The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Chicago 2011, August 20-21

Midwest Young Artists

Since its founding in 1993, Midwest Young Artists (MYA) has garnered a reputation among professional musicians and educators as a place for students to come to:

* to become exceptional young musicians;

* perform the world’s finest music;

* compete in world-class competitions;

* study with master teachers; and

* have fun and tour the world!

MYA offers a full-curriculum pre-college music school with 8 youth orchestras, more than 60 chamber music ensembles, 4 choral groups, an all-inclusive jazz program, a wind symphony, an early childhood education program, and classes in music theory and composition. MYA musicians are given multiple performance opportunities, both on concert tours and in major venues throughout Chicago including the Civic Opera House, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, and Pick-Staiger Concert Hall in Evanston. Voices Rising, our choral ensemble for grades 5-8, has performed at the United Nations, Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and has been the children’s vocal ensemble for the CSO’s Welcome Yule concerts for the past five years. Our Jazz Program has a special Jazz in January weekend where students work all weekend with jazz artists including Rufus Reid, Sean Jones, Dick Oates, Orbert Davis, and Victor Goines who then perform with the students in a sizzling concert on Sunday evening.

MYA is a special place, and the current Music Director and Executive Director (Dr. Allan Dennis) is the original founder of the organization. His wife Karen is the Development Director and Office Administrator. His daughter Mandy is an accomplished cellist and faculty member of MYA. It really is a family. I myself am the new Marketing Director and an alumni. I spent every Saturday during High School at MYA rehearsals (French Horn, '02).

The high quality of music performance in all these genres creates a truly unique school where collaborative programming and learning strengthens students knowledge and skills, making them better musicians. A wind player may be in the Honors Wind Symphony, a brass chamber music ensemble, lead trumpet in the big band and learn orchestral excerpts in the Symphony Orchestra. A violinist may be in a piano trio, participate in our Early Music Academy, perform a solo in I’Solisti MYA, and learn orchestral excerpts now so that when they audition for symphony jobs later, they have great literature under their fingers.

MYA prides itself on the value students receive for their tuition which is kept as low as possible so that this is not a barrier to participation by talented young students who audition and are accepted into our ensembles. Dozens of master teachers and artists are brought in almost weekly to coach students in ensemble playing. Master classes during the 2008-2009 season included Gavriel Lipkind, cello; Avalon String Quartet; Stefan Milenkovich, violin; Rami Solomonow, viola; N-E-W Trio (2008 Grand Prize Winners of the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition); Michael Kozakis, percussion; Orbert Davis, jazz trumpet; Ethan Bensdorf, trumpet/MYA Alum and 2nd Trumpet of the New York Philharmonic; Barbara Butler, Professor of Trumpet, Northwestern University; John Bruce Yeh, CSO, clarinet; Charlie Pikler, CSO, viola. Students in all programs are offered the opportunity to perform almost weekly on Sunday afternoon recitals of chamber music (which include jazz combos and vocal opera/MT scenes). Students can grow and develop as soloists and ensemble players through participation in Instrument Classes which focus on technique, solo performances and ensembles. Master teachers this year included: John Bruce Yeh, clarinet; Charles Geyer, trumpet; Hans Jensen, cello; Gerardo Ribeiro, violin; and Rami Solomonow and Charlie Pikler, viola.

MYA emphasizes camaraderie between students, respect and encouragement in the teaching relationship, and the continual pursuit of excellence in music performance. It is a program that stimulates and excites future "dedicated amateurs" as well offers opportunities and support for students preparing for a future in the highly competitive world of music. We pride ourselves on being a place where students are able to grow with their peers in a competitive, yet friendly atmosphere, while providing the highest quality music experiences for young musicians nationwide. MYA graduates are accepted at the most selective conservatories, universities and colleges in the country.

Also, we have a bunch of big old couches that kids can kick it on and watch VHS tapes of old Disney movies in between rehearsals, a big plus.

What new functionality we are looking for

We would like to have a clean homepage with an easily replaceable rotating image in the center surrounded by as few buttons as possible, as even employees cannot locate vital information.

Ideally, it would look like a college website, with "prospective student" and "current student" areas. We would like to display a standard list of information somewhere on every page; calendar, ticket purchase, about us, etc. This way, wherever one wanders, they shall be constantly in touch with the basics that are currently hidden around our site like a time destroying Easter egg hunt.

Additionally, we have a "member sign in" function whereby parents and students obtain a password and sign in to an area that contains PDF files of music and other member specific documents like volunteer sign up forms. While this is wonderful, and thankfully many of our students are into computers, some of the parents and younger students are unable to navigate this murky river of pages. If there were a better way to do this, like link the sign in to Facebook or something easier, or put the sign in box in more prominent places that would be great. At present, I have spoken to students that have been with us for several years and never knew we had a sign in page.

We also have less than optimal success in communicating our calendar and events. We use Google to link our calendar and I believe that it must stay that way to keep employees on the same page so to speak. There must be a more prominent method to display our upcoming concerts, and for members an easier way to show them what they need for concert day like concert attire, the time of their dress rehearsal and so on. All the info is on our site, but I'll eat my shoe if you can find it all in less than 10 minutes.

Finally, we have a vast amount of photographs and video of performances and concert tours and the like on file. We also run a blog, and our Facebook page has 1228 friends and a decent amount of activity, as do our youtube vids. The problem is, these links and bits and pieces of media are strewn about our site like the aftermath of an explosion. It would be great to tie everything into the website, so that you could see the latest picture tags from Facebook or latest comments or the latest blog post and youtube vids. The current Press Room is sad, and does not display the information in a user-friendly manner. It would be nice to have the website as a destination, especially for parents and grand parents who want something nice to show people that their child is doing.

How the new functionality will help

Midwest Young Artists provides support and world class instruction to young people who go on to do many exciting things from working in the medical, engineering, and scientific fields to of course becoming professional musicians and working for non-profits. MYA is always a home to our current students and alumni, many of whom retun annually for our December Alumni concert. MYA is an extended family, held fast with the glue of thousands of new friendships, life experiences and the best music ever made and yet to be made.

Since MYA is staffed by a small number of people that generally have several titles, time is always at a premium. Phone calls and walk-in questions consume a silly amount of everyone's time, and 99% of the time the information has been on the website for months. No one can find anything, and furthermore the site is not really that interesting.

Since our mission is continually ongoing as we receive new students throughout the year, the constant attention of our staff and faculty is needed to focus on their specific areas as much as possible. With any new piece of equipment or revised SOP that frees up some time, noticeable improvements are seen overall and projects are started that have been dormant for years.

The new site will hopefully bring in new students and concert patrons by being user-friendly and displaying fun and interesting content. For current members, the new site will make their lives easier by consolidating information and allowing them to spend time practicing music instead of trying to find it.

For members of our community, the new site will serve as a destination and offer interesting content and easy to find information on concerts and other events.

How our organization will use the technology

Who will use the technology

Our Mission

Our Mission Statement: "To build a home with the power of music to enrich the lives of our students and community" What we do to achieve this is provide our students the highest level of professional instruction, coupled with unbelievable performance opportunities in the most supportive and nurturing environment possible and offer many free and very reasonably priced concerts for people in the community to attend. For example, every Sunday during the year, we offer free chamber music concerts at Ravinia Festival. This is a place for young musicians to study and have fun and not have to worry about bullying, but rather be complimented on their latest composition of music or clarinet concerto performance by their peers.