Strategic Plan (2017-2021)

STRATEGIC PLAN (2017-2021)


Mission Statement

Gateways Music Festival connects and supports professional classical musicians of African descent and enlightens and inspires communities through the power of performance.

History of Gateways Music Festival

Gateways Music Festival was founded in 1993 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina by pianist Armenta (Hummings) Dumisani.  Its purpose is to celebrate the contributions and increase the visibility of classical instrumentalists of African descent. Participants in the Gateways Music Festival include professional musicians from across the country, as well as established musicians from such orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Phoenix Symphony and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, among others. The complement of Gateways musicians also includes members of college and university schools of music faculties and professional freelance musicians.

Held in North Carolina in 1993 and 1994, the Festival has been held biennially since 1995 in Rochester, New York in collaboration with the Eastman School of Music. The Festival includes a large number of community engagement concerts at houses of worship, schools, senior citizen homes, homeless shelters, as well as in renowned concert halls. All concerts are free and open to the public. The Festival performances have been broadcast on National Public Radio, and have been met with critical acclaim. Gateways Music Festival places a particularly strong emphasis on nurturing young talent, and through its youth workshops, youth concerts and master classes, seeks to reinforce in young musicians the desire to learn and achieve.

  • Organizational Assessment.  The assessment produced a “snapshot” of the current state of Gateways, and gathered data regarding constituent awareness and needs, organizational and environmental constraints and opportunities, and the philanthropic climate.
  • Plan Development. A Core Planning Team (composed of members of the Board of Directors and two volunteer committees (Artistic Programs and Festival Planning) 1) revised Gateways’ mission statement and created new mission, values, organizational philosophy, and vision statements (together comprising the organization’s Foundational Elements); 2) devised a program plan; and 3) planned for organizational support of the program plan in the areas of governance, revenue generation, communications, organizational management (including financial management), facilities and equipment, planning, and accountability and evaluation.

The four-year strategic plan that resulted from the process provides specifies activities, responsibilities, timeframes, and resource requirements for achieving goals in all areas of Gateways’ operations.

The Plan Imperative – Resource Development

Gateways is engaged in the critical transition from a volunteer-run organization whose presence has been manifested primarily through the biannual Festival, to one that is professionally led by paid staff with year-round programming in Rochester, New York and beyond. With rare exception, Gateways will continue to present programs free of charge, performed by professional musicians who are provided honoraria for their services. Based on these fundamental decisions by Gateways leadership, planning proceeded and the plan imperative emerged: to articulate a broad range of significantly enhanced initiatives for generating both contributed and earned revenue.

The planning process confirmed initial beliefs of Gateways’ leadership: 1) fundraising must assume first priority for the board, staff, and volunteers;  2) fundraising from individuals, expanding beyond annual fund solicitations to selective cultivation and solicitation, would be paramount; 3) typical of the evolution from the founding to the governing stage, the board would assume greater responsibility for fundraising, particularly from individuals; and 4) the capacity for both making personal gifts and securing contributions from others would be paramount in the board recruitment process.

Following the resource development imperative, the plan is attentive to categories of potential donors to whom Gateways has not made concerted appeals in the past, including local and national social, civic, and social service organizations, local businesses, and local and national and corporations. Based on recommendations from Gateways musicians in the Core Planning Group, the plan also recognizes unique roles that musicians can play in securing contributions, and articulates how they can implement fundraising strategies. Special events featuring performances by Gateways musicians are also included in the complement of strategies for securing contributions from individuals.

Gateways has sustained ongoing support from a small group of government agencies and foundations, and will continue to appeal for support from them. Because of the unpredictability and financial constraints of government funding, the organization will not increase the level of effort in this sector. However, based on heightened programmatic activity, Gateways will appeal for larger awards. With regard to foundations, Gateways will seek to increase grant levels from current funders and expand its research to identify new funders whose philanthropic priorities are congruent with Gateways’ mission, programs, and operations.

Earned revenue will continue to represent a significantly smaller percentage of total income than contributed support – primarily because Gateways will maintain its commitment to free programming. However, the plan includes strategies for both increasing earned revenue from current sources and garnering income through new approaches.

The Plan Format

The plan consists of ten modules:

  • Foundational Elements
  • Programs
  • Governance
  • Resource Development
  • Communications
  • Organizational Management
  • Facilities and Equipment
  • Planning
  • Accountability and Evaluation

With the exceptions of Foundational Elements and Budget, modules conform to a standard format, beginning with a discussion of the topic area that provides historical context and a preview of the section. Goal statements with objectives (that include action steps, timeframes, responsibility, and resource requirements) follow. With the exceptions of “Resource Development” (discussed above as the “plan imperative”) and “Budget” (not included in the Executive Summary), the content of each module will be briefly described below.

Plan Modules

Foundational Elements

The plan contains a revised mission statement, newly-created core values, organizational philosophy, and vision statements, and identification of the communities Gateways strives to engage.


Since its founding, Gateways has thrived on the strength of its singular program, the Festival, which comprises many and varied activities and events. Through the implementation of this plan, Gateways will take full advantage of opportunities to: 1) serve more professional classical musicians – instrumentalists, singers, conductors – of African descent; 2) perform more works of composers of African descent; 3) reach more communities in Rochester and beyond; 4) encourage and excite young musicians to consider careers in classical music; and 5) increase and diversify its arts and cultural programs, including films, lectures, panel discussions, symposia, and arts exhibitions in an array of community venues.


In the past eighteen months, the Gateways Board has been significantly revitalized. The number of Directors has been increased from eight to twelve, with the addition of four Directors who possess crucial skills and attributes. Gateways will continue to add members to the Board, and provide guidance to all Directors for greater effectiveness in their advocacy and  fundraising responsibilities. The plan describes actions to strengthen board operations, including the creation of  processes (e.g., board performance assessment, Director self-evaluation, etc.) to promote board efficiency and effectiveness. These actions will continue the advancement of governance begun prior to planning with the adoption of revised bylaws, the activation of a rotation policy and structuring of Director classes, and the creation of an expanded committee structure.


Prior to strategic planning, communications with communities (including musicians, audiences, and the general public) has been less the execution of a plan with strategies than it has been the implementation of a series of tasks. These tasks have been undertaken primarily by the two volunteer committees, Artistic Programs and Festival Planning, along with the President & Artistic Director.

During the plan years, Gateways will execute a communications plan intended to: 1) refine and strengthen communications mechanisms that have proven to be effective (e.g., flyers and mailings about the Festival distributed to centers of community activity and community organizations; presentations to social organizations; radio and television interviews with Gateways artistic leadership and musicians; public service announcements on radio and television, etc.), and 2) employ new means (especially electronic and social media platforms) to engage with musicians and audiences.

Organizational Management

Gateways operated for more than twenty years without any paid staff. Upon the retirement of the founder in 2009, the Artistic Programs Committee and the Festival Planning Committee and took responsibility for the organization’s artistic, operational and fundraising activities. Gateways’ first paid staff member Lee Koonce (Chair of the Artistic Programs Committee) was hired as President & Artistic Director as of July 1, 2016, and assumed responsibility for all the duties associated with organizational staff leadership. Koonce and the Board are guiding Gateways through its evolution from a founder-driven organization to one that functions at a higher level of operations and programming – with the strong support of the Artistic Programs and Festival Planning Committees. The plan calls for

1) establishment of policies, systems, and procedures for both general and financial management; 2) stabilization of the organization’s financial profile to assure access to credit for up-front Festival expenses; and 3) creation of a management structure and plan for staff hiring as resources are increased.

Facilities and Equipment

Since 1995, the first year of the Festival in Rochester, New York, Eastman School of Music has provided its major concert and recital halls, practice rooms, and rehearsal spaces as venues for the Festival at no charge to Gateways. In addition, through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the two organizations in 2016, Eastman also makes office space and the use of office equipment to the President & Artistic Director (who is also Senior Advisor to the Dean of Eastman School of Music). Gateways incurs only nominal costs for the many Festival concerts and recitals that occur at venues throughout the city of Rochester. During the lifetime of the plan, Gateways expects to continue the use of these venues at an extremely minimal cost. As staff increases over time, Gateways will need to acquire additional space, furnishings, and equipment.


Through the strategic planning process, planning has been embraced as a basic Board responsibility, with the chief executive’s being charged by the Board to manage the process. Gateways is committing to planning as an ongoing process, and is institutionalizing it as an ongoing practice that engages all internal constituents – board, staff, and musicians. Internal constituents will engage in regular review of the plan throughout the year. Adjustments will be made in the years beyond the current one, based on Gateways’ experience in that year and both internal and external factors that will affect subsequent plan years. Further, at the end of each year, Gateways will add a new year to the plan. This process causes the plan to continue to guide Gateways to the realization of its vision.

Accountability and Evaluation

The strategic plan was constructed to contain its own accountability measures: each planning action is accompanied by a timeframe or completion date and designation of responsibility for the action. In this way, Gateways can monitor progress on the achievement of each action. Regular and frequent review of the plan will alert Gateways to the possible need to revise any timeframes or completion dates. These reviews will benefit from additional input provided by two new external constituent groups, Friends of Gateways (local social, civic, and social service groups) and Gateways Business Council (Rochester-area businesses), after they are established according to plan action steps. This accountability scheme is consistent with long-standing Gateways practice. The Board of Directors has always maintained diligent oversight to assure that Gateways’ programs and activities support the organization’s mission, and that its finances are managed responsibly. The Chairs of Artistic Programs and Festival Planning Committees in their surrogate staff roles have reported the activities of their volunteer groups regularly and thoroughly. To take the measure of the Festival, Gateways has surveyed audiences at each event, and secured feedback from hosts of Chamber Music in the Community and Sunday Morning Chamber Music. Immediately following the Festival, participating musicians are surveyed as well. The plan calls for the refinement and expansion of these activities and the addition of electronic data collection methods to the existing array of assessment tools.

Strategic Plan approved by the Gateways Music Festival Board of Directors at its regular quarterly meeting on June 20, 2017.

Gateways Music Festival expresses its deep gratitude to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for helping make this strategic planning process possible and to strategic planning consultant William Terry for his extraordinary leadership and facilitation.