Sing Books with Emily and the Benefits of Just Showing Up

(DC Cabaret Network member Emily Leatha Everson Gleichenhaus shares the first in a series about her recent experiences as the recipient of an Arlington County Individual Artist Grant).

by Emily Leatha Everson Gleichenhaus
July 21, 2011

I heard somewhere that Woody Allen said 80% of success is just showing up and that’s how it worked for putting together the “Sing Books” cabaret project grant.

My husband is good about reading all the community newspapers and told me he read that Arlington County was offering Individual Artist Grants and why not just go to the meeting for first time applicants and learn about it?

I’d recently begun to perform “Sing Books” more frequently for gatherings of children, caregivers and educators all around Arlington and DC and had a brand new blog about the wonderful world of Singable Picture Books. Acquiring the books and musical services to conduct this little operation was beginning to cost a small fortune and I thought a grant might help with the costs.  I went.

The Grant Officer conducting the meeting had everyone introduce themselves and describe their artistic activities.  The room was filled with an interesting variety of artists from around Arlington.  Painters, sculptors, dancers, an artist who created stained glass pieces and me representing cabaret and my “Sing Books” program.  The Grant Officer soon made it clear that the “Individual Spotlight Grant” money being offered was for the production of a finite community arts project.

Having found many Singable Picture Books of fabulous songs gave me the opportunity to learn and perform many songs that normally I would not have considered for myself.  An idea had been forming that these songs could be come cabaret shows that kids and grownups could enjoy in tandem.  Grownups seemed to enjoy “Sing Books” just as much as the kids.  These were great songs!  It seemed like a natural thing to combine these activities into a community project.  As the meeting progressed, it became clear that the grant would be perfect to service this kind of idea.

The Grant Officer stressed important considerations for writing the grant applications, including following the instructions exactly, writing clear, detailed and logical project plans, timelines, and benchmarks and, most importantly, creating a budget that added up.  If the budget didn’t add up right, the application would automatically be OUT of the running.

One of the Arts Commission members visited the last third of the meeting to make herself available for questions. She began to talk about the commission’s work, government support of the arts and the activity of writing grants.  She encouraged everyone with any project idea to apply.  She said that the more people write grants, the more the commission and city government can be aware of the breadth and scope of artistic energy that is brewing in the community and that in turn could potentially increase the amount of public money made available to artists.  The act of writing a grant could be a community service.

I decided to do it.  If nothing came of it for me, at least I could feel like it would be a good writing experience and it would be good for the community as well.

I went home with the application, my idea, and 2 months to write the plan.  Initial inspiration gave way to dread of facing the daunting task of formulating the plan.  And the budget.  Yuck.  The papers sat on my desk for weeks.

Soon, though,” now or never” panic set in, and I started writing and asking lots of questions.  Part of the project idea included recording a CD with the purpose of providing sing-along tracks for folks to Sing Books with children where suitable sing-along accompaniment was not available.  I give credit and huge thanks to Paul Raiman (of MyRehearsalPianist.com) and Jeff Tucker (of ArtOfMusicStudios.com) for helping me answer so many of those questions!  Writing the proposal, plans and budget took two weeks of solid effort.

In the end, I had a full project road map and a good idea for how much it would cost.  I read through my application and added up the numbers over and over. It all seemed to make sense, the budget added up, and the mission was a worthwhile community service.  I marched that baby to the commission reception desk, signed a paper, and blew it a kiss.

Writing the project plan was a fascinating artistic and intellectual exercise because developing the plan simultaneously created a visual image of the finished project in my head.  The image of the show and CD were so clear, I just began working and decided to be patient with whatever pieces fell into place…

To be continued.

Sing Books with Emily, the Blog:
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/

Oh, What a Beautiful Day: Sing Books with Emily, the Cabaret:
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/sing-books-with-emily-the-cabaret/

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3 Responses to “Sing Books with Emily and the Benefits of Just Showing Up”

  1. minervasgardenwriter Says:

    Very cool to hear about this. Where I live, the state does not offer so many grants to individual artists, but this reminds me I need to get on the ball and look into it more carefully.


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