Alonso del Arte shares his views on why “Detroit needs string quartet concerts.” Alonso is a resident of Detroit, Michigan, a graduate of Wayne State University and a fellow knotmove.com writer.
How long have you lived in Detroit and what is your musical background?
I’ve lived in Detroit a little over 20 years now. I’ve somewhat taught myself piano and I’ve had some music classes.
Why is this issue important to you?
There is so much culture here in Detroit and yet it is practically unknown. For example, it wasn’t until about a month ago that I knew there is a gallery within walking distance of my house.
Why is this an important issue for Detroiters?
It’s about perception. Too many people, even here in Michigan, when they hear “Detroit” they think “crime.” And when the topic is narrowed down to music, Detroit is only about Motown and hip-hop. But that’s not the case. The perception needs to be changed to something closer to reality.
How would the city benefit from this becoming a reality?
It would help in the process of turning around the perception of the city, to build into the momentum of an increasing awareness of the culture that is already here. Right now, people think they need to go to New York or Chicago, or at least some distant suburb, to hear chamber music.
If someone wants to voice their opinion on the matter who should they contact?
They can contact me, either through IMSLP or Kickstarter.
Alonso sits down and gives the following interview concerning his latest project;
My latest project is “Detroit needs string quartet concerts,” Alonso del Arte.
Why does Detroit need string quartet concerts?
The ultimate symbol of status and culture for a big city is the public string quartet concert, with free admission. It doesn’t matter if a big city has a world-class orchestra (and some would argue Detroit does not, after the strike, but that’s a different issue). The public string quartet concert shows that a city has a culture and that that culture is appreciated.
In 2007 and 2008, there were 12 public string quartet concerts in the city of Detroit and I was responsible for 10 of them. Then, in April 2009, it suddenly became very difficult and I was exposed to the harsh reality of how extremely difficult arts funding is. I guess prior to that, I was lucky and didn’t really appreciate it. I put on just two string quartet concerts in 2009 and none in 2010 and so far none this year.
And I am aware about private string quartet concerts, but even those tend to take place in the suburbs rather than the city.
Why is money so crucial for concerts?
Because it’s very expensive and difficult to be a musician, and any time you deal with more than one musician, you’re dealing with extremely conflicting schedules. A musician with a quality instrument has to deal with ongoing costs to maintain that instrument, and, Heaven forbid, repair costs. Plus all the basic living expenses we all have to deal with regardless of our profession.
Musicians not only perform in concerts, they also teach classes at universities, give private lessons, record background music for video productions, plus hold down jobs that have little or nothing to do with music. There is little incentive to shuffle a schedule to make time for rehearsals when the gig won’t even help you pay any bills.
How much is needed to put on a string quartet concert?
At least $1,000, preferably $2,000. There is no way you can do it for $300. It was suggested to me, I tried it last month and let’s just say no string quartet concert took place. It’s possible for $800, I’ve done it in the past, but it’s a very shaky and bumpy ride. At $1,600 you can breathe a little easier, stop worrying about the money and concentrate on the music.
I notice that on Kickstarter that you’ve set a goal of just $10, way less than what you say is needed.
It’s unrealistic to expect to get even a tenth of the money you need through Kickstarter. You have to get about 95% of your funding from other sources, like corporate sponsors. But Kickstarter might enable me to obtain corporate sponsors: if I can get about two hundred people to pledge just exactly $1 each, that tells potential corporate sponsors that there is a public support for this, that it’s not just me dreaming these dreams. The URL for the Kickstarter project is http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/757108492/a-string-quartet-concert-for-inner-city-detroit
Will there be American composers on this concert you’re trying to put together?
Not just Americans, but Detroiters. Past concerts I’ve put on have included the music of Detroit composers Keith Buckner, Anthony Lai and Monica Caldare, plus my music, too. But it’s important to present these in the context of famous composers like Mozart, Michael Haydn, Bruckner, etc. This concert I want to put on not just my own Quartet in A-flat, but also at least one other Detroit composer.
Does Kickstarter accept PayPal?
No, it does not. It is a huge limitation. However, $1 of each copy of my eBook The 20 Crucial Compositions of Anton Bruckner purchased directly from SmashWords.com goes towards this concert. The URL is http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/86856 The eBook will also be available through Sony, Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc., but I don’t know what the percentage from those sales will be nor when I will receive that money.
What about the Tiger Stadium Postcard CD, available from City Bird, Marwil and Dearborn Music?
I can’t use that money. Half goes to the musicians who played (past tense) in that concert, and half goes to the store. Besides, now that it’s been two years since Tiger Stadium was knocked down, sales of that album have really slowed down. It would be a huge favor to me if someone would buy off all the copies I still have in a box so I can give those musicians that money and try to put the tragedy of Tiger Stadium behind me.
What about doing a fundraising concert?
Like I said, musicians have extremely conflicting schedules, plus that gig would practically have to be for free. If someone were nice enough to give me a venue for such a concert, it would probably have to be just me with my ukulele.
What is the target date and location for this concert?
Sometime in February 2012, Midtown or nearby. Of course I’ll have to have a snow date.