From David's Desk - July 2019

The Cedar’s Executive Director David Hamilton

Dear Cedar Friends,

Have you ever looked at The Cedar’s calendar, and wondered, “Why are they presenting THAT?”

I received at least one inquiry with that very question when a comedy show with Dana Gould and Bobcat Goldthwait took place back in our hall back in May. It was a valid question, as there was already an internal discussion ongoing amongst staff around the question of whether comedy meets our mission. And what about the backlash against the portrayal of Apu, a character from The Simpsons, which Dana Gould produces? What goes into choosing shows that happen at The Cedar?

Comedian Sandra Bernhardt performing at The Cedar, November 2017. Photo: Pat O'Loughlin.

Comedian Sandra Bernhardt performing at The Cedar, November 2017. Photo: Pat O'Loughlin.

Let me first provide some context about how The Cedar thinks about booking. As you probably know, our mission is to promote intercultural appreciation and understanding through the presentation of global music and dance. The Cedar is committed to artistic excellence and integrity, diversity of programming, support for emerging artists, and community outreach. But, what exactly do we mean by “global” music in our mission?

Historically at The Cedar the term “global” music was basically synonymous with “international” and therefore excluded American folk artists and other musicians from the Western idiom. But historically, more than 2/3 of the shows we present have not featured international artists. There are a few reasons for this. One is that there simply are not enough international acts touring through Minnesota to fill our calendar. Another is that it wouldn't be financially sustainable. As it is our mission to present global music, we naturally take more financial risks on mission-driven shows. But, if we only presented international artists, we wouldn’t be able to keep our doors open.

Furthermore, we believe that “non-global” shows are also critical to The Cedar, as our mission highlights that we support local emerging artists as well as artists representing artistic excellence, who are often not showcased at other venues. For instance, even if it’s not defined as “global” music, American folk music still has an important place on our stage! And, there are plenty of US-based artists with deep roots in non-Western cultures and musical forms. The truth is, there is often a blurred line between what is a "global" show and what really helps us meet our mission.

Local bluegrass Band Pert Near Sandstone performing at The Cedar, February 2019. Photo: Pat O'Loughlin.

Local bluegrass Band Pert Near Sandstone performing at The Cedar, February 2019. Photo: Pat O'Loughlin.

Let me insert another complexity into our booking equation which gets to the question of why we may have a comedy show, or a podcast in our hall. About 20% of our shows annually are actually rentals, where an outside promoter rents out our hall to present an artist. The Dana Gould and Bobcat Goldthwait show I mentioned earlier was a First Avenue rental of our space. We actually don’t do any of the marketing or advertising for these shows. Some, but certainly not all, of these rentals fit our mission. However, we believe that all rentals are an important way for The Cedar to connect with new audiences, and bring in revenue that helps support other mission-driven shows.

So, what are your thoughts? Has globalism connected the world in such a way that we need to rethink our definition of global music? Global music, as a term, has been called ethnocentric, so does this mean we should stop using it? Can we meet our mission while still presenting comedy and podcasts? These are just some of the questions we’ve been discussing as staff at The Cedar. I welcome your feedback - drop me a line at dhamilton@thecedar.org.

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David Hamilton

Executive Director, The Cedar Cultural Center