University Musical Society: Lessons Learned
Project Design and Artist Relations
As we found during Year 1, selecting the â€œrightâ€ artist for the program events continued to be more challenging than expected. All of the visiting artists were very interested in the MAP idea, but not all of them had the necessary experience (or preparation time) to lead or facilitate immersive, participatory activities. One interesting twist we discovered during Year 2: we found that choreographers could be a great resource for helping to lead MAP activities, especially when so many of them had to be scheduled on the same evening as the selected performance due to learnersâ€™ scheduling constraints. Choreographers often travel with touring dance companies but, unlike the dancers, are not preoccupied with preparations immediately before the performance.
The fact that we had a rotating roster of participating artists, rather than a single artist or ensemble in an extended residency, was both a challenge and an asset. On the challenging side, it meant that the quality of the different learner experiences could vary depending on the strengths of the lead artist(s). Some artists favored more of a traditional lecture style, while others, particularly those with more teaching experience, tended to offer more immersive and/ or participatory experiences. On the other hand, our project structure gave us the opportunity to work with a wide variety of artists, which in turn gave us some basis of comparison for which artist interactions tended to be more effective or impactful. For instance, though the learners made various curricular connections with all of the visiting artists, there were many natural parallels between dancers or choreographers and students in the medical professions, something we may want to explore more in future seasons.
Another challenging factor was with the negotiation process for artist contracts. With so many competing priorities going on (fees, schedules, tour limitations, other requests for education or community engagement events), it was difficult to get artists or their managers to focus on the Medical Arts program. Even though our experiences in Year 1 taught us to plan in more time for artist negotiations, the MAP events were still one small part of a very large process.
Logistics and Partner Relations
In retrospect, we realize that we needed to help create more buy-in for the project at the Medical School as a whole, both as a way to promote the project more widely and to integrate it better into the medical training curriculum. At the moment, the program still feels like a satellite project. Moving forward, we plan to convene a group of MAP â€˜ambassadorsâ€™ from each of the medical school classes and the house officers to help promote the project to their peers. We will also explore ways for additional faculty members to become involved in MAP events.
We also need to expand the project so that more learners can participate, an issue that will now be addressed through the grant recently made by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to UMHS.
As mentioned above, the partners have decided that it makes more sense for UMHS to serve as the lead organization for the program, since they are the entity that houses the learners and is conducting the research. UMS will continue to serve as a primary partner with UMHS, with the U-M Museum of Art, the Department of English, and other campus units serving as additional partners.