Attract and retain the best College and Preparatory/Continuing Education faculty
It is generally agreed and supported by admissions officers that music students choose the schools they will attend based primarily on the teacher(s) with whom they will study, as long as the financial aid package is adequate. Over the past decade, the quality of students applying and matriculating to the NEC College has dramatically improved — particularly in strings — due to the hiring of key faculty members who brought with them a reputation for distinguished performance and teaching excellence. NEC’s future growth and success will be contingent on maintaining this high level of faculty in the studios and ensembles (classical performance and composition, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation) and the classrooms (liberal arts, history, and theory classrooms).
In the Preparatory School and School of Continuing Education, the faculty also has a longstanding reputation of excellence within the region. However, retention could prove an issue, because compensation levels are generally considered below standard. Further research will be done to document this assumption and propose action.
In both the Preparatory School and School of Continuing Education and the College, NEC will:
- Identify those areas where faculty needs enhancement and search out those key artist/teachers who will become magnets for students;
- Plan for succession, identifying young or mid-career musicians of artistic distinction who can be hired and groomed to replace the great master/teachers as they retire;
- Gather appropriate comparative data on faculty compensation;
- Continue to commit to an equity pool to insure that NEC’s faculty compensation rates meet or exceed industry standards;
- Establish a competitive benefits and retirement program.
Improve and elevate certain College departments
Under Tony Woodcock’s leadership, NEC began a program to enhance its orchestral studies program during fall 2008. The internationally renowned conductor Hugh Wolff was engaged to direct the development of that program and to create a new orchestral conducting program, with the goal of preparing NEC students to take their places in the world’s best orchestras.
The opera and voice departments were identified as the next areas of concentration for program development. To increase NEC’s stature, the Conservatory may need to engage additional faculty to build these areas. We will also need to increase the opportunities for young singers to perform in appropriate recital, workshop, and opera presentations. During the 2008/2009 academic year, the Dean of the College will be working with Management Consultants for the Arts — retained because of their excellent work on this Strategic Plan and credibility with faculty — to produce a full Plan for the programs and to examine investment opportunities. Their recommendations will be presented in early 2009.
After opera and voice, NEC will focus on other departments, such as woodwinds and brass, as the next areas for particular development. In the case of woodwinds and brass, NEC has a tradition of hiring faculty predominantly from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and this practice is likely to continue. We will need to nurture and deepen those faculty relationships. We will also continue to review departments as faculty openings occur, to assure continuing excellence in teaching.
Additionally, the graduate curriculum is scheduled for review and improvement. Just as the undergraduate curriculum was assessed and developed in the previous Strategic Plan, so the Master of Music program will be a priority of this Plan.
Establish a Professional Development Training program
Comprehensive Professional Development Training (referred to in earlier discussions as “Musical Entrepreneurship”) is an ambitious concept for NEC College faculty and students that will build successfully on NEC’s career services efforts. In his Inaugural Address, President Tony Woodcock raised the issue of how best to prepare music students for the “Darwinian” professional world, and then envisioned a possible solution in the draft vision statement of this Plan. The idea of expanded Professional Development Training has since been received with openness, curiosity, and, in many cases, with great enthusiasm. A high-quality program that permeates the education of NEC students, that is also available for faculty, and that involves alumni, could be a flagship program for NEC. Research and development for the program is underway with WolfBrown, the widely admired consultants for arts and educational organizations, who will present their recommendations in early 2009.
Among musical and non-musical skills and knowledge that students might acquire in such a program are: communication, leadership, building music enterprises, creative program design, marketing and promotion, fundraising, pedagogy and music education, finance and taxes, governance, and the use of technology.
Expand the Preparatory and Continuing Education programs
There is clear potential for growth in both the Preparatory and Continuing Education schools. Prep growth is limited by the lack of space on NEC’s campus. Continuing Education growth potential is obvious, with lifelong learning a burgeoning industry trend nationally. The growth of these schools would serve NEC not only to expand the institution’s community reach and impact, but as a means to generate more revenue. The latter objective is equally important and a high priority for the first few years of this Plan.
The space issue for the Preparatory School (and eventually School of Continuing Education) could be partially or incrementally resolved by renting space at other institutions. Such rentals could be the satellite campuses outlined in the vision statement.
Enhance community engagement and strategic partnerships
1. Community Performances and Partnerships
Increase the offerings of NEC’s Community Performances and Partnerships program, which are now constrained by lack of manpower. The programs not only benefit children and adults in the Boston community, but also offer our students special training and experience in performing for, teaching, and speaking to many kinds of audiences.
2. El Sistema
Spearhead the development of music education programs based on the Venezuela model through El Sistema/Boston and El Sistema/USA.
Venezuela’s El Sistema is a stunningly successful program of social development through music education and youth orchestras that now enrolls over 300,000 children and young people. NEC has a decade-long relationship with El Sistema and its founder Dr. José Antonio Abreu that involves exchanges, masterclasses, joint creation of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, and a formal Friendship Agreement facilitated by Mark Churchill, Artistic Director and Dean of Preparatory and Continuing Education.
As the fame of El Sistema has spread internationally, efforts to replicate the program have been initiated in Europe, Africa, and other parts of Latin America. After President Tony Woodcock brought a delegation of Boston educators, government officials, and donors to Venezuela in June 2008, Dr. Abreu anointed and challenged NEC to lead the creation of an El Sistema movement in the United States. Scheduled to launch in 2009, NEC’s Plan will capitalize on the strengths of Venezuela’s program, developing and modifying that model to the needs of communities in the U.S. El Sistema/USA will become a national center to provide leadership and resources. El Sistema/Boston will consist of prototype nucleos (after-school music centers) developed with three other major Boston partners. A prominent component of the project will be teacher training of “Abreu Scholars,” who receive experiential training in Venezuela and then bring this knowledge to Boston and the U.S.
3. Other Partnerships
Exploit existing partnerships and search out new ones that create synergy with NEC’s mission. In process already are efforts to strength relationships NEC already has with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Boston Lyric Opera, Conservatory Lab Charter School, and From the Top. New initiatives have begun with Opera Boston, Celebrity Series of Boston, A Far Cry, Community Music Center of Boston, and Boston Arts Academy (the latter two as part of El Sistema/Boston collaboration). Additional opportunities include: Project STEP, Boston Early Music Festival, and Boston Philharmonic.
Raise NEC’s profile and reach through touring large and small ensembles
Taking some of our best ensembles to perform in the New England region or in high-profile national and international venues broadens the student experience, enlarges NEC’s visibility, and aids in recruitment. It will also capitalize on program excellence in chamber music, orchestra, opera, jazz, and Contemporary Improvisation. The Conservatory will be looking to take ensembles to New York (as we will do for the Jazz 40th Anniversary), the West Coast, and Asia. Funding could be accomplished through donor underwriting or by enlisting concert series or other entities to present the groups.
Expand marketing and public relations institutional support
It is the general perception that NEC is under-recognized locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. This is the result of historical underinvestment in marketing and promotional support for the institution. In summer 2008, NEC launched a comprehensive discovery process leading to a rebranding and Web redesign effort executed with the help of Arnold Worldwide, one of the nation’s top five branding consultancies. This project should be rolled out in 2009. While the rebranding work will provide a new creative and interactive platform from which to work, our success in realizing our strategic vision will require ongoing investment in the requisite marketing and public relations tools and personnel.
Specific marketing priorities within the Plan’s scope will include:
- Increase visibility to elevate our position within the competitive category, locally, nationally, and internationally;
- Activate new media relations tactics to gain higher share of mind among our key constituencies;
- Meet student acquisition goals for the College, Preparatory, Continuing Education, and Summer Schools;
- Fill Jordan Hall for NEC’s concerts;
- Demonstrate our philanthropic worthiness to support our fundraising efforts.