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YAMSessions 2018

When I was invited by the international youth music organization Jeunesses Musicales International to give a presentation on impact assessment at their annual YAMSession conference, I was delighted to find that besides the producers, presenters and educators I expected to find there, the conference also included performers and, most importantly, children, who were brought in from schools in the region to enjoy the live show cases. Seeing the six and seven-year-olds engage with the performances that peppered the program certainly served as a potent reminder of what this work is all about, but the session format that I found most exciting actually took place without the expressive participation of young audience members.

At the “Producers Forum” on the first day of the conference, a brave local musical duo performed their show as they currently share it with student audiences in schools. After the performers had left the stage, the producers, educators, and other musicians in the auditorium discussed the performance and how it could become more engaging, more pointed, more easily tourable – in short, what might make it more successful as a performance for young audiences. Two producers, identified in advance, then took this input and worked with the musicians (who were spared from having to listen to the free-for-all charrette of their work) over the next two days to improve their production. A revised version of the work was then presented on the final day of the conference.

What I found inspiring about this format—quite independently of any effect it may have had on the specific production—was its efficiency in surfacing and sharing best practices in the field. The concerns, suggestions, and examples that were highlighted, quickly brought several major streams of current practice to the fore, and through the rigorous discussion, this master class of sorts stimulated ideas that the participants might be able to apply in their own work. This led me to wonder: Might this format be adapted to facilitate knowledge sharing among cohorts of grantees in other areas of practice?

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