(L to R): Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds, Orpheus Choir Artistic Director Robert Cooper, Orpheus Choir Managing Director Lisa Griffiths, and co-producer Laura Adlers, after the Canadian premiere of Ēriks’ “Nordic Light” multimedia symphony on Feb 24, 2018. Photo: Jennifer Rowsom
I love writing about the “stuff you don’t think about” when it comes to life as a musician, but in this ongoing series, I wanted to investigate something a little different: those who aren’t classical musicians, but studied it enough to reap the benefits in other aspects of lives. One reason I chose this topic is very basic: “studying classical music is good for you” and while that’s a given, I wanted to personalize why. The other reason was to sort out my own personal experience with studying music to a certain level, which sometimes conflicted with my knowledge I didn’t want to be a performer. I didn’t realize the advantages until much later.
In this ongoing series, posted every week or so, I’ll be speaking with doctors, lawyers, marketing professionals, accountants, actors, arts administrators, and people in all kinds of fields who studied classical music and are thankful they did. I’ll keep this going until I run out of participants. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. Today we’re chatting with Laura Adlers, Arts Manager and Producer.
Please summarize your current career, and your duties.
I am an arts manager and producer based in Gatineau, Quebec, currently working with clients in Ottawa-Gatineau, Montreal, Toronto and Latvia. I produce special projects and events, primarily classical and choral recordings, concerts and tours through my company The Adlers Agency. As an arts manager, I work with clients in the cultural sector, government, and academia on all aspects of culture management, from fundraising to marketing to program development. I am also the editor of a blog for the Master of International Arts Management program at HEC Montréal.
What instrument(s) did you study, and at what stage in your life?
I took piano lessons until I was 11 and played clarinet in the high school band. I have been singing in choirs since I was eight, mostly with Latvian choirs at the heritage school I attended, and later in adult mixed choirs. I have been singing my whole life, and choral singing has given me the bulk of my musical training.
Were music lessons intended as a hobby or did you have a performing career in mind?
Piano lessons were definitely a hobby. They gave me a solid foundation in music, but I would freeze at our end-of-year piano recitals; always a source of great anxiety. I found my confidence and comfort zone singing in a choir, as part of a group with other people who loved to sing. Singing in a choir is not just about the music; the choir becomes your tribe, your community, and an integral part of your life.
Was quitting your music lessons a welcome relief or a complete heart-wrenching moment of reckoning?
Quitting piano lessons was a relief at the time, it was like a huge weight was lifted off of me. Having said that, I do feel regret now that I can’t just sit down at a piano and play a Chopin Etude, even at an amateur level. I often think about taking lessons again to conquer that childhood anxiety!
How did your classical music studies (and music theory, if you studied that too) impact your ability to do your job today?
The world of music really opened up for me around age 15, when I attended a music camp in Mount Orford, Quebec. I sang in the chamber choir, one of the best singing experiences of my life. We sang very challenging repertoire and learned so much during that week. There was such a good energy. I also got to hear lectures and concerts by emerging artists and world-class composers and classical musicians. It was a magical experience. I also paid a lot of attention to what was happening behind the scenes, what the administrator was doing, and that was when I took an interest in culture management. Three years later, at age 18, I produced my first concert in Toronto.
For those who ask, “how do you be a manager in the arts?” tell us more about your job description.
To be a arts culture manager you have to understand the nuances of the artists’ craft and their personalities, how best to work with them, to anticipate their needs. It takes empathy and often a lot of patience and finding the balance between working with and understanding the artist and making sure you are managing the business side of things efficiently. It is always a dance, but if there is mutual respect, trust, and integrity between you and the artist, you have the perfect partnership. I am always observing, learning, and taking on new challenges. Arts managers and artists are entrepreneurial by nature. We are risk-takers and dream big. We are unconventional and passionate about our work. My background in music definitely planted the seed for what would become a career in the arts.
Is classical or music in general (playing, listening, attending concerts, getting your kids to practise) a part of your life today? If not, do you think you’ll return to it?
I am looking for a choir in the Ottawa-Gatineau region to join! I am still very active with choirs and a strong advocate of the importance of choral singing to spiritual and physical health and well-being. I encourage all parents to get their children involved in their community children’s choirs. It teaches self-discipline, memory skills, they learn to sing in different languages, their confidence flourishes, and they are surrounded by kids who have mutual interests. There are only pluses. And these benefits flow over into adulthood. About 1 in 4 Canadian children and 3.5 million Canadian adults sing in choirs – the largest group of amateur musicians in the country! My roots are Latvian, where everyone is born singing, as we say, but Canada is also a singing nation! Join a choir!
What are you looking forward to?
The XV Latvian Festival of Song and Dance in Canada will take place in Toronto in 2019, from July 4-7, where choirs and dance groups from around the world will perform at venues in downtown Toronto. To find out more, click here.
Want to share your experience how studying classical music shaped your life and career?