The annual APAP conference held last month at the New York Hilton is one of the best kept entertainment secrets of the city. And it seems that the Association of Performing Arts Professionals would like to keep it that way. Nonetheless, in attending my 10th consecutive APAP conference, it was the one I enjoyed the most, discovering new talent and renewing old friendships.
Basically the conference is a four- day "audition extravaganza," with Hilton conference rooms turned into stages for hopeful singers, dancers, comics and the occasional dead celebrity impersonator. The conference also offers an important meeting point for arts presenters, agents, performers and managers from all corners of the world, with a wide variety of topics addressed during the event.
The standing-room only opening night plenary session addressed the question: “What is the Responsibility of the Performing Arts in Our World Today?” Other topics covered at various sessions and roundtables included: Artists as Activists; Building Arts Audiences; Using and Protecting Intellectual Property; Advancing Indigenous Arts; Artists Without Borders; Presenting Diverse Cultures; Arts in the Fight Against Islamophobia; Asian American Artists; New Economic Realities; Best Marketing Practices; Contracting Skills; How to Reach Younger Audiences; Women's Leadership and Are the Arts for Everyone?
Besides the professional information sessions and the performances, the other very integral part of the APAP annual conference is the Expo Hall. Several hundred booths, manned by arts organizations, presenters and performance venues are spread over three floors in the hotel's west side section. In a sense, this is the heart of the conference, where serious networking takes place and deals are made (and also where the ubiquitous pens and candy can also be found.)
The Expo Halls are strictly for badge holders. To be on the safe side, casual music lovers should follow the diverse sounds coming from the east side of the Hilton. After attending the conference for a decade, there are favorite musicians which I look forward to seeing each January.
One favorite seen last month was The Hunts, a unique country/folk group comprised of seven siblings (ages 19-26) from Chesapeake, Virginia. All seven members play instruments — two women violinists with the five men on guitar, piano and/or drums. Recently the Hunts were heard on a Milkbone commercial ("Make This Leap") and their third album, "Darlin' Oh Darlin’,” will be released on February 20th, 2018. For more info go to:www.thehuntsmusic.com)
Estonian Voices, a jazz accapella group from that small Baltic nation, made their first APAP appearance. The attractive septet of three women and two men made beautiful jazzy music in both English and Estonian, even including sounds of animals and mototcycles. I was flattered to be interviewed for Estonian radio following one of the two shows I attended. Check them out at www.Estonianvoices.com.
Another new favorite is Tartan Terrors, a Canadian co-ed group performing Scottish-flavored music and dance with a heavy metal sound and featuring kilts, bagpipes and step dancing. Look for them at www.tartanterrors.com.
The APAP conference returns to the midtown New York Hilton in early January 2019 (from the 3rd (pre-conference to the 8th). All discrete music lovers are encouraged to check it out.