Nigh onto ten years ago I was one of about twenty-ish people who crowded into a conference room in the basement of Symphony Center to participate in an unfocused talk about contemporary music in Chicago and how we could perhaps work together to, well we weren’t sure about that yet, but perhaps we could work together in some way that would be beneficial to all.
The people in the room had different backgrounds and wildly different aesthetics and, while there were no raised voices there were certainly some rolled eyeballs, and not everyone in the room that first time came to another meeting but nonetheless we had started a conversation that I feel strongly needed to be started.
Even then the ivory tower mindset was beginning to crack. The idea that you could and should pursue your artistic ideas while reviling the ideas of those different from yours, align yourself in a camp and wage war against opposing camps and especially, the idea that this was all somehow of the utmost importance, well, that idea was looking silly even then.
Ten years later that old mindset, while still prevalent in some university circles, is all but gone. New Music Chicago did many noteworthy things over the years: a festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art, several joint presentations, an events calendar, etc. But the best thing NMC did was start this conversation at a crucial time and the Chicago contemporary music scene is vastly better off for it.
To a certain extent NMC has done its job so well that younger ensembles are not even sure why they should join. Of course they work together with their peers as a matter of course. But I can testify that it wasn’t always so. Happy tenth birthday NMC.