Interview with Michael Mael: Technology as a Tool to Reach New Audiences

Source: Washington National Opera

Source: Washington National Opera

AMT Lab Editor Stewart Urist sat down with the Executive Director of Washington National Opera, Michael Mael, for a wide ranging discussion about his career and the opportunities technology brings to the arts.

Listen to the full interview below:

Mr. Mael has had a winding and unpredictable career path. In his words, "I majored in Political Science, which explains everything and nothing." Having spent over a decade in the telecommunications industry at the birth of the internet, he brings an uncommon level of technological literacy to his work in the arts. Nevertheless, he emphasized repeatedly that technology is a means to an end for arts organizations. 

Take, for example, Washington National Opera's "Opera in the Outfield" program. In 2014 this event reached over 10,000 participants. Washington National Opera has done more than simply use technology to bring performances outside the opera house. Rather, they create a festival atmosphere by surrounding the art with engaging events. When these free simulcasts are held, the park is opened two hours early, allowing ample time for behind the scenes presentations, activities for children, and other programs which break down traditional barriers to the Opera. Simulcast technology makes the event possible, but the variety of events surrounding the performance make it a truly notable experience.

Opera in the Outfield Image Source:  F lickr user  William Boncher

Opera in the Outfield Image Source: Flickr user William Boncher

Mr. Mael is a passionate advocate for Opera and for Symphonic music, working tirelessly to overcome the biases that lead people to claim "it's not my thing" and "it's not for me."  Technology poses immense opportunity in this regard, he sees the current technological landscape every bit as filled with potential for the arts as it was for the telecom industry in 1995. It is up to the innovative managers and artists of the future to recognize these opportunities and realize the full potential of technology to enable art.