I’ve thought long and hard about what I wanted my first blog post to be about. Because I’m learning how to market my piano camp business and how social media works (including learning how to blog), it dawned on me that I should share a story about how I worked the system a few months ago. At that time, it was important to stress to a bunch of kids how to turn a negative into a positive.
Students at Summer Sonatina International Piano Camp (www.sonatina.com) 2012 were preparing for their fourth Thursday evening concert at the Bennington Center for the Arts where there is a beautiful Fazioli piano in residence. For the past three weeks, I had sent the local newspaper, the Bennington Banner, a total of three articles: one announcing the opening of our 43rd season and two others about our concerts. When, for the third week in a row, there was not even a mention in the Calendar of Events (which normally includes event name, date, time, ticket fees and location), I got upset for the sake of the piano students, ages 7 – 16 who deserved to be seen and heard. I brainstormed and came up with a plan. It was shocking to me for another reason – Bennington is hurting economically, commercially, and many locals complain that there’s nothing to do in town. I’m convinced that part of that demise has to be from not enough exposure to what’s out there whether in the arts, sports or other opportunities.
The next day, I stood in front of all 40-plus young pianists during their chorus time, eyes wide at attention as they could sense that something was about to happen. I explained to them about the media coverage oversight. I told them that we’re going to turn this around. Yeah, when the world doesn’t come to you, you go to them. I told them that we were going to do something right outside and in front of the newsroom windows. They all looked at me as if I was the crazy lady. I said: “we’re going to have you all do a flash mob scene so that our town won’t forget you again. While I like the idea of trying to do this on the 26 pianos we have here at camp, there simply is no way to transport all the pianos economically or on such short notice. So, we’ll sing!” Next I asked, “who is in?” All hands shot up in excitement. A project was born.
The students had only two days to prepare. The song we chose (thanks to the Summer Sonatina choral conductor, Matt Edwards) was from the Sound of Music: “Do-Re-Mi” which is not only familiar to most but is also a great singalong song. Since we couldn’t rehearse downtown in advance for fear of losing the surprise factor of the flash mob scene, we rehearsed in the backyard, having the students arranged in groups where they’d start their singing in one of the stores downtown. We had them map out how they’d continue singing on the streets of Bennington and congregate outside the local brew pub, Madison’s, where we set up a sound system to pipe out the piano and microphones of the soloists inside.
At the stroke of noon, the day before our fourth concert, we were going to make this all happen. To ensure that the message was being delivered, all the students singing attached mini posters about our concert series on their T-shirts. It was fantastic to see 50 excited students wanting to do something so sensational, secretive, and, yet, not only educational, but, a life lesson in how to turn the negative into something positively over the top.
Enjoy the following video:
It was wonderful seeing the enthusiasm of those who listened to us and joined in on the streets of downtown Bennington. As an aside, the Arts Editor of the Bennington Banner left for another job a few months after this incident. I share this story because, in the end, everyone loved how this all turned around in life-learning ways. And the piece de resistance was all the publicity we received the next day in the local paper as well as many other newspapers. We certainly had made a splash job of our Flash Mob!
Our final Thursday evening concert was flooded with new and intrigued people in the audience. I was thrilled that the piano students learned so much from this event and that they had a great time doing so, too.