Core Strategy: Partnerships & Constituency Development
NEC, and by extension, Prep/CE, does not exist in a vacuum. Our relationships with those outside of the institution help to bring context and meaning to our work. By engaging in honest dialogue with our partners, neighbors, and other constituents, we can examine our role in the larger community within an informed and thoughtful context, create new touchpoints on behalf of the institution, and access new constituencies for both NEC and our partner organizations.
- Partnerships. Prep/CE has built several meaningful partnerships over the years with organizations such as Project STEP, Boston Children’s Chorus, the Boston Ballet School, the Handel and Haydn Society, From the Top, and the Conservatory Lab Charter School. As the needs of our students and the field itself continue to evolve, the scope and definition of our partnerships needs to be regularly assessed and tweaked.
In addition to sharing resources and aligning ourselves with other performing arts organizations, our collaborations will expand to include partners with complementary missions. For example, the Boston Children’s Museum has access to new audiences and wonderful performance spaces; however, they do not have a regular roster of artists and performers on staff with which to program those spaces. By forging a relationship with the Museum, we can provide performance opportunities for our students, high-quality programming for museumgoers, create PR vehicles for both institutions, and serve the needs of our shared constituencies—children and families.
In another example, we plan to pursue partnerships with organizations such as the Arsenal Center for the Arts. With on-campus classrooms at a premium, a collaboration with the ACA will give us access to classroom and performance space in a new suburban market; the ACA receives high-quality programming for its constituents, and an association with one of the country’s most highly regarded arts institutions.
Of particular significance is our highly valued, 30-year partnership with the Walnut Hill School. WHS instrumentalists currently have the majority of their curricular needs met through NEC Prep programs, and in turn, the high quality of WHS students consistently elevates the performance level of our overall student body. While both institutions already enjoy a “win-win” relationship, there is still a great deal of potential for growth and further program integration. Increased interaction with the college faculty—from choral conductors to liberal arts professors—adding jazz and contemporary improvisation studies to the curriculum, and creating community engagement opportunities for WHS students in the Metrowest area of Boston are just a few examples of possible growth areas.
In addition, one of the main partnership areas that have yet to be fully explored is the use of physical space. Since Walnut Hill music students spend the entire day on the NEC campus, the WHS campus then becomes available for selected programming. This will help WHS raise its profile in the local community by offering access to high-quality programming to its neighbors, and will provide much-needed space for new and alternative Prep programming. The school also provides the opportunity to explore innovative summer programs, perhaps in collaboration with other partner institutions, that are better served away from our urban campus.
- Community Engagement. By definition, a relevant institution is one that does not exist in a vacuum, but plays an active role in cultivating meaningful dialogue with those who live outside of its walls. Ensuring that our students will enter a world that recognizes their relevance as musicians requires us to foster relationships with our larger community, and to demonstrate the multitude of ways in which musicians impact the world around them.
Authentic community engagement does not occur by relegating community initiatives to one department. A truly engaged institution can be identified by the level of investment throughout its component parts—the spirit and principles of engagement inform the organization’s activities on a day-to-day basis. By identifying Prep/CE’s place along the broad spectrum of community engagement activities at NEC, we will continue to bring Prep/CE’s unique resources out to the community, and not just expect our audiences to come to us. Embracing our responsibility as a neighbor, community resource, and organizational partner will help NEC to continue positioning itself as an organization with a broad vision and investment in various communities—musical, geographical, and philanthropic.
- Prep parents. Our students’ parents represent the Prep School’s largest body of supporters and constituents. We view them, along with their teachers, as partners in their children’s musical education. Working with them to create a greater sense of community—through parents’ committees, forums, and focus groups—will provide us with an invaluable opportunity to gain perspective on what today’s families want and need from their educational institutions, and help shape our efforts in strategizing Prep’s growth and development. Also, meaningful parent engagement creates touchpoints for institutional Board development, philanthropy, and resource sharing.