“Nobody cares what your mission is.”

That’s the advice from a non profit consultant to board leaders. “What donors care about is the impact you have–how has your work/organization changed lives?”

In some ways, Presenting… is an extension of what the Artistic Director did as a teacher. Only, Presenting…’s live performance format with host moderator presents on a grander scale and with greater resources. How has/will Presenting… impact(ed) lives? That’s a fair question. The truth is that we often don’t know the impact of our work. It can be challenging to know if what we choose to measure is really meaningful, and to whom. When applying for grants, donors often ask, “ how will you measure impact–how will you know if your mission is successful?”

To those questions, Afro-Latina conductor Kalena Bovil shares that a teacher at an elementary school where she conducted, informed her that a student would stand up and mimic her conducting motions. Would you measure impact by whether or not the student became a conductor or whether the student’s chosen career enabled them to become a major donor to a local orchestra? Does the young student’s expression of enjoyment and connection to the music/conducting count as meaningful impact?

A few weeks ago, I came across a young man who was a student in a class I led in the late 90s, as orchestra conductor/faculty at Washington Prep High School–a magnet school in South LA. The student was not a music major and was not in the music magnet courses but he took an early morning class, playing double bass. Over 20 years later, he informs me that he earned a degree in Ethnomusicology from UCLA and is working on a second Masters Degree. He went on to play music with the likes of famed saxophonist and ensemble leader Kamasi Washington’s group, he tells me.

Does that count as impact? I think so. How many other students were inspired to achieve in music or in other areas, based on the confidence they gained learning about music, learning to play instruments, or just enjoying the creative expression? How do you measure/assess such impact? .  

While we are grateful that state and national humanities organizations invest their funds in our project, with such votes of confidence, we are also humbled by the realization that we still need additional individual donations to help fund the planned February live event. And here is where Empowerment enters. Presenting… empowers you to be part of making this an impactful experience for a range of audience members in greater LA.

Imagine the impact of hearing/seeing excellent performers who are as diverse as those in the audience, reflecting LA’s demographics while hearing music compositions by brilliant African Diaspora composers. Then imagine the pairing of that music with discussions and demonstrations by a luthier (a craftsperson who makes string instruments), or pairing the live performance of the music we hear with dancers who interpret it with their bodies. What exactly does an Ethnomusicologist do, anyway? Why is it important to what we’ll hear? What visual art inspired the string quartets we’ll hear? Can you smell/taste the food that would have been popular in the 30s when Florence Price lived and composed? These pairing of disciplines give context to the people who composed the music we’ll hear, as well as the times in which they live/d–as whole persons. 

Please consider making a monthly donation in an amount that fits your capacity. Please tell us what impact you expect/wish from Presenting…’s events. Reply to this email with your comments.

Enthusiastically with respect,

Michael Ligon

Executive/Artistic Director

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