Part two of the European summer adventures 2016 is the report about the IU Abroad course “Comparative Music Industry” in Graz, Austria. For the second year I organized a two-week course at the KUG Jazzinstitut in Graz, bringing a dozen IU students to Austria to study and compare the support systems for the Arts among continents. On Sunday, July 3, a tired but excited group of students filed into the courtyard behind the Jazzinstitut for the welcome reception hosted by KUG. The director of the University, Elisabeth Freismuth, honored us with a speech and warm greetings and the Jazzinstitut team of Ingrid Windisch and her husband Franz and Bennie Hrdina as well as Institut director Ed Partyka grilled up a storm. Larry Appelbaum, writer, radio host, and senior librarian at the Library of Congress, was our first guest and joined us for the reception. Such a warm and personal welcome sets the tone – the students knew they were in for something very special.
On our first teaching day we set goals and explored artist careers. Guests Larry Appelbaum and KUG faculty Heinrich von Kalnein and Dena DeRose shared their stories and insights and made sure everyone asked at least one question. The journal entries from that day express well the lasting impressions that their stories and advice had. For the next day we welcomed Director of Theater Holdings in Graz, Bernhard Rinner, who manages the Graz Opera House, Theater, and several additional venues. One of our main take-aways was the financial structure. The Austrian governments supports the venue with 50% of the budget, the rest is raised from ticket money. As a result, audiences receive government subsidized tickets which means democratic access to the Arts for everyone and no private sponsorships. Herr Rinner also organized a tour of Dom im Berg – a venue that is built inside the mountain and offered as a rental for promoters. On Wednesday, we got an inside perspective into the Electronic Dance Music scene from Phil Reisinger and Vienna promoter Markus Steinwender. Thursday’s theme was Education in Europe – which to the surprise of most students is mostly free and very high quality!
Ah – then the weekend excursions, everyone’s highlight of the two weeks. Friday we spent in Vienna. After the two hour drive we did a tour of Schloss Schoenbrunn and learned about Austria’s beloved Empress Sissi who spent many hours every day brushing her hair and often skippped family meals in order to keep her slim figure. Then we explored the sights in the center of town including the famous Hotel Sacher before our evening concert at Porgy & Bess. After getting back at 3am we were back on the bus by 7am to head to Salzburg – well nearly all of us. Two had to run after the bus to the first stoplight – very close call! In Salzburg we visited Mozarts Birthplace and the town center before heading to the Styrian Lake Constance. The day ended with an amazing trout meal and boat excursions on the lake. And of course the weekend was capped off with our hiking trip in the South Styria mountains.
The second week started with a comparison of the legal framework and copyright. Our patron Dr. Rainer Beck who helped me get the class off the ground by connecting us to many local experts provided a thorough presentation. With film composer and producer Andreas Fabianek we discussed the issues of losing production quality by switching to low-cost and personal home studios. The afternoon was spent rehearsing for our upcoming concert as our guest guitarist Russ Spiegel arrived from Triest and fellow IU music school alumns Quinn Sternberg and Josh Roberts stopped by during their Europe travels. The combo entertained for the Vocal Total competition that evening in exchange for tickets for the whole class to Thursday’s Beatboxing competition. Russ Spiegel shared his career as an artist on Wednesday morning followed by an overview on the Styrian Cultural Bureau by Christiane Kada. The grant opportunities for artists are amazing and support for the arts is well funded through taxes. Wednesday evening was our class concert and it was a great honor to have faculty member Dena DeRose join us as well as Russ Spiegel. Class members Matt Riggen, Bridget Riley, and Alex Schoppa showcased their talents – go SPEA in Graz! On Thursday Wolfgang Kuehnelt led us through the world of social media and we discovered a variety of new apps for networking and sharing. For our last session, Leonie Hodkevitch visited from Vienna. She leads cultural projects for the European Union and evaluates project proposals. A lively discussion on the role and meaning of the Arts concluded our teaching sessions.
But – the best was yet to come. Our angel, the jazz institut’s administrator Ingrid Windisch, had a special surprise planned. After a gourmet lunch down the street she revealed the Sacher Torte that she had brought from Vienna. Plenty of cream, pastries, and champagne made for an unforgettable Farewell Party. We shared our favorite memories and everyone agreed that our time in Austria was much too short and a life-changing experience. It is hard to describe the deep bonds and memories created in words – maybe the pictures will help convey the message – but we can’t wait until SPEA in Graz 2018!