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Listen Local First Sends Complaints About MetroPerforms! Auditions To Metro, Eleanor Holmes Norton

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WASHINGTON -- The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is holding auditions for MetroPerforms! Tuesday evening at Metro headquarters.

A panel of judges will decide who gets to perform in authorized areas of Metro stations, for scheduled slots from July through September. Some performers will also have opportunity to perform on the National Mall as part of the Music on the Mall program.

Great for the arts, right? Not according to everyone

Chris Naoum, co-founder of the music advocacy organization Listen Local First, details his concerns about the program in a letter sent to Metro's Art in Transit director Michael McBride and D.C.'s member of Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) on Tuesday afternoon.

In the letter, Naoum says performers weren't given enough notice about the MetroPerforms! auditions and, even more damningly, that the idea of an audition process is flawed.

"A selection committee should be assembled and tasked with judging artists' submissions on a list of objective qualifications," Naoum writes.

The last issue raised in the letter is compensation -- more specifically, the lack of compensation this year, while in the past artists were paid for their performances:

Finally, if WMATA cannot afford to compensate musicians that participate in the program this year, then it should allow musicians to advertise their performance schedules, sell merchandise and collect tips from the public within the Metro.

WMATA spokesperson Cathy Asato told The Huffington Post that no musicians have complained about the timing of the auditions and that the panel judging the auditions is highly qualified, comprised entirely of people involved in the arts including McBride, a programmer from the Kennedy Center, another programmer from the Woodrow Wilson Plaza (which is another outdoor performance series) and a Metro employee who is also a musician.

As for payment, Asato said that in previous years, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities -- not Metro -- paid performers a stipend, and that the agency's reasons for not providing that stipend this year are "budgetary."

Here's the letter:

Honorable Representative Holmes Norton and Michael McBride of WMATA,

My name is Chris Naoum and I am the co-founder of a local music
initiative called Listen Local First. (www.listenlocalfirst.com)

Members of the local music community have raised some serious concerns
about WMATA’s “Metro Performs" audition process happening this
afternoon.

While we are all in agreement that the goals of this program are
novel, the actual implementation falls short of achieving these goals
and actually stands to hurt the plight of professional and amateur DC
musicians. We at Listen Local First, in representing the broader DC
music community, feel that tonight's auditions should be tabled and
the community's concerns should be addressed before this series
proceeds.

First, we are concerned about the time-frame and lack of notice given
for this event. If the goal of this program is to exhibit the most
talented and diverse musicians this city has to offer, WMATA must
account for the busy schedules of many of these professionals and
allow for more notice for submissions. Due to the short notice
provided, we believe WMATA has not taken the schedule of some of these
artists into consideration.

Second, we believe an audition is not the correct way to select
musicians for this event. WMATA is dealing with professional
musicians who have recorded content and have created an online
presence (including video). A selection committee should be assembled
and tasked with judging artists' submissions on a list of objective
qualifications.

Finally, if WMATA cannot afford to compensate musicians that
participate in the program this year, then it should allow musicians
to advertise their performance schedules, sell merchandise and collect
tips from the public within the Metro. Simply advertising musicians
on WMATA's website, as proposed, is not enough compensation and
discredits the hard work that these individuals have put into their
profession.

Again, we admire the goal of this program which seeks to expose the
diverse and talented music that our local artists are creating in our
backyards. However, this program, as implemented, does not accomplish
the intended goal. Listen Local First and members of the music
community would be happy to schedule a time to meet with both of your
offices and to set up a forum with local musicians in order to
incorporate some of their suggestions into this unique programming
opportunity.

Thank you for your time,

Chris Naoum

Do you think Metro should be involved with the arts? Are there flaws in the audition process? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments, after you peruse the alarming slideshow below:

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