How does a young artist prepare for the rigors of a professional performing career? For the six talented recipients of Strathmore’s Artist in Residence program, that preparation includes a 10-month residency that offers performance opportunities, mentorships and professional seminars in the off-stage aspects of professional music careers.
Take Anjali Taneja, who will perform twice at Strathmore this month as part of her residency. For Taneja, a singer-songwriter who believes in the power of Indian classical and Sufi music to transform contemporary music, the program provides all the necessary base knowledge to enter the workforce as a professional working musician. The AIR program, she says, “is teaching me to think of my show as a product, and encouraging me to streamline every aspect of my performance career so I’ll be in a good place to get booked for other events.”
In a telephone interview with Betty Scott, Director of Strathmore’s Artist in Residency program, I learned more about the program’s mission “to nurture talented artists to help master their craft and succeed in the real world.” Scott came to Strathmore in 2005 as the education coordinator and manager of the Artist in Residence program. She has won a Grammy and as a result, was featured in People magazine.
Strathmore’s unique AIR program has been in existence since 2005, mentoring talented young musicians. “The AIR program provides mentoring in both the artistic and business sides of the arts.” said Scott. It was created to support DC area artists as they transition to professional careers.
Since its inception, the program has mentored about 86 musicians ages 16-32. Each class is chosen through a competitive selection program. The artists benefit from the “nurture and support of mentors” indicated Scott. They participate in professional development seminars, a residency component, and are offered performance opportunities to perform in the Strathmore Mansion’s 100-seat music room.
Beyond individual one-on-one work, there are cross-genre opportunities, collaborative group activities and even visits to the Library of Congress to locate older music that might present an opportunity for a new arrangement.
Scott provided examples of the AIR seminar topics for the September 2018 to June 2019 session. They are quite wide-ranging. The topics include: Marketing, Websites/branding, Grant writing, Taxes for Artists, rehearsal, Prep and Presentation for Shows, Career Steps—Large and Small, Interview Techniques, Skills for a Band Leader, Recording and Marketing Your Music, Getting to Yes, Arranging Music for the Recording Studio, Artist: Making a Living and Making a Life and Being Your Own Manager. Some of the boldface names teaching the seminars include Ken Avis, Mark Meadows, Cathy Fink, Seth Kibel, Jess Eliot Myhre, Amanda Sweet, Maureen Andary, Jonathan Mayo, and Patty Laing.
As a group, the 2018-2019 AIR class indicated that in addition to honing their musical skills, AIR allows them to collaborate with musicians from different musical disciplines, increasing cultural awareness and appreciation for a variety of musical styles. Saxophonist Trey Sorrells put it this way, “The AIR program thrives on taking the artist out of their comfort zones in hopes of adding some versatility to the individual as well as expanding their musical palette.”
As for the business seminar sessions, Recipient Seán Heely, a Celtic fiddle player, indicated that “In this day and age, it is becoming more crucial than ever to have a wide range of skills. We have to know how to promote ourselves, utilize social media, and reach an ever-changing audience. Strathmore’s AIR program equips young artists with the skills to not only make a living, but to be successful.”
For Anjali Taneja, whose music fuses Bollywood rhythms and Indian ragas with pop and R&B melodies, the opportunity to work with such a diverse group of artists allows her to “create arrangements of songs that include instrumentation I would’ve never thought to include had I not been exposed to the talents of all of the musicians and alums in the program.”
Strathmore’s Artist in Residence Program includes performances throughout the year.
Anjali Taneji next performs on February 28, 2019. All performances take place at The Mansion at Strathmore – 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, MD. For more information on the Strathmore Artist in Residency program, go online.
The six members of the 2018-2019 AIR class include:
Calista Garcia, Singer/Songwriter from Arlington
Seán Heely, Celtic Fiddle from Falls Church
Dante Pope, Multi-instrumentalist from DC
Eliot Seppa, Bassist from (DC
Trey Sorrells, Saxophonist from Silver Spring, MD
Anjali Taneja, Singer, Songwriter from Vienna, VA