Susan Weiler is the Associate Director/Director of Marketing at World Music/CRASHarts, where she has worked for almost 23 years. She studied at St. Lawrence University, and after a few years as a concierge at the Four Season Hotel Boston and a year traveling around Asia, she joined World Music/CRASHarts.
1. Tell us a little bit about World Music/CRASHarts. What is the main mission of your organization? Who is your audience? What is the history of the organization? How did it come about?
World Music was started as a nonprofit organization in 1990 and has been presenting concerts for 25 years now. We have been celebrating our 25th anniversary through a series of events this past year. Our executive director, Maure Aronson, born and raised in South Africa, developed this vision for World Music because he missed the great global music he grew up listening to. There were these great artists performing all over the world, but the artists were not coming to Boston. Since our founding, our concerts have become a place where people come together and celebrate artistic expressions from all over the world.
Though we started as an organization that advocated and provided a platform for world musicians, it became clear, by our 10th anniversary, that we did more than just present world music. So we launched CRASHarts in 2001, as a division of World Music, dedicated to contemporary performing artists. In 2002, the organization changed its name to World Music/CRASHarts to better reflect its synthesis into a multi-disciplinary performing arts organization, presenting an eclectic mix of global, folk, jazz, and indie music along with contemporary and world dance in a series of concerts, events, and educational programs in greater Boston. For 25 years, World Music/CRASHarts has answered a need for cultural programming in greater Boston that reflects today's global community.
Our mission is to present the finest traditional and contemporary performing arts from around the world to the broadest possible audience, and to engage individuals in their community and civic life through related artist based educational programs. World Music/CRASHarts strives to offer audiences an opportunity to share in many different artistic performances and seeks to foster an atmosphere of cultural discovery. We embrace the performing arts as a basic form of communication and an essential part of the expression of one’s humanity and full participation in society. It is our vision for World Music/CRASHarts to bring the transformative power of the arts to a truly diverse audience. We strongly believe that the artistic experience is enriched when it gives people of all cultures the opportunity to have an effect on one another through the freedom of self-expression and the exchange of ideas.
Our concert series has become a sort of second home for some artists who have been coming for 25 years, but we are also committed to introducing new artists. In fact, every season 10-15% of the artists in our concert series are making their Boston debut.
Our audiences are really diverse, just like the artists we present! We have a core audience that is really adventurous, like cultural omnivores. They are really interested in the world and are interested in exploring and experiencing new things, and they've come to trust us as the place to go to feed their cultural curiosity. This entity makes up about 20% of our audience. The rest of our audience is interested in a particular art form, a specific artist, or the culture being represented. Often they share a cultural heritage with the artist or have traveled to the country from which the artist came.
2. Who supports World Music/CRASHarts? Who are your “patrons”?
We receive government funding from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. We have regional funders such as the New England Foundation for the Arts and national foundations such as the Barr Foundation, Karlman Family Foundation, and others. Our 1200 individual members represent a large majority of our support, however. Individual membership support can range from a simple $60 membership fee on a yearly basis to sponsoring an entire event. We are committed to keeping our ticket prices low and our concerts accessible to people. In an attempt to make our concerts and events affordable, ticket sales alone do not cover all of our costs, thus we have to make up for it by fundraising. We are very fortunate to have many generous members who make up the difference for us.
3. What kinds of events do you host? Tell us about the kind of presence your organization has in the Greater Boston area.
In addition to the more conventional concerts that we present, we host educational programs as well. We just presented Compagnie Hervé Koubi, a French-Algerian choreographer who uses a lot of break dancing and other street dance forms. In addition to his company’s performances, he led two workshops, one in Cambridge and the other in Dorchester. One of the workshops is for inner city youth and the other one is designed for adult dancers. Our artists often conduct workshops or master classes, lectures or post-concert discussions.
4. What is your role at this organization? What are challenges you have overcome in your work?
I am the Associate Director and Director of Marketing of the organization. My main role is to publicize the work we are doing, the artists we are presenting, and the role we play in our community.
One of the challenges that we constantly face is finding performance space. We, as an organization, do not own a venue, and are constantly looking for more stages. We try very hard to put the right artist in the correct venue, that will fit the audience and the art form. This can be pretty difficult. We present about 70 concerts a year and would probably host more if we had access to more space.
5. Tell us about your upcoming events. How can young people get involved with your organization?
First, come to concerts. We still have a huge mix of performances coming up this season, including Red Baraat’s Festival of Colors on March 24 at The Sinclair, Zakir Hussain & Masters of Percussion on March 27 at Sanders Theatre, South Africa’s Johnny Clegg Band on April 2 at Somerville Theatre, Brad Mehldau Trio on April 15 at Berklee Performance Center, Brazilian street dance company Companhia Urbana de Dança on April 15 and 16 at The ICA/Boston, Mali’s Songhoy Blues on April 16 at Brighton Music Hall, Israeli indie artist Asaf Avidan on April 17 at The ICA/Boston, Acoustic Africa featuring Habib Koité and Vusi Mahlasela on April 17 at Somerville Theatre, and lots more! Check out www.worldmusic.org for a full listing of upcoming concerts and events.
World Music/CRASHarts also presents CRASHers events for culturally adventurous greater Bostonians, suggested for ages 21-40, who share an appreciation for music and dance from around the globe. Events include private concerts, invite-only parties, one-night-only classes, dance lessons, and other events. These are great opportunities, often before or after concerts, to meet like-minded people who are interested in global culture. For example, at our Yamato concert, a Japanese drumming group, we hosted a preconcert brunch that took place in a private room in the theater. People gathered before the concert, had Mimosas, Bloody Marys, brunch bites, mingled, and had some fun before the concert. We also offer a CRASHers membership, which provides one free ticket a year, exclusive discounts, as well as more invitations to events like the Yamato brunch. The membership is an entry point for the under-40 audience members to get more involved with us. For more information, visit http://worldmusic.org/crashers.
In January, we presented a big indoor music festival called CRASHfest, which featured three stages, 10 bands, global street food and international cocktails at the House of Blues. This will become an annual event and is a really great way to discover different artists.
To get more involved in the inner-workings of our organization, we have office volunteers who help with database work and mailings. Volunteers can also usher at events. We also offer internships in development and marketing and in order to get involved that way, you may sign-up on our website (http://worldmusic.org/content/jobs-and-internships) or email [email protected].
Interview Conducted by Dahlia Rawji
Wellesley College Class of 2016
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