A newly-launched website coming out of the Eastman School of Music will give students going into music-related careers an entirely new way to connect with one another and discuss the realities of a musician’s life after graduation.
The project is called Polyphonic On Campus, and it is a part of the Institute for Music Leadership at the Eastman School of Music. The website is a part of www.Polyphonic.org, an online forum for orchestral musicians also created at Eastman.
According to the Director of the Institute for Music Leadership Ramon Ricker, although Polyphonic On Campus was just launched on Monday, Nov. 1, the idea for the website was discussed even as Polyphonic.org was starting up four years ago.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the new site is the “vlogs,” or video blogs. Every two weeks, 12 bloggers will post a short video on the site about their experiences entering into a music-related career.
“I remember buying a book while in high school titled something like ‘Career Opportunities in the Music Business’,” Polyphonic On Campus Editor Steve Danyew said. “It was somewhat useful, but it wasn’t written by people who were actually pursuing those opportunities at that very time. It was inherently out of date and out of touch. With daily video blogs from young people around the country, it is as current and real as you can possibly get.”
According to Ricker, finding people from a variety of locations and with a wide range of interests was critical in selecting the bloggers. While Polyphonic.org focuses mainly on orchestral music, the bloggers that were chosen come from instrumental, conducting, vocal and composing backgrounds in order to make the website relevant to as many emerging music students as possible.
For Kathryn Ernst, the only one of the bloggers who is still an undergraduate, the blog is an opportunity for her to discuss the important career decisions she is currently making, such as whether or not to go to graduate school and what city to move to.
“A lot of people feel like they don’t know what the next step will be after they graduate,” she said. “To have these people to be models or examples … or even just sounding boards for the problems that you face as a musician — I think it will have a big impact on people who want to see what really happens [in the music industry],” she said.
Ernst also emphasized that the site is not just an opportunity for her to share advice with viewers, but for the opposite to occur as well — she’s even hoping to receive some helpful hints for herself through comments students can leave on the website.
According to Ricker, the name of the website reflects the spirit of this sharing of ideas and assistance.
“Polyphonic is a musical term,” he said. “It means music that has more than one voice. We thought it was appropriate when we were getting the website… because we’re going to have more than one voice on the website.”
Beyond the vlogs, the website also has an archive of articles pertinent to students, covering topics such as composing for youth orchestras, webcasting and the growth of professional responsibilities of conductors. Readers can also comment on articles, or even submit their own articles for review.
Additionally, Polyphonic.org is facilitating community service through a new portion of the site called “Your Two Cents for the Future of Music.” On it, visitors can vote for one of four community service initiatives to receive $1,000 from Polyphonic, with topics ranging from improving cultural diversity in classical music to loaning instruments to at-risk or disadvantaged youths.
Ricker said that creating the website did come at substantial costs to the Eastman School of Music. However, Ricker emphasized that the program has the full support of the Dean of the College and that he expects community contributions to help keep the website up and running.
“It’s the kind of thing that seems to get potential donors interested because it’s us being proactive,” he said.
Polyphonic On Campus is relying heavily on social media as an advertising tool — the site already has accounts on Twitter and Facebook.
“As [users] find compelling things on the site, I hope they will pass them along to their friends,” Danyew said. “And in that way, we will be creating a community around this new site.”
According to Ricker, even though Polyphonic On Campus is up and running, the book is far from closed when it comes to making changes to the website. He emphasized that they plan to use statistics gathered from the website to continuously evaluate and make changes to it.
“I can’t really predict what it will become, but I know it will be different,” Ricker said. “We’re building the bridge as we walk on it.”
Fleming is a member of the class of 2013.