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Collective Action for Greater Impact
Armand Hall, Executive and Artistic Director, ROCmusic Collaborative, Rochester, NY
I am a musician, conductor, and educator who strives to bring reason and connection to my community. This focus was emboldened in 2009 when I was invited by Roberto Zambrano to come to Venezuela as a teaching artist with the Archipelago Project. There, I saw how real community engagement and collective effort can produce excellence. In 2018, I was fortunate to apply for a leadership job with the ROCmusic Collaborative in Rochester, NY. What interested me was the opportunity to work inside an atypical structure that could pool resources and work to recreate the communal spirit I witnessed in Venezuela.
When societal problems are addressed by a single organization, all too often those honorable efforts could have been exponentially enhanced by a collective approach. However, with private nonprofits and municipal funding structures competing in the same funding pools, it is difficult to budget, plan, and work for a common cause.
Rochester, New York’s third-largest city, is teeming with arts and cultural institutions, and has a history of philanthropy led by the example of George Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak Company. However, Rochester struggles with the lasting effects of institutionalized segregation, and in a city with stellar music programs, there is a severe lack of access to music instruction for a large portion of the population.
Recognizing this, Dr. Jamal Rossi of the Eastman School of Music used his influence to bring together leaders of major private and municipal institutions to address the issues of access and quality of instrumental education. These entities (Eastman School of Music, Hochstein School of Music, Eastman Community Music School, City of Rochester/Mayor Lovely Warren, Rochester City School District, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Gateways Music Festival) created the ROCmusic Collaborative.
The group leverages its collective organizational resources to provide access to music instruction and performances for every school-age child in Rochester. Working with an MOU, each organization provides financial, in-kind support to accomplish the functions of a traditional organization. The city of Rochester gives access to neighborhood R-Centers for instruction. Our education-focused members provide access to instructors, professional development, training, and curriculum planning. Our performing-focused members provide free or reduced-cost access to performances and other opportunities.
These efforts bring our students direct connections to intentional programming with great arts institutions. The ROCmusic Collaborative is committed to breaking down longstanding barriers and uplifting our community, modeling a different approach to creating equal and equitable access for all.