Using Touring and Production as a Vehicle for Social Change

Changemaker Catalyst Award recipient, Vid Raturi attended the Beth Morrison Projects’ Intensive Training on Touring to acquire knowledge that would be applicable to the touring of Luba, an opera piece OPERAnauts plans to commission. Vid is a Master’s Student in the Neuroscience Program, Class of 2021.


The ability to create and respond to music has always been a foundational part of the human experience. Music is a powerful and transformational art form that is a significant part of all cultures from the beginning of time. It is a universal language that has the ability to foster deep human connections and bring communities together from all walks of life. Music has many unique properties such as the ability to nurture hope, evoke emotions, promote creative thinking, provide healing and encourage resilience. Recently, much research has been done on the effects of music on the brain. It is related to the development of empathy and it is used as an intervention to help people heal from trauma.  Additionally, music reduces stress and pain, as well as increasing cognitive abilities and neurogenesis. Music doesn’t just impact one part of the brain, but has shown to influence the Frontal Lobe, Temporal Lobe, Broca’s Area, Wernicke’s Area, Occipital Lobe, Cerebellum, Nucleus Accumbens, Amygdala, Hippocampus, Hypothalamus, Corpus Collosum, Putamen and more! Musical interventions are used to promote neuroplasticity and enhance quality of life.


Samuel Niaty, an opera fellow and production manager for OPERAnauts, is pictured above singing.



OPERAnauts is an arts and cultural non-profit organization that uses music as a tool for social change in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am the Vice President of OPERAnauts and one of the founding members. We use opera music as a tool to help communities that are traumatized by violence and poverty across Congo, to heal and grow through empathy and community building. Survivors in Congo have experienced extreme poverty, mass killings, rape and many other forms of severe trauma. Due to the complexity of this environment, the youth are at a greater risk of struggling to develop empathy and compassion toward themselves and others. Our goal is to unite the people of Kinshasa (capital of DRC) and inspire future growth in their communities. We believe that investing in the skill, training, and development of musicians and artists will strengthen the future of the arts in Kinshasa and contribute to their shared dignity and beauty. You might ask, Why Opera? Opera has the unrivalled ability to engage and unify communities, transcending spoken language and encouraging a deeper human connection. As a multicultural art form, opera allows participants and audiences to imagine others’ stories and worlds, without the expense of travelling. Opera is a form of storytelling that can be used for various cultural forms of music. We integrate Congolese language, stories and music into our opera pieces. As Operanauts, we provide training, exposure, and – most importantly – we generate employment for the many immensely talented musicians of Congo. We work with musicians and youth to understand their needs and wants. The programming we implement is based off of what the musicians and youth have expressed. Our programs directly target the Kinshasa community and include our Opera Fellows program, our annual Opera Music Festival and our Opera-Making program that commissions opera productions in Kinshasa.


Vanza Vatick, one of our opera fellows, is pictured above with Congolese children. Vanza Vatick is passionated about various causes relating to underserved children. He wrote the Mutshima, which is the play Luba is based off of.


This past semester, I had the opportunity to attend the Beth Morrison Projects’ (BMP) Producer Academy Intensive on Touring. This training was essential in complementing my efforts in working with OPERAnauts. Currently, OPERAnauts is planning to commission a jazz opera for children, titled Luba – a creation myth from Congo composed by Heritier Mayimbi, arranged by Craig Lavesque and based on a play called Mutshima written by Vanza Vatick. We hope to tour this piece in high schools in New Jersey, and potentially New Orleans to promote cross cultural exchange as well as provide a platform for Congolese artists to share their work with the world. Therefore, it was imperative that I learned the logistics of touring a live performance.


This is a picture of me and some of the organizer of the training.

In my training, I learned various aspects of touring which included everything from pitching, to contracting, production advance, marketing and travel logistics.  The training BMP provided was thorough and all encompassing. They had experts in the BMP team (Beth, Kim, Jecca and Brian) talk to us and special guests such as Linda Brumbach, David Bennet and David C. House. The speakers gave really beneficial insight into what touring entails. They shared their experiences working in the industry to highlight how we should go about setting up our tour. I really appreciated them discussing the challenges they faced so that we could avoid or overcome them when it came to planning our own tours. We were able to ask questions during the training and it was super interactive. It was so great to interact with Beth Morrison herself. She shared examples of pitch packets and walked us through what a pitch packet would include. There is so much that goes into pitching and really putting your best foot forward. Beth made sure to go into detail about all the nuances that I never really thought about. It was evident that she really cared about what her organization did as well as inspiring and teaching others. All the staff were so enthusiastic and passionate about their work. After the sessions, we even had networking with other cohort members to learn about their organizations. It was such an awesome experience learning about the work other producers were doing.


The most challenging part of the training was not having a background in production. The BMP staff was very helpful and accommodating. They went the extra mile in working with me to ensure that I understood the terms and concepts used. I learned so much about budgeting and creating meaningful relationships between our organization and presenters. What are presenters, you might ask? Well, I didn’t know what the term meant either before attending the intensive. Presenters are people who host your piece at their venue. This relationship is extremely important as you pitch your work to them to see if it will fit with their organization’s mission. It is imperative that a producer believes in the artist’s work and is passionate about the vision in order to get presenters excited about it and want to host the work. My favorite part of the training was learning about how complex touring is. I had no idea how much thought and planning goes into organizing a tour. It isn’t just about logistics, but more so about relationships between the different members of the production. You have to create a family among the artists, design team, set builders, lighting team, sound team, presenters, etc. In addition, you have to be flexible and solution-minded. Producers have to really embody the skills of critical thinking and problem solving.


This is a group photo of the BMP cohort.



This training was especially lucrative to me and OPERAnauts. Learning these skills will help me organize a plan for touring Luba, which will initiate cross-cultural exchange between Congo and the United States. If this is successful, we could even organize tours in other countries. I now have the knowledge to present the work we would like to tour in the best light. I will be able to guide the OPERAnauts team on how to arrange a pitch packet, create relationships with presenters and facilitate logistics of touring. This knowledge will not just help me in my work in OPERAnauts but can also be applicable to presenting any ideas in any field. Furthermore, I can use the technical knowledge learned towards fundraising tours for causes that I am passionate about. Additionally, music concerts are often used for positive social change by connecting audience members with educational, health and social service resources. By learning about touring, we can do so at a larger scale and reach more people.  Music is a great way to bring people together and touring makes it possible to connect communities in geographically different locations to one another.


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