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Producing Guest Artist Events

Phyllis Avidan Louke | September 2018

    The Greater Portland Flute Society (GPFS) has a long history of producing events with some of the finest American and international flutists. Each year GPFS produces a fall event that features a guest artist in recital and sometimes teaching a masterclass. There is also an annual April Flute Fair that includes a guest artist who performs a recital and teaches a masterclass and a workshop. As a long-time board member of GPFS, I have been responsible for the logistics and hiring of most of these guest artists since the mid-1990s. There are a number of important steps for flute clubs and university professors to consider throughout the planning process to ensure a successful event. 

Mark Sparks

Planning and Budgeting 
    Once the organization decides to host an event, the first step is to determine a budget. This should include projected expenses and income. Here are some items in a typical budget.  

    Guest artist fee 
    Accompanist fee 
    Guest artist transportation 
    Guest artist lodging and meals 
    Venue rental 
    Piano tuning 
    Printing programs, tickets, flyers, and posters 
    Refreshments for a reception following the recital 
    Funds provided by the flute club or university 
    Sponsorship may be available if the guest artist is affiliated with a flute company.
    Grants are available in many communities to help fund arts events. Inquire whether there are any grant writers in your membership. Many grants are only available to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. (While GPFS has not written any grants in the last 10 to 15 years, in the early days this was a major source of funding.)
    Commercial ads in the program from music stores, flute teachers, flute manufacturers, and other local businesses 
    Donations solicited from flute club members for specific purposes such as a guest artist fees. If your flute club is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, these donations will be tax deductible. 
    Projected ticket sales 
    In-kind donations are non-monetary donations made by individuals for home hospitality or by businesses for free or reduced venue rental, piano tuning, etc. 

Choosing a Guest Artist 
    Many flute clubs look to local guest artists from professional symphonies, universities, or even great area flute teachers. Sometimes local guest artists belong to the flute club and will donate their services or charge a reduced rate. 
    Another good source for ideas is the program booklet of the National Flute Association Convention. The NFA presents artists with national and international reputations as well as flutists who are in the early stages of their careers. Consider the expertise or specialty of each potential guest artist and craft an event that utilizes their strengths. 
    Contact flute manufacturers that sponsor flutists who perform on their instruments. They may be planning  performance tours for these artists and be willing to cover all or part of the transportation expenses or donate a portion of the artist fee. If a manufacturer is sponsoring a flutist’s appearance, it is common to include an ad for the company in the program. Also ask manufacturers whether they would like to exhibit their flutes before the event and at intermission. 

Jean Ferrandis Masterclass

Guest Artist Expenses

    The costs for booking a guest artist can vary greatly depending on the person and event. It is important to balance your budget and plans before contacting potential flutists. Here are few things to consider.: 
    The Guest Artist Fee will depend on the length and scope of the event, the flutist’s prominence, and whether they are looking to fill in some dates on a tour through your region. If the event budget is low, consider performers or teachers from your area or possibly a more prominent flutist who lives in the area. 
    Transportation is an important expense if the artist lives in another city. This can vary from mileage reimbursement to the cost of an airline ticket. 
    Meals and lodging can vary from booking a hotel near the event venue to providing home hospitality. A per diem or reimbursement may be set up for the flutist’s meals or meals may be provided if the flutist is staying in a private home. 

Booking the Guest Artist 
    Discuss availability, determine the exact date of the event if it has not been set, determine travel dates to allow for one or two rehearsals with a pianist (if applicable), and whether any sponsorship is available from a flute company. Some guest artists require a contract; however, in my experience, most do not. In 27 years guest artists have only canceled three times after booking. (Fortunately in each case, we were able to book another flutist in time for the event.) Still, it is good practice to keep all email and other correspondence discussing event details. 

Collaborative Pianists 
    It is prudent to develop a list of excellent pianists who regularly perform with professional musicians, are familiar with many pieces in the standard repertoire for flute and piano, and are excellent sightreaders and confident performers. After confirming the event date and the guest artist, book the pianist.  

More on Lodging 
    If using a hotel, inquire if there are any discounts for nonprofit organizations. If a member of the organization is willing to host the guest artist in a spare bedroom (and the artist is agreeable to the idea), this can reduce the costs. Ideally, the bedroom should have a private bathroom with fresh linens, towels, bath soap, shampoo, conditioner, a hair dryer, and other toiletries. Inquire about any food allergies or preferences. My husband and I have hosted many guest artists over the years, and since I also provide transportation to and from the airport, rehearsals, and the event, this arrangement is convenient for me and the artist.  

Goran Marcusson

Choosing a Venue 

    There are many factors to consider when selecting a location. Determine the type of venue and any equipment that will be needed. Most recitals will require a piano, and if the venue is large, a microphone might be necessary for announcements. Most organizations work on a limited budget, so cost is a major consideration. Brainstorm suitable locations that are free or low cost. 
    Before spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a concert hall, look into low-cost options first. Board members may belong to or know of a church that is available for free or minimal cost to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations or to church members. Church sanctuaries come in a myriad of sizes with seating from under 100 to close to 1000. 
    Another option is to contact flute teachers at local colleges and universities (especially if they are members of your club) as they may be able to reserve a recital hall for free or low cost in exchange for free admission for the school’s students and faculty. Offer to list the school as a co-sponsor of the event in all publicity and written materials if the performance hall is provided for free. Find out the audience capacity, type of piano available, and whether there is a sound system. This type of partnership benefits both organizations. 
    Check with community music schools, piano stores, and larger music stores as some have reasonably priced recital halls. Middle school and high school band and orchestra directors in your area may have access to their school’s auditorium. Depending on the school district, the band and orchestra directors might have some discretion on the amount charged, particularly if the event would be considered an educational event with free admission for students and faculty. 
    Other factors to consider when choosing a venue other than availability are location, size, parking, convenience to public transportation, handicapped accessibility, availability of a good quality piano, a sound system, and whether refreshments are allowed for a reception. 

Find a Partner 
    If there are other flute fairs or festivals in the region, one option is to piggyback on their event and schedule yours for the same weekend. GPFS has partnered with the Seattle Flute Society for flute fairs (ours is on Saturday and theirs is on Sunday) on a fixed weekend each year. It is only a three-hour drive from Portland to Seattle. Because it is so convenient, about 15-20 vendors exhibit at both fairs, including many major flute manufacturers and several companies that carry a large variety of flute brands and accessories. There are flute shops and music stores from Seattle that attend our Flute Fair, and several Portland shops that attend Seattle’s Flute Fair. Local music stores and flute repair businesses are also encouraged to become commercial members and exhibit. Another advantage occurs when we have the same guest artist for both flute fairs, which reduces transportation costs to the two flute clubs. 
    One of the other reasons our flute fair is successful is that our flute teachers encourage their students to shop for and buy new flutes at Flute Fair. This provides the students with a wider variety of instruments to try, saving the cost of shipping to bring in instruments on trial. Our exhibitors appreciate that there are many serious shoppers and potential shoppers attending flute fair.

    There are many free or very inexpensive ways to advertise events. Start with a Facebook page which can be easily seen by the organization’s members and viewed by their friends. Low-cost Facebook ads can be created that target a geographic area close to the event. Email event details to organization members, local flute teachers, and local band directors and ask them to share with friends and students. 
    Develop a list of arts websites that maintain listings of local events. Area classical radio stations, local newspapers, city or county arts organizations, and area flute societies usually will maintain listings of local events. 
    Write an article about the guest artist and event details in the organization’s newsletter to inform your members. Offering group ticket sales at a significant discount can really boost an event’s attendance. GPFS offers 10 or more group tickets at $5 each, which encourages more students to attend. Many of our flute teachers actively encourage their students to attend events. If events are not well attended, consider lowering your ticket prices. 

Event Ideas 
    GPFS has held a wide variety of events over the years including: 
•    Jazz concert (flutist with either piano, combo, or guitar accompaniment) and a participatory jazz flute workshop instead of a masterclass 
•    Klezmer concert paired with a participatory klezmer workshop 
•    Flutist/composer recital 
•    Recitals by the flute section of our local professional symphony with each performing a solo piece or two and ending with an ensemble piece or two 
•    Flute and guitar recitals 
•    Recital of South American music 
•    Recital of Eastern European music 
•    Recital demonstrating historical flutes of different eras 
•    Professional flute ensemble or mixed ensemble 
•    Baroque flute recital 
•    Low flute specialist 
•    Piccolo specialist 
•    Participatory workshops geared to teaching, jazz, klezmer, etc. 
•    Performance anxiety workshops and panel discussions 

    Think outside of the box about the types of event that would appeal to your members. There are so many talented flutists who would love to be invited share their ideas with your group. Be creative.     

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Broaden Your Membership

Commercial Memberships 
    Flute organizations should solicit commercial members to their roster. Not only does it help members and businesses connect, but it also adds income into the budget. The GPFS has a large commercial membership. We give commercial members a business card size advertisement in each newsletter, and they are encouraged to write articles on such topics as shopping for a flute, differences in models and options, repairs, flute maintenance, and the difference between a COA and an overhaul. 
    Most commercial members also exhibit at the annual spring Flute Fair. Table fees from commercial exhibitors cover most of the Flute Fair expenses. Begin by talking to local music stores and also contact regional or national companies to tell them about your organization and invite them to become members. Some may join and pay the membership fee just for the opportunity to advertise to your members. 

Student Memberships 
    Talk to school band and orchestra teachers as well as local flute teachers to encourage their students to join the organization. Have events geared especially for them such as masterclasses and competitions. At the annual flute fair offer panel discussions where students can ask questions of professional flutists. Topics might include how to select a college music school, audition tips, why it is important to attend a summer music program, or simply how to play the flute better. 

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    The Greater Portland Flute Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Applying for nonprofit status has recently become simplified with only two federal forms to file and filing fees have been reduced. Organizations apply for an EIN or Employer Identifi-cation Number that is used on business accounts, tax returns, and documents, even if you have no employees. The other federal 
form is 1023-EZ, Streamlined Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, which is available for organizations with less than $50,000 in annual revenue. 
    There may be additional state forms to file, depending on where you live. Research your state’s requirements. Filing forms in the proper order is important to avoid delays. Nonprofit status can be obtained in as little as three or four weeks if everything is done correctly. It is required to be eligible for many grants. In addition, donations to nonprofit organizations are often tax deductible. 
    The Greater Portland Flute Society website is