bike, go to a practice room and start singing.

To be absolutely clear, I don’t work at BLO in an artistic capacity, and I don’t make my living as a singer. I was trained as a singer (and music theory!) though and still make my way onto stages about town every now and then.

Five years ago I had no idea I would end up working in development. What I learned over time, however, was that I care deeply about people’s relationship to music and the role that financial support plays in that relationship.

Since joining BLO I have found that my development work and after hours musical activity inform each other, and I would love to share with you a few intriguing things that I’ve learned about my relationship to BLO and opera in Boston. 

1. Taste Does Not Equal Support

My musical tastes are pretty far out. Most of the time when I sing I use electronics, noise or extended vocal techniques. This summer I’ll be a vocal interpreter at the Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt in Germany for a few weeks. The definition of opera in Darmstadt would fall way outside most people’s realm of musical decency, but to my taste those are some righteous times just waiting to happen! 

But I also want to live in a community where I can hunker down in a theater seat on any given weekend and bathe in a lush wall of vocal and orchestral sounds.

Butterfly, I’m looking at you!

Regardless of whether I’m a die hard fan of every single opera that’s made the stage (I’m not), I want to experience the breadth of the genre’s influence in musical discourse. I support BLO financially because Boston’s rich musical culture benefits from opera.  

2. Music education is the gift of transferable skills

Through BLO’s Music! Words! Opera! curriculum, students get the opportunity to write an opera—music and libretto—right in their own classroom, and teachers learn how to incorporate opera, which is to say, musical practice, into their teaching. 

As a product of music education similar to Music! Words! Opera! myself—and a conservatory trained, Gen Y, digital native—I can attest to the job skills that music education offers: I have executed complex tasks on stage since I was an itty bitty kid, become comfortable expressing myself verbally in public on abstract topics, and developed a huge autodidactic streak from years of self-directed practice. My music education has given me a significant advantage.

Supporting music education at BLO is not only about cultural appreciation, developing new audiences, or spending Saturdays in prestigious pre-college programs. It is also about giving kids the opportunity to learn transferable skills right in their own classrooms that will serve them for their entire lives.

3. It takes both artistic and financial context to cultivate artistry

I give performances as a non-vocational singer, because it puts the expression and vulnerability that professional artists give in every performance into context. I also founded a contemporary music ensemble a few years ago, because I wanted to know first-hand what it was like to build an organization from the bottom up. (Conclusion: It’s hard. Very hard.)

Now that I work at BLO I do considerably fewer performing projects, but the experience continues to renew my appreciation for the leadership at BLO. I am blown away by the quality of opera and the budget on which it is produced. Go Esther, John, David, Nick and Dan!

It boils down to this: Financial gifts provide a framework for material possibility--a framework that impacts the strength of opera’s voice in Boston, the exposure to art and skills that kids get through music education, and the artistic vision of BLO’s leadership.

I’ve been on a journey to really explore these three points for the past few years, and I feel stronger than ever about the importance of supporting BLO. Not to mention the fact that giving just feels good. (Don’t believe me? Read this.)

I invite you to make a direct impact on BLO’s material possibility by donating now. If you donate before June 30, you will have double the impact through the 35th Anniversary Challenge matching grant as well.  

And! If you’d like to check out the musical stylings of an avocational classical singer, you can join me at my next concert TONIGHT!  

Thursday, May 17, 2012, 8pm
New England Conservatory
Williams Hall

I would love to meet you in person and chat about how you can be a part of the amazing things that BLO has planned!

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