Westminster College of the Arts: There’s an app for that

By Shanna O’Mara

The app is launched, and the screen lights up with photos of costumed students singing on stage, young children playing the violin in unison and a conductor standing proudly in front of raised bows and instruments.

Westminster College of the Arts launched an app on April 20 that advertises upcoming events on-and-off campus, student performance videos and podcasts featuring some of the world’s leading musicians.

The app will expand Westminster’s reach, allowing the school to be a “major arts force in Lawrenceville and Princeton with the 120 performances that we hold every year,” according to Anne Sears, director of external events.

While Rider has already introduced an app alongside the university website, the Westminster app will be directed more toward art events rather than promoting the school or providing information for students, staff, faculty and more.

“Rider has a wonderful website,” Sears said. “Its focus is on the students, which is great, but the app would focus more on performances and events on either campus.”

Sears initiated the project alongside Westminster Dean Matthew Shaftel as well as Thomas Carle, a graduate assistant, and Tara Laposa, director of Internet projects.

“Dean Shaftel and I were approached by a company called Instant Encore that creates apps for arts organizations,” Sears said. “This is a company that I’ve been familiar with for quite some time. They thought that it might be appropriate for Rider’s Westminster College of the Arts, and we looked at it and thought, ‘Yes, it would be.’ That’s how we got started.”

Instant Encore has already created apps for other performance organizations such as The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Colorado Symphony and The Grand Opera. The company is also currently partnered with other schools, including the University of California Santa Barbara, the University of Missouri Kansas City and Stanford.

While many of the apps created under Instant Encore, including Westminster’s new launch, are geared toward musicians and art students, the content is broad enough to interest any audience.

“It provides another vehicle for students and members of the community to connect with the abundance of artistic and talented individuals that bring superior performances to the area,” Laposa said.

The app is even eco-friendly.

“It’s great for when we hold performances,” Sears said. “We can put the event program on the app, so we’re saving paper.”

One feature that creators are particularly proud of is the Westminster-to-Go podcast which is available through Apple iTunes. The podcast currently features insightful conversations with well-known musicians and previews of upcoming events.

“One aspect I definitely want to address is the podcast feature,” Sears said. “We’d like to expand this capability so that we broadcast Westminster and Lawrenceville events. We’d grow by putting this multimedia element in the hands of non-college people as well.”

Because the app is still new, Sears expects to run into obstacles as the program reaches more and more people in the Rider community and beyond.

“We did a soft launch through social media platforms,” she said. “There are still a few glitches, as we expected, so we can work these out before it gets big.”

Sears is open to comments and suggestions regarding the quality of content and navigation and can be reached at sears@rider.edu. The Westminster College of the Arts application is free in the app store.

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