NTA for Arts: Heartpower Performances Program

  • Housed within the San Diego State University Research Foundation
  • 300-400 events annually

A classical clarinetist, educator and executive director, Marian Liebowitz, DMA, is on a mission to bring emerging musicians to audiences worldwide.

Liebowitz founded and heads the San Diego State University Adams’ Project Performers Network, a booking agency for emerging musicians she created over 20 years ago. Then in 2009 she created the Heartpower Performances program in order to bring concerts and music classes to venues serving at-risk populations, such as homeless shelters, juvenile justice centers and Alzheimer’s care facilities. The Adams’ Project Performance Network and its programs are under the fiscal sponsorship of San Diego State University Research Foundation (SDSURF), where Liebowitz serves on the faculty.

When she learned about the NTEN Nonprofit Tech Academy (NTA), Liebowitz hoped to gain an overview of the current role of technology — both to better prepare her students for careers as arts administrators and professional musicians and to more efficiently market and manage her own organization and its programs.

Although Liebowitz uses technology everyday in her multiple roles, she says she’s had a “longstanding fear of anything technological, that fear that if you touch the wrong button you’ll lose everything.”

When Liebowitz first founded the Adams’ Project Performance Network over 20 years ago, the program booked about 20 events each year. Now it schedules between 300 and 400 annually, in California and beyond. Keeping track of event dates, venues and performers as well as continually engaging new audiences are ongoing, and high, priorities.

Liebowitz found the NTA session on social media one of the most relevant, specifically material about how to identify different constituencies and choose the best channels and tools for communicating with them. She learned that she could keep the Adams’ Project and Heartpower program websites fresh and current by integrating social media feeds, particularly from Facebook. Prior to the NTA, “I didn’t know that was possible,” she said.

Although it’s difficult to quantify the impact of adding the feed, she knows it has had an effect. “We can’t say how many more people are attending concerts or how many more jobs we’re getting into the program as a result, but I do know–judging by the increasing number of Likes and seeing people at events who said they learned about it through Facebook–that it’s helping us create more of a following,” Liebowitz said.

And although the Adams’ Project doesn’t actively fundraise since it is under fiscal receivership, it does receive donations and grants. “When we get funding, we want to celebrate it, and Facebook seems to be the social media venue where the most people I know interact; almost all of our students are on it and many of our supporters, too,” Liebowitz said.

As a result of the NTA, Liebowitz is looking more deliberately into other cloud-based resources. The Adams’ Project uses a Google calendar to display upcoming concert dates and Google Docs to manage the booking process, but Liebowitz plans to follow up on information and resources provided during the NTA to select additional tools. She hopes to create a master calendar and have the ability to generate reminders to individual performers and ensemble members about their upcoming events. Otherwise, “it’s just massive to try to coordinate it all,” she said.

The NTA also led Liebowitz to revise the syllabus for a course that helps music students hone critical skills in community outreach and nonprofit management, Marketing in the 21st Century. With permission from NTEN, she added material from the Academy to the curriculum, including content about social media and defining–and differentiating among–an organization’s community, network and crowd.

In another course, a community outreach practicum that teaches student performers how to create compelling programming for at-risk audiences, Liebowitz restructured class assignments to include the option to develop a website or act as social media brand ambassador for Adams’ Project and Heartpower performances. Several students have since built websites for their ensembles, which have led to an increase in their followings and to some additional performances.

For Liebowitz, the greatest impact of the NTA has been on her comfort level with technology. “For me, it’s about relieving some of that fear, about how to approach technology and proceed without feeling like I have to get someone to help me. Now I’m much more brave about working through things on my own, and I’m much more confident taking information about technology into my classes.”

She expects the impact to continue as she sifts through many of the resources she bookmarked during the Academy. “I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible.”

[This case study is part of a series documenting the challenges and successes of arts-related organizations learning to apply technology to achieving their mission. The Nonprofit Tech Academy is a 9-week course hosted by NTEN. This case study and this organization’s participation in the NTA were generously supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.]

Kim Roth