Building on the momentum established by the SEAMUS national conference that put Virginia Tech and ICAT on the national stage, in the late spring of 2015 I assembled a cross-institutional team and led a proposal to host the international New Interfaces for Musical Expression conference at Virginia Tech. A month later the same bid was selected among 5 competitive proposals. With a 17-member committee consisting of Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia faculty and staff, we set out an ambitious plan to grow an already strong conference in several dimensions. We sought to:
- Elevate the review process rigor using a double-blind review process for all the submission categories;
- Foster diversity and inclusion, with particular focus on the gender disparity apparent among the computer science-aligned areas of research, including NIME;
- Broaden the participation to include artists outside the academic circles;
- Establish new and further strengthen the existing connections with the private and public partners, and
- Amplify the importance of spatial sound as a new form of NIME by leveraging unique facilities and a growing body of research at Virginia Tech, including the ICAT Cube.
According to 2018 Google Scholar metrics snapshot, NIME offers second highest h5-index among conferences in the area of Music & Musicology. As such, following SEAMUS, it was the next logical step in elevating Virginia Tech’s prominence in the field. Three years in the planning, the conference attracted over 250 participants from 27 countries to a small college town situated in the Southwest Virginia, 12 corporate and 1 non-profit partners, and 20 stakeholders (15 Virginia Tech and 5 University of Virginia). As a first international conference hosted by the arts disciplines on Virginia Tech campus, in response to the aforesaid goals, notable milestones included:
- 4 keynotes, of which 3 were minorities and 2 women;
- Integration of Women in Music Technology (WiMT) organization into the conference and the NIME Steering Committee, creation of the official diversity and inclusion statement, and the introduction of the Pamela Z Innovation Award;
- Leveraging of the world-class $100M Moss Arts Center and its staff for programming needs;
- $120K budget, of which 70% was secured through the registration fees, while 30% through external partners and stakeholders, thereby providing new funding incentives, including student sponsorship and volunteering opportunities, and
- The award winning design and branding, including a dynamic website whose design responds to the time of day and thereby reflect the “Mirrored Resonances” conference theme.
Looking back, the three year journey offered an invaluable insight in nurturing volunteer-run initiatives in conjunction with the for-proft and/or cost-recovery institutional structures, and doing so through a large committee spread across two institutions 150 miles apart. It also served as an invaluable catalyst for new and lasting friendships and an amazing array of fond memories.