Arts, Culture, and Humanities

Companion Star

aka Companion Star Inc   |   Patchogue, NY   |  www.companionstar.org

Mission

Our mission is to create, produce and present new music theatre works, opera and cultural events that reflect our world today. We have produced two major productions, the multi-nominated, critically acclaimed Under Milk Wood: an opera. We have produced 25 public concerts of new music in Europe and the USA. Our performance projects typically range from six to eight years from beginning to completion. This length of process is crucial for the research and development of our work.

Companion Star creates, produces, and presents new opera and music theatre using a collaborative process. Every facet of a production, from initiation to completion, is shaped by the ideas that arise from the collective work of all members (composer, musicians, actors, choreographer, artistic director and the audience) of the collaborative; each project evolves and emerges organically through this process. We want to capture outstanding moments that come from collaborative improvisation; to set them in scored music so their magic is not only retained, but developed and enhanced. Those sparks of creativity are the foundation of our living laboratory for the creative process and where each project begins. Our goal is to create pieces of the 21st century which reflect our world today.
We are particularly interested in giving each artist a voice in the creative process, to encourage them to work together to achieve a goal. At Companion Star we create an atmosphere of exploration where every voice counts, where interdependence of the players is encouraged through exercises of improvisation. Our performance pieces are un-conducted, enforcing the interdependence of the players on one another, whereby they achieve a “whole" creation. A cohesive performance would not be possible without this interdependence. We explore cultural themes through the lens of each individual's artistic expression. Exploration begins with a statement from each artist of why they are participating and what drew them to this work. From there a project is developed collectively, as a whole. No matter the cultural differences within the group, we begin to realize we are all the same; we see the essence of humanity that exists in all of us. Artists are given free rein to explore and find the truth in their creative natures. As we tell each of our stories as artists, those stories become the threads of the tapestry that make up a performance piece. This process illustrates what is possible when we work together with acceptance of each other. We are creating a way of living, a way to be truly human in our world.

Ruling year info

2007

Founder & Director

Dr. Michael Douglas Jones

Board President

Ms. Laura Lee Everett

Main address

178 E Main Street

Patchogue, NY 11772 USA

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EIN

56-2535118

Cause area (NTEE code) info

Performing Arts (A60)

Opera (A6A)

Music (A68)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990-N.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

dream seminar/drömseminarium

Nine of 2011 Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer's poems serve as the foundation of this piece—a devised music theatre work created by 47 artists from nine countries through collaboration and improvisation. It is the result of a cumulative collaboration; an intimate creative process that developed what might have been a singular perspective on Tranströmer’s poetry into a multi-cultural, collective response. All of the artists have contributed their voices in the form of raw creative material that has been shaped musically by composer Ellen Lindquist, with a scenario created by stage director Pat Diamond and soprano Kathleen Flynn. The result is a fluid, non-linear music theatre work in which myriad musical voices mirror the multiple perspectives of the poems. A demonstration performance is scheduled at the Gateway Playhouse, in January 2017.

Population(s) Served
General Public/Unspecified
None
Budget
$365,000.00

For decades Under Milk Wood has captured the imagination of millions worldwide. Under Milk Wood: an opera weaves the extraordinary poetic and comic language of Thomas’ work together with contemporary and ancient instrumental music and recorded and live sound. In Under Milk Wood Dylan Thomas paints a picture of twenty -four hours in the life of a Welsh seaside village. He also allows us to see inside the minds and souls of the residents. The scenes progress through the 12 divisions of the chromatic scale, mirroring the play’s 24-hour timespan. Thomas’ mythical seaside village, Llarregub, is brought to life by a company of 8 singers and 5 instrumentalists. Through vivid ensemble playing and with strong voices, ideal for the colorful characters and libidos portrayed, blind old Captain Cat and his fellow villagers cradle their hopes and dreams, gossip and go about the daily routine.

Population(s) Served
General Public/Unspecified
None
Budget
$450,000.00

A show by one of Companion Star's artists from the mentoring program. Jo Ann Wilson has written the script and musical score for this one woman tour de force performance.

Population(s) Served
General Public/Unspecified
Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)
Budget
$85,000.00

Winter Performing Arts Festival at the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, NY on Long Island. The festival will offer cultural events, performances and educational workshops to local and international artists. The festival offers an entirely new cultural experience to the Town of Brookhaven.
In the spirit of collaboration and maximizing each organization’s role in the community, Companion Star and The Gateway Playhouse have come together to help each other fulfill our respective creative missions. The Gateway is interested in expanding their current artistic reach and making greater use of their celebrated facilities during their “dark season.” Companion Star will rent The Gateway theater complex for approximately five weeks in January/February/March 2017. We will have a stage for completed original productions developed under our unique improvisational model and space to grow our artist mentoring program.

Population(s) Served
General Public/Unspecified
Budget
$360,631.00

Where we work

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Awards

Volunteer Award for outstanding service work with the Boys and Girls Club of Bellport 2009

Town of Brookhaven

Affiliations & memberships

Americans for the Arts 2009

OPERA America 2016

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Total number of students participating in private lessons

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year

Number of students receiving personal instruction and feedback about their performance

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year

Total number of performances

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year

Total number of works developed

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year

Charting impact

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

Our goal is to make great art and inspire artists to grow through making this art. Our productions are developed in a workshop-oriented system, intended to dissolve conventional performance boundaries and hierarchies. Through this open communal environment, we encourage artists to let go of their preconceived notions about making music and art. Improvisations in the context of creating classical music, inevitably start with a feeling of boundaries and fear, with a sense of being adrift. We create an atmosphere of ease, of community, and of investigation from the very beginning of each project. Through the process of structured improvisations, the artists experiment and explore new ways of using their instruments, bodies, voices, text, visual art and video. We help each other see what we see; we make the invisible creative spark inside each of us visible, bringing something uniquely original to the final piece. Ultimately we teach each other and the world what it means to be a human living on this planet.<br/> <br/>It is so very interesting and exciting when this is done by a group of individuals whose minds are open and creative, whose minds are harmonizing, reconciling their differences, being receptive to each other, drawing each other out, donning a new perception and vision. With this process we are able to produce interesting and complex results. It is, in essence, the process of evolution.<br/><br/>Integral to this process are work-in progress performances at different stages of the project's evolution. These performances present work completed to date and a laboratory session in which the audience engages in an improvisation and discussion with the project's artists. Not only is material for the project generated but the audience experiences our creative process.

Since our inception in 2005, Companion Star has focused diligently on establishing a solid, yet flexible infrastructure that can grow as the organization continues to mature and take on new projects. Each year we have ended with a balanced budget and have accomplished:<br/> - Full 501 c(3) not for profit status in August 2007.<br/> - A branding exercise including a logo.<br/> - A fully functioning and continually updated website.<br/> - Ongoing marketing and communication initiatives including direct mail and email campaigns and the dissemination of periodic newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Vimeo pages.<br/> - Financial software - purchased and fully implemented.<br/> - Customer Relationship Management software installed and updated for developing and maintaining client and donor relationships<br/> - Expanded and fortified Board of Directors to include expertise in Performing Arts Management, Certified Public Accounting, IT Management, Corporate & Business Law.<br/> - Raised program and operation funds through private donations, Grant awards, Foundation awards and online crowd funding appeals

Michael Douglas Jones, Companion Star's Founder and CEO is incredibly enthusiastic about innovative collaborations of professional artists from around the world. Michael's work philosophy emerges from 27 years of exploration and performances of new music theatre and opera. Michael has successfully guided artists through exploration to produce new musical works by way of groundbreaking and honest collaborative efforts resulting in completed projects such as: Moo, Squeal & Scratch: in the garden of shadows - a performance art piece based on ancient Persian poetry with music by America Composers, exploring classical musical traditions of Europe, America and the Middle East, combined with theatrical traditions of story telling, narration and singing; Professional Artists Initiative - a professional improvisation workshop and subsequent chamber music improvisation workshop curriculum at Malardalens University in Sweden; The Illumination Initiative - a performing arts educational program to the Boys & Girls Club of Bellport NY including a six-week project developing performance skills through improvisation in young artists and a vocal scholarship program to provide individual instruction to talented youth; and Odin - a collaboration with environmental activist/composer/percussionist Donald Knaack, co-mingling spoken word poetry and hip hop with opera.<br/><br/>Companion Star's projects place artists from diverse disciplines and cultures in an improvisational environment free of conventional hierarchies and range from professionally cast full-scale productions to community-based education programs. Companion Star has successfully engaged local businesses and local, national and international community members in donations in cash and goods and services and sponsorships in support of our mission. Our board of directors is actively engaged in our programs, events, and the general operation of Companion Star, providing incredibly strong support for the organization.

Through expanding our fundraising efforts and increasing individual donor contributions, major gift donations and foundation and grant awards, we will be able to continue our efforts to develop and produce new work and to grow our organization. By increasing our social media presence and following, we will keep our worldwide community informed and involved in our creative process and our progress. By holding events, such as our CD launch party for "Under Milk Wood, an Opera" (held at Opera America February 2015) and streaming live performances to a global audience, we will increase the community that supports our mission. By leveraging technology for feed back, as we did for this latest event asking attendees to fill out an online survey about the experience, we will measure our performance and learn what works best and what we need to change.

Through our past productions we have had great success in giving a voice to under-represented artists in an effort to make our world a richer and more vibrant place and promote cultural understanding through an artistic and entertaining medium. We are currently seeking funding to bring our flagship performance project "dreamseminar" - a bilingual, multidisciplinary project in Swedish and English based on the texts of 2011 Nobel prize-winning Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer, with music by American composer Ellen Lindquist to completion along with a companion documentary film. Our second major effort underway is to bring "Under Milk Wood: an opera" - by Welsh composer, John Metcalf, co-produced with the Taliesin Arts Centre in Wales and Le chien qui Chante in Quebec, based on the Dylan Thomas radio play of the same name - to the US in January of 2018, following the successful and much-nominated world premiere held in Wales in 2014. These pieces will be featured in our Winter Festival, an annual festival of performing arts on Long Island.

Financials

Companion Star

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Companion Star

Board of directors
as of 4/21/2016
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Ms. Laura L Everett

Opera America

Term: Mar 2013 - Dec 2018

Christopher Ross Legal Consultant

None

Joseph Skelly Communications Specialist

none

Douglas Roddin Treasurer

None

Susan Eckert Board Member

Long Island Boudoir Photography

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Keywords

contemporary opera, chamber music, music-theater, new music, art performance