Sunday, December 30, 2007

Classical music won't die until we're done discussing its demise

From Roger Rudenstein in NewMusicBox:
I doubt, however, that rejection of modernism is what drove Baby Boomers away from classical music. They weren't there in the first place. Part of their act of rebellion was to put a minus sign on anything their parents found important and classical music was seen as part of the conformity and stuffiness of the middle class life they rejected. To make matters worse, music education in the schools was gutted as the post-war prosperity waned and brought massive school budget cutbacks. So, it can't really be said that most Baby Boomers and, especially, the generations following, considered classical music and then rejected it. It was simply not an option.

Many, many good points. Naturally, I think music education for children is key.

A more optimistic piece in the Toronto Star:

In Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company sells out its shows weeks before the curtain goes up.

This entire season of concerts by the Women's Musical Club of Toronto – which has the most uncool name of any music presenter in the city – sold out last summer.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra's revenues have risen steadily since its near-death experience at the turn of the millennium.

Roy Thomson Hall is awash in young faces, thanks to its tsoundcheck program, which offers 15- to 29-year-olds tickets for $12.

If young people weren't interested in classical music, even $5 would not get them through the door.

My epiphany of 2007 came at an all-Gershwin pops concert this fall. It played to a half-capacity house made up largely of seniors.

It became clear that the TSO's younger fans want pure classical, not crossover offerings.

The ASO student tickets are $7. I don't see many young faces at the purely classical offerings. What is the difference? The author here says it's quality. What do you think?


Great quote from Kyle Gann:
A former student expressed frustration with the hoops that grad schools were putting her through for admission, but added, "Well, I guess this is how they winnow out the weak." No no, I told her, the purpose of grad school is to winnow out the disobedient, those who have minds of their own and refuse to squelch them.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Punctuation Drives Blog Traffic: Today, 'super adventure club' equals a period

It's somewhat depressing that one pours one's passion into a blog only to get huge spikes in traffic when one mentions a celebrity in passing. I was thrilled when my traffic went up, only to find everyone was coming for my post on Bob Marley, Will Smith, and 'I am Legend'. Hewy over at No Sleep in Helena Alabama says his traffic jumped when he mentioned that Bo Bice's house was for sale.

So I propose that us low-traffic bloggers use the top Google search terms as punctuation marks. This is how that would look for one of my passionate posts if today's top two terms replaced the period and the comma:
And the donor 'super adventure club' I think every donor wants their money to go directly to the program 'super adventure club' Some money has to go into operations and fund raising 'arizona millionaire raffle' but the slimmer the organization 'arizona millionaire raffle' the less that has to be 'super adventure club' I know one organization that spent 1/3 of the amount received from grants on the salary of the grant writer 'super adventure club' That person earned every penny 'arizona millionaire raffle' but 'arizona millionaire raffle' to me 'arizona millionaire raffle' that indicates something about the process is not working 'super adventure club' Maybe the applications weren't done as well as others 'arizona millionaire raffle' maybe the grants applied for weren't a good fit 'arizona millionaire raffle' but time 'arizona millionaire raffle' effort 'arizona millionaire raffle' and money was wasted on both sides 'super adventure club' If it's that much of a game 'arizona millionaire raffle' I don't want to play 'super adventure club'

Just kidding. It doesn't do any good to draw traffic that doesn't share your passion. Most won't read past their search term.

Juan Valdez can retire now

From Wired:
A nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests.

This could change everything. What part does coffee play in the economy? And think of the accidents due to sleep deprivation. But they're bound to find some unbearable side effect.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Cat

This is Johannes (as in Brahms). Molly calls him Jo-jo. We call him 'kitty'. He's a 3 1/2 legged cat, having been hit by a car. Molly adopted him from her job at the Inverness Animal Clinic where Dr. Strickland has a kind heart.
Jo-jo will go back to Louisville with Molly, but in the meantime is making our lives very interesting.

Although the dogs try very hard to ignore the cat, their prey instinct kicks in as it chases string across the kitchen. Using a flashlight, we convinced Darwin that the cat causes lightening, so now he won't be in the same room with it. He's a big dog and we have a very small house. When the cat snuck in the bedroom with the dogs last night, Darwin got in the shower.

Today we have the peace of a Mexican stand-off. Darwin is snoring from exhaustion due to stress. Tesla thinks squirrels are much easier to herd so has retired to the yard. Libby is torn between wanting to play and wanting to kill. And an undetermined canine made a statement by 'marking' the cat's litter box. Jo-jo's golden eyes take it all in.

We will be cat-free on Sunday. Everyone will be both glad and sad.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Skeptical of Charities? I Know You Should Be!

An article by Kevin Begos in MSNBC's series 'Contribute' talks about serious problems in non-profits:
Just about anything goes — an unregulated, unpoliced free-for-all in which anything might be happening to donor dollars, with anything short of blatant allegations of legal wrongdoing unlikely to be exposed...

I tried. Most frustrating experience of my life.
“These are times that try nonprofit souls,” says New York University Professor Paul Light. “It used to be that the nonprofit sector had the benefit of the doubt from donors. But not anymore. Donor confidence is shaky. Americans have come to believe that there is some sort of leaky bucket that no matter who they give to, some of the money will be lost through waste, inefficiency, and high executive salaries.”

Been there.
Kramer, citing a survey he did for the Gates Foundation, says more donors today are becoming increasingly skeptical of the traditional nonprofit system and would rather start their own nonprofits than trust their money to an existing one.

Done that.
...nonprofit dollars can be consumed in a variety of never-intended ways, from funding excessive executive salaries to increased expenses tied to retaining existing donors and keeping new ones from walking out the door.

Never at Scrollworks.

Salaries? Let's make sure our teachers and staff are fairly compensated. Period.

The industry of chasing money? We don't want to go there. You can help with that by donating if you can when we ask--and by spreading the word.

Scrollworks has been formed by regular people who see a tremendous need for music education and a tremendous potential to benefit our community. We are not non-profit professionals and don't want to be. Our books, plans, meetings and classes are open to everyone at any time. We welcome your input. You know a better way to do it? Come show us how!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Reflections

My son and I ate lunch at Cracker Barrel today. As we waited to be seated and to pay, we were repeatedly swept aside by frantic shoppers buying Hello Kitty clothes and half-price Christmas decorations. Even as one mom shielded her purchases from her children's view, they held up candy and plastic toys in hopes that a little whine and pout might add to their Christmas joys.

This year, for the first time in any of our lives, my children and I aren't doing Christmas. This gives us a chance to stand back and observe. The view is shocking. Stress. Greed. Money spent to buy...what? We are not exchanging gifts, but we've given each other something priceless. This holiday season, without the rush to wrap and write cards, we've gotten to talk. And talk. We have learned so much about each other: hidden hurts, unknown pain, but most of all, the love we feel for each other.

Take a breath, everyone. You don't have to spend a cent to give your heart--and it's a gift that won't go back on December 26.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lambs of Stone Teach Reading and Math

Bailey White came up with a surefire way to teach reading to 1st graders: the story of the Titanic. She says that 1st graders are so blood-thirsty that they will teach themselves to read in their eagerness to find out more about the tragedy.
Yesterday I took two young friends for a walk through the cemetery in Joe Tucker Park. At first they were hesitant, but once I pointed out the stories to be gleaned from each stone, they wanted to visit every one.
Paige, in 2nd grade, stretched herself to read the names and poems. Cassie proved to be an amazing math whiz, calculating the age of each person and relating many dates to events in her life and on everyone's calendar.

I wouldn't say they were blood-thirsty, rather, the girls were fascinated by the detective work. We discussed what a veteran is, how epidemics work and the passage of time. The girls looked carefully for lambs carved into the marble, moved by the death of tiny babies born before their own great-grandparents. We learned a lot from an hour among people whose voices are long silent but still have tales to tell.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Kayla's Blog

Kayla Sealy, music major at UAB and member of MYO, has written a three-part series on her career goals. I hope we can make Scrollworks into the kind of school where she'd like to work:
I’d like to teach elementary through high school kids. If I was still interested in doing so (and had time), what if I could also teach basic music theory and/or music history classes to these students? What if I could work with kids in playing in chamber ensembles? What if I could teach some kids who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to take music lessons because they couldn’t afford it?

Often, I will read articles about how the audiences for orchestras (and all classical music) lack having younger people in attendance (in addition to my own observations when I attend concerts). To me, it seems like the best way to get more people interested in attending those sorts of things is to have them learn about classical music by doing it themselves. In teaching, I wouldn’t (and don’t) have a goal for all of my students to go and be music majors and have some sort of music career, but for them just to enjoy music. They can continue playing their instrument for the rest of their lives if they want to, they would have more of an appreciation for and interest in classical music by having done some themselves, they can go and have other careers, they can come to concerts just because they enjoy it (not because it would somehow make them look better in the eyes of others that they went to a cultural event of some sort).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Man with the Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens

This poem is quoted by Maxine Greene in Releasing the Imagination. Here's the beginning:

The Man With the Blue Guitar
Wallace Stevens

The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

They said, “You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.”

The man replied, “Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar.”

The rest of the poem and an extended discussion is here.

Brittle Children

Violent Acres, again:
Being a child used to be magical. Now? Not so much. Most children nowadays seem to completely lack the ability to entertain themselves. They either need a video game to zone out in front of or a parent to plan activities for them lest they drown in a sea of banality.

I worry that we hover so much over our children that they don't get a chance to fail. We may end up with a generation suffering from the emotional equivalent of brittle bone disease.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Utopian Thinking

I've picked up a new book that has me hooked at page 5--and that's just the introduction. It's Releasing the Imagination by Maxine Greene:
"We acknowledge the harshness of situations only when we have in mind another state of affairs in which things would be better. Similarly, it may only be when we think of humane and liberating classrooms in which every learner is recognized and sustained in her or his struggle to learn how to learn that we can perceive the insufficiency of bureaucratized, uncaring schools. And it may be only then that we are moved to chose to repair or renew.
What I am describing here is a mode of utopian thinking: thinking that refuses mere compliance, that looks down roads not yet taken to the shapes of a more fulfilling social order, to more vibrant ways of being in the world..."

Painful Review

This review by Julien Jourdes in the New York Times is pretty harsh. You know these students must be really good to get a master class with such luminaries. Do you really want to encourage your child to pursue a career in music?
How do these young people react to this kind of criticism after a performance which must have been HUGE in their lives?
Three duos performed Brahms at Weill Recital Hall on Saturday night. All were beneficiaries of weeklong workshops and master classes led by Emanuel Ax, David Zinman and Richard Stoltzman. Brahms’s linkage of piano to either violin, cello or clarinet was the subject matter.

It is difficult to talk about the public concerts that follow such events without knowing what these young musicians wanted from them. Were they a final examination, part of the course? Or were these full-fledged advertisements for careers to come? If the six musicians I heard were simply taking home information helpful in serving their communities, gratifying themselves and teaching others, every performance on Saturday was a success. If grander aspirations were at play, none seemed quite ready for them.

...As a critic, I came away wishing I had been turned away at the door and asked to come back in five years.

I’m letting my white hair fall free

I stop worrying about anything
I give up activities
I’m full of my life
I no longer go to
The temple evening and morning
If they ask me
“What are you doing in your old age?”
I smile and tell them
“I’m letting my white hair fall free.”
- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)

From Daily Zen

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Finally! A Scrollworks Website

It's plain and simple, but now there is
Check it out. Forward it. Thanks.

Do we want to get on this treadmill?

If not, how do we avoid it?
For most of the early 2000s, Senft says, the group was only able to replace most of the donors who walked out the door. “We pretty much broke even,” she says. Late last year, though, the nonprofit had to make a tough decision: spend more money to make money, or risk falling behind. The Wildlife Federation ended up spending some $2 million more on fundraising than the previous year, according to its tax return, sending out 20 million donor letters and nearly as many e-mails.

It worked — but just barely, bringing in 50,000 more members, says Senft, and bumping up donations and membership fees by 6 percent. “We were able to get ahead of the curve because our acquisition was so aggressive,” she adds. “But we didn’t gain ground until this year.”

Call it the donor drain. Raising money for a cause these days has become much like trying to walk up a “down” escalator while it is accelerating. It’s getting tougher just to break even and much easier to fall behind. “The problem is not that [charities are] not getting new money; the problem is that they’re losing an enormous amount of money,” says Bill Levis, the author of a new pilot survey by the Urban Institute that documents the trend.

Levis’ survey shows that most nonprofits post an average gain of just 10 percent each year: they lose 52 percent of their donations, which is then offset by a 62 percent gain in new or upgraded donations. In short, says Levis, nonprofits are losing almost as much as they’re gaining, pouring a river of money into a nearly open drain.

Tom's Philanthropy 2.0 = My Anti-philanthropy?

Tom at The Benefactor Project definitely has strong opinions. I really like his idea of Philanthropy 2.0.
Here's part of his suggested comments for his guerrilla marketing campaign:
About 'philanthropy' sites and blogs. You will run across many sites that like to talk about
philanthropy. They don't actually 'do' anything except talk philanthropy and what rich people
should do with their money so it's OK to call their bluff. They are mostly blow hards that are
themselves trying to get some rich person to pay attention and give money to their projects
but unlike this project they want to make profits off of the poor and needy. If any charity or non
profit doesn't put the wages of the people running it on line, out in the open, they are just
scamming people. Give them a hard time. Particularly a site called Tactical Philanthropy.

This is Philanthropy 2.0 and anyone that isn't up front about what they do with their money is
just ripping people off.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Alabaster: Living large when you have little

Many of you know I'm getting divorced. As a result, Philip and I have moved to a tiny rental house in Alabaster. It was the only place we could find that would take 3 big dogs--and wasn't scary. Some would say it's the 'step down' my mother cautioned me not to take. It's proven to be one of the best moves ever.

Philip and I immediately warmed to the city when Nancy, the receptionist at City Hall, invited us to call her personally if we had any problems with our garbage pick up. Then she said over her shoulder, "What day is garbage pick-up on Brown Circle?" Several ladies popped out of their cubicles to provide the answer--all knowing where Brown Circle was. And there's the city's monthly newsletter listing local happenings. That's where I learned that the little yellow signs on my street are where Santa will stop to visit on Christmas Eve. The people in Alabaster look different--less polished, less manufactured--and act different--they look you in the eye and their smile goes all the way up into their eyes, even when you just crashed carts at the grocery store. The people in Alabaster are real.

My neighbor Jeff, is a truck driver for Saginaw Pipe. I felt like I was home the minute he introduced himself. Jeff seems to be related to half the residents of this subdivision. (You can see his step-daughter's first lesson on a Scrollworks cello here.) He and Philip talk cars. His wife Jill, and I talk dogs. Here's their Jack Russell/hound puppy, Sniper.

I walk my dogs around to the highway and past the Chevron station where the early morning commuters always say hello. There is one small house I go by that has an enclosed porch crammed full of stuff--plants, suncatchers, furniture. There are always 3 or 4 cars parked out front. This morning I noticed that what I thought were storage sheds in the backyard may actually be minuscule homes. But this little house has filled its tiny yard with the most joyous Christmas decorations. You may have spent hundreds on your waving inflatable snowmen and have color-coordinated the ornaments on your tree, but your magazine-perfect Christmas will be shallow compared with the simple but sincere depth of holiday cheer on my street.

What we want to be: The Harmony Project

We can have this here, for Birmingham's children. But we need your help. Please donate to Scrollworks. Today.

From the LA Times:
But Delgado doesn't stop there. He is music director of the Harmony Project, a nonprofit group in Los Angeles that offers extensive classical musical training to 500 people ages 6 to 18 from disadvantaged families living in the area. That training is the entrance into a world of classical musicianship that many children from all backgrounds will never glimpse in an era of financially strained public school budgets.

The Harmony Project

Canon Rock - Pachelbel would be stunned

4700 versions of Molly's most dreaded choice for a wedding gig?

I'm not the only one: Professor Cashes in His Savings to Purchase Archaelogical Site

From the Houston Chronicle:
After trying to raise the money to buy an archaeological dig site north of Austin, a University of Texas professor cashed out his personal savings to purchase the land and then donated it to the Archaeological Conservancy.

The 33-acre Gault site in Southwestern Bell County was one of the major areas of activity for the Clovis people in North America and contains relics that are as many as 13,500 years old, said Michael Collins, associate researcher at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at UT's J.J. Pickle Research Campus.

In 2002, Collins said, the team uncovered artifacts that predate the Clovis.

"This one site could tell us more about the Clovis than we had learned and not learned from other sites up until then, and it also had evidence of people being there before the Clovis," he said. "Those two things combined make it of extraordinary scientific interest and importance."

The UT System leased the Gault site for university use from 1999 to 2002. After the lease was up, Collins led an effort to raise money to purchase the land but was unable to meet the owner's asking price.

So earlier this year, he said he decided to use his savings to purchase the land. He finished paying for the land last month.

Another Favorite

Electricity 1950-1975
Originally uploaded by peacay
Bibliodyssey opens up beautiful books that I would otherwise never see.

Happy notes

Happy notes
Originally uploaded by delftblue15
From the Faces in Places blog.

Bent Objects: Italian Food is Serious Business

This guy's work is just brilliant.
Bent Objects: Italian Food is Serious Business

Sunday, December 16, 2007

'Non- non-profits and 'Anti-' Philanthropy

So there's another one out there! Tom Canavan posted a comment on my previous rant, which led me to his Benefactor Project. I haven't read every word (and I will), but it really looks like a good idea to me.

Are there any more 'non-' non-profits out there? How about 'anti-' philanthropists? People less interested in the process and more interested in the action, willing to stop filling out forms or evaluating them, and instead getting personally involved?

Think you don't have a choice? You're wrong. It's an infinite game.

How does the intangible get into a report on a charity's impact?

I've been thinking about our decision to look for funding from individuals in the community rather than courting the benefactors who might give a large sum. Maybe we're shooting ourselves in the foot. We'll see.

Last night I watched 'After the Wedding', about a man running an orphanage in India that struggles for funding. He can get a multi-million dollar donation if he agrees to live in Denmark. Wouldn't that be a lovely dilemma? What would I do? (Of course, it'd be easy for me. I'm the only one at Scrollworks with no relevant skills.)

I thought about the $50 my mother donated. Would it be better to spend that on a seminar touting "Secrets of Grant-writing" or on a used keyboard for the Scrollworks piano lab? I can't help but vote for the keyboard.

Sure, the seminar is an investment that eventually may get us a grant. But the kids we want to reach don't have time to wait for that. They need what Scrollworks is offering NOW. If that keyboard is part of reaching a child during the first semester and changing their life in even a small way, the return on that investment is beyond calculation. I'd like to know how that gets factored into the measures of a charity's impact.

And the donor. I think every donor wants their money to go directly to the program. Some money has to go into operations and fund raising, but the slimmer the organization, the less that has to be. I know one organization that spent 1/3 of the amount received from grants on the salary of the grant writer. That person earned every penny, but, to me, that indicates something about the process is not working. Maybe the applications weren't done as well as others, maybe the grants applied for weren't a good fit, but time, effort, and money was wasted on both sides. If it's that much of a game, I don't want to play.

Heroic Stories

I've subscribed to Heroic Stories for years. Each email contains a simple tale of one person helping another, plain words written by regular people but infused with faith in the goodness of their fellow man. On those days when I'm not so sure about goodness, this publication always changes my mind.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Non-Profits and Philanthropy: Can we cross the threshold?

funny picturesWhen I don't know anything about a subject I'm interested in, I read. The Internet is invaluable for this. (Jon Horton and I had a great discussion about the benefits of wiring the Internet directly to the brain. I'll sign up for those clinical trials.)

So, to discover what the heck I've gotten myself into, I am reading non-profit blogs and blogs of those that advise and market to non-profits. And I'm reading philanthropy blogs and blogs of those that advise philanthropists. And critics of both. The more I read, the more disturbed I become. It seems that both sides are bloated and byzantine, no different from the industries that surround and make up our federal income tax or social security systems. So much of the charity resources of the world are going to support the industry, not the work that needs done.

I have tremendous reservations about stepping into that world with Scrollworks. I've been asking myself why.

Is it because I don't think Scrollworks can compete? To some extent, yes. We are unsophisticated and naive. We don't have four color brochures or a budget for lunches with potential donors. No foundation can look at our record when deciding to give--there isn't one. I think Scrollworks is a very good idea. I think it is worth the risk--after all, I'm donating what is basically my entire life savings, pitiful though that is. But when this issue comes up and everyone's answer is to just finesse it with words, I don't like it. I'd much rather lay it all out on the table. Is there a philanthropist out there who gets that involved before making their first cuts based on a form someone submits? From what I read, no. And if that's the case, what's the point of pursuing that avenue of funding?

Which brings up another major problem I have with the industrial nature of non-profits and philanthropy. There are probably a lot of people out there like us, even some less sophisticated and with fewer skills and resources. Undoubtedly they could do some powerful work to better the human condition. But they won't get the chance because they can't cross the threshold. I'm sure many don't even try, while others struggle on with nothing. I remember getting a call at MOP from an elderly lady who was trying to teach violin to some preschoolers in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Birmingham. She needed help. She couldn't afford MOP's price. I also fielded a call from someone in the Midfield City Schools desperate to get string classes for their students. That system also couldn't afford MOP's price. Where could these people go from there? How could they find the time, energy and knowledge to access possible resources? My days are already filled with work on behalf of MYO and Scrollworks--talking to people, researching, preparing for events and rehearsals--yet I know that for us to gain the skills to cross the same threshold, I need to attend just about every event that the Non-Profit Resource Center emails me about. Stop researching concert venues to drive to a meeting to glean a tidbit or two on how to nuance a grant proposal? That just seems wrong, wrong, wrong.

When I was still working for a corporation, back before Molly was born, I stopped giving to the United Way because I read enough to be concerned with how the bureaucracy worked. I was disappointed with the Girl Scouts when I talked to upper-middle-class parents who got scholarships for their daughters to attend camp. They were better off than my family, but I would never have dreamed to apply on Molly's behalf because camp was very reasonable and I knew there must be many girls that truly needed the assistance. I have come to realize that the only way to know how my contribution will be used is to donate time and effort, and I've generously and unhesitatingly given both resources to the Girl Scouts, the Alabama School of Fine Arts, the Music Opportunity Program, and now MYO and Scrollworks. (For those who don't know, Nick and I have taken no salary for any of our work with MYO--and I've pretty much been working on it full time since June.)

I think that is the answer to the problem. Somehow, the giving and receiving has to go beyond forms, and be part of a personal relationship. The non-profit has to be willing to throw open their books, their doors and their hearts without reservation. Not in a presentation, not during a VIP tour--but when the air conditioning is broken, the hard drive just crashed, and a student drops their instrument. And the philanthropists must make the time and effort to learn, to get the feel of the organization. To really matter, to really make a difference everyone must get engaged and involved at every level. There is no easy way.

And people will always want the easy way. They will go to Guidestar rather than do some work, and for small donations, that's cost-effective for the donor. I'm not sure I still wouldn't recommend, though, that even the small donor make the time and effort to find charities they can get engaged with and give to those. (Ha. At least I can say I'm putting my money where my mouth is.) And I guess taking the easy way explains something I've puzzled over: why some philanthropists continue to give to flawed organizations without requiring the needed changes. You still look good, like a thoughtful, generous soul, and still have people talking about you with great reverence when you give lots of money to an organization that on the surface looks worthwhile, and you perhaps even fool yourself about your good works. Yet you avoid taking a real stand or making the effort to fix the problems or finding a better place for your money. It's too difficult, too much work. And it's too bad for the world.

I am not the goddess of perfection. I have made and continue to make many mistakes. But I have sincerely given everything I am and I have to my family and, now that my children are grown, to these organizations. I believe in Girl Scouts. I feel like ASFA is my family. I care deeply about what MOP is trying to do. And MYO and Scrollworks are my passion. I have worked so hard to do the right thing, to take action, to make a difference. I lie awake wondering if I'm choosing correctly. I don't know. Am I?

Music can infect the world with love

Went to see "I Am Legend" last night. Being a fan of the book by Richard Matheson and The Omega Man since high school (a long time ago!), I enjoyed this version tremendously.

Bob Marley and Legend his album are part of the plot. At one point in the movie, Will Smith as Robert Neville, virologist, talks about how Bob Marley thought that the world could be changed by infecting it with music and love. That sure struck a chord with me. He also quotes Bob Marley, who performed at a concert two days after being shot in an assassination attempt, as saying (and I paraphrase), " The bad people trying to make the world worse don't take a day off, so why should I?"

Here's what Will Smith says in an article by Fred Topel:
"That Bob Marley Legend album actually is my favorite album so it just connected with me that concept of Bob Marley having the virologist sort of idea of trying to cure hate with music. That idea just exploded in my mind about two weeks into production. It just fit perfectly that idea of lighting up the darkness. It was one of those perfect opportunities when something had already lived inside of you fits perfectly with a character and a situation. That was my little treat."

Friday, December 14, 2007

1000 People, $50

We had a staff meeting for Scrollworks last night. Mary Lee Rice, one of our wonderful parents who is a Vestavia Hills city councilwoman, came and talked to us about fund raising. She explained how we need to get people who are 'connected' to believe in and be passionate about Scrollworks. Then we need to get those people to convince their connections to give. Great advice. We're working on that right now.

After she left, we talked. We are all extremely passionate about Scrollworks--and are finding others equally as passionate around every corner. But they're mostly just regular people. Many are really good musicians, none are wealthy. We decided we'd really like to have 1000 small donations from regular people. We would certainly appreciate a generous donation, but we won't sell our name to become Megacorp Music School. And we don't want to act with a benefactor's reaction always in mind. Some people won't even TALK to us because they're afraid of upsetting a certain local donor. That's not how we want to operate, and it's probably not even what that donor would want. The focus should be on getting children involved in music, not on getting the next big donation.

So we're going to start a campaign, passing out fliers to plumbers, churches, at auto parts stores, everywhere we do business or can think of--on street corners, if we have to. We're looking for community support and involvement. We believe it is there.

(Another thing we decided last night is that the first semester of Scrollworks will be free to any child that can get there on a regular basis. After that, we'll institute our 'sliding scale'.)

I have put a counter up on the blogs so you can watch our progress. I've already donated $50 and I was wondering if you guys, even though many of you've already donated to the orchestras, could donate another 50 bucks--or $10 or whatever--to Scrollworks. And if you know anyone who might donate, please ask them for me. People are getting ready to put $50 of cr%& under their Christmas tree, or on the tree, or in their yard--stuff that'll end up at Goodwill in a few months. I know. I've done it many times myself. Wouldn't it be great to give music to kids instead--a gift that can't be discarded, but can be 're-gifted' many times?

I will also post a list of donors' names--and dedications. If you would like to designate your donation to be in someone's honor, there's a place to leave a comment on the PayPal donation page--or you can email me.

Mothers Never Lie

A great comic:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Donate one lesson!

It occurred to me this morning (duh!), that we could have the $50,000 additional we need for Scrollworks if 1000 people donated $50.

Surely there are 1000 people in Birmingham that think 6 hours of music lessons a week for children who otherwise would get none is worth $50.

For the students in our youth orchestras, that's typically the price of one lesson!

Please help us find this wonderful 1000!
Send this link to anyone and everyone:

I'm moving in with the Grinch this year

Violent Acres never minces words, a rarity in the hot-air filled blogosphere. This post expresses better than I ever could why I'm so burned out on the 'holidays'. For 25 years I played the game, to the point that the first twinkling lights make me cringe with dread at the coming work and expense. No decorations, no gifts, no fancy food at my house this year--and it is a delicious relief.
"We’ve been watching too many commercials, people. Slick advertising has convinced us that buying things for each other is the only way to show our love. In our mass hysteria to pick out the very perfect gift, we’ve forgotten the true measure of our relationships is how we treat each other...

...I want people to keep their money, pay their bills, and enjoy a holiday season without the stress of New Year’s debt. I want them to realize that their presence in the lives of those they love, through good times and bad, is worth far more than any possible gift they could buy. I want them to get out of this trap they seem to be in where presents are either insults or validations of their personal relationships."

So many of you have given me a gift of true friendship this year, and that will keep me warm long past New Year's. Thank you!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Who goes to All-State Orchestra?

I've had several parents bring up the All-State Orchestra auditions. I have paid attention to the results since Molly first participated almost a decade ago. There always seem to be discrepances, technical difficulties, seeming unfairness--and unhappy young people. I believe that the auditions are conducted with complete integrity. This article by Miranda Sawyer may give you some insight into the difficulties of judging:
"Whoever or whatever wins, the world will think the award is fixed...

...despite your agonies, there isn't a right answer. There's a right answer for this particular jury, under these particular circumstances, on this particular day. So your verdict is essential, and yet meaningless. No matter how long you discuss, how much research you do, the resulting decision is not correct."

Monday, December 10, 2007

About Scrollworks

The following went out as an email to all parents and students today:

This is the third version of this I've attempted. It's hard not to say too much.

Scrollworks. A community music school. The first after-school classes for underprivileged children begin January 8.

Please read about it here.

Tell us what you think.

It's been Nick's dream for years. I have been easing into it—until the SBYO at the Proms fired me up.
But the true inspiration is YOU, the members of the MYO youth orchestras. We want to give every child that twinkle you have in your eye at rehearsal, the joy that you share with the audience when you play. Performances like the one we just did at Children's Hospital should happen often and should include young musicians from the entire metro area.

We think you can see how important an effort like this is, the significant cultural changes that could result. We need your help to make it happen:

  • Donations.

    We have a pledge of $35,000. We need $50,000 more for the first semester. Anything you can give will help.

    There's also a button on the MYO web page and on each of the blogs. Or you can mail a check to: MYO, PO Box 130877, Birmingham, 35213.
    Since tax-deductibility is retroactive, these contributions should be deductible once our 501c3 application is approved in 2008.

    And please connect us with those who might want to donate. Please forward a link to this post.

  • Volunteers.

    We would love for our orchestra students to get involved as teaching assistants—and several have already said they would.
    We need help with fund raising, publicity, photography, videography, the website and blogs, setting up the music library, researching school locations and performance venues.
    You probably have a skill that you have seen we need. Tell us what you want to do.

  • Promote Scrollworks.

    Recruit for everything—orchestras, performances, classes, donations.
    Pass out fliers, put up posters.
    Let us know where we should place ads.
    Link to us on your web pages.

  • The Easy Stuff.

    Subscribe to the blog emails.
    Visit the blogs often.

  • Other Stuff.

    Donate instruments, chairs, music stands, office supplies, snacks.
    We're looking for a place to park the construction trailer we would like to use as our office.

  • Thanks so much!


    Sunday, December 9, 2007

    Does classical music have a future?

    Great discussions on Greg Sandow's blog this week:
    (Be sure to read the comments.)

    Making a Living
    How will classical musicians make a living? The old paradigm gives you ways to do that (playing in an orchestra, for instance), even though there aren't enough jobs for everyone who graduates from music school. But the new paradigm doesn't seem to offer much. I've talked about this with an artists' manager at one of the big managements, who's certainly in a position to know how musicians support themselves. He's also one of the few people (though I think their numbers are growing) in big-time managements who really love alternative performances. And he vociferously thinks that the new performances can't support the musicians who play in them.

    Wonderful time
    What other school requires classical music students to improvise? Eric and I couldn't think of any. The concert showed how much these kids loved improvising, and how fearless they were. They worked out their plans (to hear them tell it) only minutes before they came on stage, and that only seemed to make them looser, and encourage them to have fun. Apparently they move away from improvising in their junior and senior years. And not all the music faculty are down with improvising. Still -- it plainly opens the students' creativity, and, again, they plainly love doing it.
    Don't miss the great posts on our own MYO blog. Less controversial, more personal.

    Saturday, December 8, 2007

    Back to the Future

    I have just finished uploading scans of the Winter, 1959 issue of Space Journal. My dad, Philip Shockey, wrote an article for this magazine (see Page 5). I found it when I was packing for my move and was inspired by the Paleo-Future blog to give you a glimpse of what experts thought the future would be almost 50 years ago.

    The only thing we can say for sure about the future is that it won't be anything like what is predicted by the experts.

    Thursday, December 6, 2007

    Wednesday, December 5, 2007

    Guts, Games, and Gumption

    At the request of 'btc' in a comment on an earlier post, I will explain my "gut feelings" about Scrollworks.

    My instinct is that we need to act--get in there and start teaching and see what happens. It is a inevitable that we will be surprised, no matter how detailed our plans. So beyond developing an identity, sketching out a strategy and a basic budget, I think planning is a waste of precious time.
    We've tried to follow the suggested outlines in the books or to fill out application forms and our idea just doesn't fit--a Koch snowflake can't be measured in a Euclidean dimension.
    My gut feelings tell me it is wrong to change what we want to do in order to fill in the blanks designed for the typical, the average, the everyday.
    New ideas, the ones that generate real change, are unexpected, surprising, don't look like anything that came before, can't answer the usual questions.
    We want an organization that will be infinitely flexible and adaptable: an ever-changing fractal, an infinite game.
    How we are going to explain that to most people, I don't know.
    How many can or will take the time to read everything Margaret Wheatley ever wrote, Mr. Carse's 'Finite and Infinite Games', and 'Nexus' by Mark Buchanan before deciding the worth of our plan?
    We're scared to death: the kids might not be interested, the community might reject our efforts, we may not be able to create the network we many doubts. How can we convince anyone to take such a risk with us?
    But it's also exciting and exhilarating, an exploration, an experiment. How can you not want to be involved?
    Come on, join in the game!

    Monday, December 3, 2007

    James P. Carse on Teaching and the Infinite Game

    "...the someone who, in his or her teaching, makes him- or herself dispensable. A true teacher is one who disappears and leaves it all to the student, so that following has to be understood much more as beginning than following. A true teacher starts his student to do something and doesn't know where it's going."

    Google video of Carse speaking at

    Friday, November 30, 2007

    5 Problems I Have with the Non-Profit Industry

    Every 'how to blog' post recommends writing lists with titles like the one I gave this post. It's supposed to bring in traffic--and it does work. Does that mean I should only talk about what can be said in a list? Or that I should spend hours reworking a topic into a list? Do you feel I've tricked you with this title if I don't follow through with a list? That's the point. It's a formula. It works. But that doesn't make it good.

    Something is bothering me about this whole non-profit industry. I read a lot of blogs about non-profits and we belong to an association or two. The bloggers promote books, schools and software about the best formulas for fund raising, PR and marketing. I get 3 or 4 emails a day inviting me to a local seminar on the secrets of grant writing or how to use social networking. More formulas.

    Yesterday, I got a friendly note from a local non-profit. When I went to their website, the list of staff seemed huge for what they do and how old they are. And then there's the Red Cross. These well-respected non-profits follow the formulas and get the funding.

    Is anybody doing the work? How many on the staff of the typical non-profit ever spend time with the people the non-profit is supposed to be serving? And what about those who want to do something really world-changing but aren't very literate or can't afford a seminar? If they can't pay someone to write a snappy grant proposal, do they get funded? All the guidelines for fund raising say philanthropists want to see a proven track record, good governance, measurable objectives. That means a lot of new ideas don't get considered. Sure, there's fiscal sponsorship. But we just discovered that concept two weeks ago. How is someone without many resources but with a passion to serve supposed negotiate the maze?

    It seems to me that a lot of good is not getting done because non-profits have become big business. Valuable money and other resources are going to support the bloat rather than the mission--no matter what the published ratios say. When there is debate concerning several organizations who are rating the charities, something is wrong.

    To help us with Scrollworks, we have purchased some books like "Fund Raising for Dummies". I tried to follow their steps, but it just seems wrong. So many of the requirements go against my gut instincts of what we should be doing. It's great to have a plan, but it isn't great to spend three years coming up with the plan--and the bureaucracy that supports it. It seems better for our project to sketch out a plan and then be ready to adjust instantly to what we encounter in real life.

    Perhaps that means we will struggle for funds. So be it. Are there any donors out there willing to risk their money on an experiment? I don't know. I think the potential benefit makes the risk worthwhile. We need about $85,000 for the first semester of Scrollworks. I'm donating my IRA to get us started. That should be about $35,000. Hopefully some others will understand what we are trying to do and chip in.

    And I am going to be thinking about the big business of non-profits. Maybe we need the charity equivalent of the Grameen Bank--some place where people can easily and quickly get funding to try a new idea. After all, it's like what Nick says about the orchestras: it's a numbers game. We need to start 300 students to get 30 into orchestra. We need to try 300 ideas to get 30 that change the world.

    Thursday, November 29, 2007


    'Courage is love as action--love on her silver steed, forcing change in the world, rising to challenges, negotiating life with skill, and confronting others with care and wisdom. The qualities that courage draws upon--hardiness and resilience, as well as the ability to bend and alter course when faced with difficulty, to commit oneself to a cause, and to find inner power during times of pain--are all associated with mental health. We need a deep, tensile strength to face the tough times in life, to speak out persuasively against injustice, and above all, to love others wisely and well. To love at all is a risk that requires courage--we risk our safety, letting ourselves be raw and vulnerable; we accept our share of compromise and weather disappointment and despair...

    Courage takes many forms. For some, it means changing the world, even risking one's life to do so. For others, it requires standing up for oneself, speaking out in your own relationships...

    Courage is the hallmark of every human who has changed the world, from Jesus to Joan of Arc...

    Courage comes from the Latin for "heart" (cor). Courage is also contained in the word encouragement--literally, giving heart to another...

    Hardiness is the core trait of courageous individuals...hardiness is composed of the three C's of courage: commitment, control, and challenge.'

    From Why Good Things Happen to Good People by Stephen Post and Jill Neimark

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007

    Power Move

    "The first move that sets these energies into motion, like cutting a stretched rubber band, has been called a “power move” by systems thinker Barry Oshry. The power move then is one in which tremendous energies are unleashed.

    What’s more, it is usually an individual who, waking up in the middle of the night, gets the idea that he or she must do something. Oshry claims that this thought of what to do comes with great clarity—and is often seen as a betrayal. (As Oshry points out, Abraham Lincoln, Anwar Sadat and Yitzak Rabin are good examples of leaders who went beyond their official mandates in order to change a situation that was dramatically stuck. All three were shot for their troubles.)

    The first move, an act of self-nomination, is profoundly undemocratic. It is “paradigm shattering” because it changes the rules of the game. It is a move made by an individual tired of endless committee meetings and discussions that change nothing. It’s the move made by someone who is profoundly tired of being subject to power, the logic of which is beyond their rational understanding (think of all those moments of anonymous bravery during periods such as the Holocaust). To make the first move is to risk everything; it is to make the ultimate wager.

    Fraught with risk and danger, the first move is made by someone who sees, in a moment, that he or she actually has the capacity to change a world. The defining act of leadership, the first move, increasingly, is rarely practiced by those who call themselves leaders and is more frequently found amongst those that don’t."

    "The defining moment in the life of any group is that historic moment where they are called to act in an instant, with perfect trust and co-ordination."

    From The Six or Seven Axioms of Social Change: Margaret Mead's Gift by Zaid Hassan

    Core Practices of Life-Affirming Leaders by Margaret Wheatley

    A summary:
    Know they cannot lead alone.

    Have more faith in people than they do in themselves.

    Recognize human diversity as a gift, and the human spirit as a blessing.

    Act on the fact that people only support what they create.

    Solve unsolvable problems by bringing new voices into the room.

    Use learning as the fundamental process for resiliency, change and growth.

    Offer purposeful work as the necessary condition for people to engage fully.

    Ambiguity and Uncertainty

    Ambiguity and uncertainty are befriended in this work. To follow a sense of calling, in the company of others, aware of a diverse world, from a spiritual center and with an awareness of assumptions, is to let go of control. There is simply no other way. Doing all of those things throws the doors of ambiguity and uncertainty wide open.

    A choice each of us can make is whether ambiguity and uncertainty open a pathway to fear or a pathway to balance. When we think we are supposed to be in charge, when our self-confidence is based on being able to predict what will happen and how things will turn out, then ambiguity and uncertainty usually invite our fear to rise up and bite us.

    When we are able to release ourselves into the uncertainty, we are invited to become explorers, to discover what lies ahead as we work with others to create that future. Cire Kane put it well:

    “Today, the path is still unclear. It is literally invisible, and yet my heart is often being moved and my soul split open. My lovely work is taking me every day on a journey of new experiences. These experiences are opening my heart to the unimaginable beauty of life and community around me. Every day I awaken to a new day. I go out into the world with a feeling of excitement and joy and a feeling of being at home, everywhere in our diverse supportive community. I do my work with engagement and joy, with lots of downs and still many ups. I break for prayer, sometimes meditation, often to be with my parents or to hang out with friends. I love my work. I love my community and I love the life I’m living. I will persevere through uncertainty and fear about my ability to carry out the mission before me.”

    -Landmarks for Leaders by Bob Stilger

    Two for Scrollworks

    Learning the Score by Alex Ross

    Slouching Toward Flatland by Zaid Hassan

    These two articles are amazing. Read them if you're interested in our Scrollworks project.

    Puppies Play Games, People Play Music

    Why Good Things Happen to Good People by Stephen Post and Jill Neimark has a chapter on the scientifically proven benefits of feeling gratitude. Henry Fountain writes in the New York Times about his attempt to keep a gratitude journal.

    Jennifer Crossley reviews Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks in the Shoals' Times Daily. This book demonstrates that music is inextricably part of being human. It seems to me that we are making a serious mistake by putting it so low on our educational priorities. Our sports undoubtedly hearken back to the universal competition for food and territory, and the instincts and strategies involved are also primitive. Puppies play games. Music, on the other hand, is intertwined with language as higher-level skills not available to even our nearest primate relatives. Dr. Sacks describes research showing that infants have a grasp of music and rhythm, but the Thai Elephant Orchestra really does not. Our society will have achieved true maturity when we see children eagerly turning in their cleats and bats because they choose to play in any kind of music ensemble--and they are widely celebrated for their choice.

    Saturday, November 24, 2007

    Love is a Rose

    I am now reading Why Good Things Happen to Good People by Stephen Post and Jill Neimark. This book is full of scientific research confirming the health and mental benefits of giving. I became interested in this subject after reading that research indicates that givers receive back $3.25 for every $1 they donate.
    The preface by Reverend Otis Moss, Jr. says all that needs to be said:
    When you are in a desert, plant a rose. Plant a rose of liberation. Plant a rose of peace, a rose of reconciliation, and a rose of faith, hope, and love. And the desert will blossom.

    Thursday, November 15, 2007

    Lighting up the brain

    Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks emphasizes the importance of music to our humanity. In writing of the range of musical talent, he states:
    "It has been said that even a brief exposure to classical music can stimulate or enhance mathematical, verbal, and visuospatial abilities in children--the so-called Mozart effect. This has been disputed by Schellenberg and others, but what is beyond dispute is the effect of intensive early musical training on the young, plastic brain. Takako Fujioka and her colleagues, using magnetoencephalography to examine auditory evoked potentials in the brain, have recorded striking changes in the left hemisphere of children who have had only a single year of violin training, compared to children with no training."

    An article by Matthew Westwood in The Australian quotes Clive Robbins, a music therapist:
    "When we are involved in music, more areas of the brain light up than in any other activity," says Robbins, who was visiting Australia last week from the US. "We are so full of rhythm and pitch," he says, emphasising the intonations of his speech...
    "Somehow, music is all about companionship, even the infant babbling with its mother - it's a very early form, an innocent form, of companionship - all the way to sophisticated chamber music, where people are living in the almost chess-like intricacies of composition.

    "Why music? All the intricacies of our minds, and our needs from the basic to the highest, are there in music."

    I cannot think of anything I have heard or read that denied there were benefits to music education. Please let me know of any such arguments. I'd love to look into them.

    Sunday, November 11, 2007

    Saving Children

    Marie Leech's article in the Birmingham News about the many gaps between Birmingham schools and the suburban schools-performance, technology, etc.--makes our efforts to kick off the Scrollworks program in January seem timely and even urgent. If we can duplicate the results of El Sistema, the benefits to the children are clear:
    "...students who go through the sistema become more productive and responsible members of society...
    ...Studies link participation to imporvements in school attendance and declines in juvenile delinquency. Weighing such benefits as a falloff and school dropout rates and a decline in crime, the band calculated that every dollar invested in the sistema was reaping about $1.68 in social dividends." (New York Times, 10-28-07)

    "...the most important aspect of El Sistema is that it is literally saving children's lives.

    Every one of them has a story to tell. "I'd either be dead or still living on the streets smoking crack like when I was eight," said a french horn player.

    "I'd be like the other 17-year-old girls in the barrio - hanging with the gangs and pregnant," said a violinist.

    "Joining the orchestra changed not only my life but my whole family's. My father was drinking far too much, and my brothers had dropped out of school. When I got hooked on my instrument, my father stopped drinking and, one by one, my brothers went back to school," said a trumpeter...

    ...Wouldn't it be marvellous if some big organisation - for example, one of those same tabloids that delight in lurid headlines such as "Anarchy!" and revelations about the sex lives of Big Brother participants - decided to back a scheme like this and make a real difference to our children's lives?

    Any takers?" (Julian Lloyd Webber,, 9-6-07)

    We've got teachers. We've probably got a location. We've got a budget. Now all we need is funding.
    We'll get back to you on that!

    Sunday, November 4, 2007

    Two Kinds of Youth Orchestra

    I've just watched the 'Tochar y Luchar' DVD for the third time. Looking into the eyes of those children, how can we not bring this here, bring it to every child?

    Which is better?
    A youth orchestra that impresses because the parents sought out and paid for the best instruction, the best instruments; because the students practiced many hours at their parents' behest or to satisfy their own ambition; because each member strives to be better than the others, waiting with churning stomach for the results of the latest competition.

    A youth orchestra that lifts up the heart and spirit of the audience because the students can only afford to give their own heart--and give it all; because the students practice the music for the love of it and perform with passion for the beauty of it; because the orchestra members care for each other and help each other succeed.

    I believe there is a place for both kinds of youth orchestra. But I also know that the second orchestra conveys significantly more benefit to its members, its audience, our society, and the world. And it's the kind that we will strive to create. Join us.

    Saturday, November 3, 2007

    The total sum of stories people tell about you

    Simplified Map of London
    Originally uploaded by Nad
    Nick recently had a 'state of the orchestra' discussion with MYO. One point he made was that the orchestra and our organization must serve the needs of everyone involved. A show of hands demonstrated that only 10% of the members plan to major in music. The rest are participating for other reasons. It will be impossible for us to serve every need at every rehearsal and performance. We hope we will be able to serve them all over the course of the season. (Talk to us about it any time.)

    The "Really Terrible Orchestra" has obviously filled a need for its members. What's amazing is that its '"really terrible" concerts are always sold out. So it must fill an audience need as well. To me, this orchestra and its followers are an example we should follow. Maximizing the joy of music throughout the performance hall is what we want to do more than anything. If there is a slip in formality or a dip in quality, but there is that spirit of joy bonding the musicians and the audience, we have been successful beyond measure.

    As we are developing Scrollworks and telling you all about it, we are examining our core beliefs. Doing what is right is the essential principle that led us to found this organization. Good things have followed. From the Church of the Customer blog:

    The best PR comes from the smallest of actions by the root-level people. They smile when they first meet you. They call you by your name. They compliment competitors. They don't blame you for their system's misgivings. When forced to make a decision, they always, always, always do the right thing, even if it's not in the economic or political interests of their employer. They break the rules when it's obvious they must.

    That's real PR. It's the total sum of stories people tell about you.

    I was glad to see that my niece, Lauren Hewson, completed her obligation to the Estes Park cross-country team despite not enjoying the sport.

    Friday, November 2, 2007

    Enthusiasm and momentum.

    "Enthusiasts believe that the best way to predict the future is to create it." --Stephen Covey

    I apologize for the lack of posts. MYO, and now Scrollworks, is never out of my thoughts, but I have been consumed by major life adjustments: learning, growing, and changing. The trigger was the book "Life on Purpose" by W. Bradford Smith, which I thought was going to be pop-psych fluff. Assumptions can be dangerous!

    For those who need it, "Why Does He Do That?" could literally be a life saver. This is helpful, too.

    I am tremendously grateful to you all, but especially to those who have extended open ears, open arms and open doors. Thank you. And Nick, you're the greatest.

    "It’s time for us to shift from despair to dreams."--Peter Gorrie paraphrasing Chris Turner here.

    Look out, Scrollworks, here I come. We've got momentum. And we are unstoppable.
    "When you can give yourself to work that brings together a need, your talent, and your passion, power will be unlocked." --Stephen Covey

    Anyone who's paid attention from the beginning of this blog will know my reaction to the war on whistle-blowers. My heart goes out to anyone in any job who decides to go that route without knowing the facts:
    Whistle-blowers lose their cases, the investigation shows, nearly 97 percent of the time. Most limp away from the experience with their careers, reputations and finances in tatters.
    And, of course, SBYO grabs attention again:

    "The way the Venezuelans play music is exactly how I always thought it should be played," says Joshua Weilerstein, a violinist at the New England Conservatory who was invited to join the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra's current tour after two previous trips to Venezuela. "I think American musicians are incredibly enthusiastic, but there isn't a desperation about the way we play. [The Venezuelans] play as if their lives depend on every note. There's complete passion."

    There is also a sense of collectivism and common purpose that might be sacrificed in an emphasis on individual training. "In Venezuela, the most important thing is the orchestra," Mr. Dudamel told The Independent in September. "You create a community, a shared objective."

    There's just too many kids slipping through the cracks, not just with health insurance, and food, but with food for the soul, something they desire in equal measure.

    And still more:
    In selecting Dudamel, the L.A. Philharmonic is also allying itself with a uniquely successful education initiative, of which its new music director is the most illustrious product; this week the philharmonic will announce plans to inaugurate a program, “Youth Orchestra L.A.,” that is directly modeled on a Venezuelan prototype. Youth Orchestra L.A. will begin with youngsters between the ages of 8 and 12 in a disadvantaged district in central Los Angeles, but its ultimate goal is much grander: to provide a musical instrument and a place in a youth orchestra for every young person in Los Angeles County who wants one. Borda says that she was inspired by her visit late last year to Caracas. In vivid contrast to the situation in the United States, where arts-education programs have been snipped from school curricula as unaffordable frippery, the Venezuelan system provides a place in an orchestra for children, no matter how poor or troubled their backgrounds, throughout the country. And the results have been astonishing. I asked Borda if she was surprised by anything she had seen during her Venezuelan visit. “I didn’t imagine I would be in tears as much as I was,” she told me...

    ...Unencumbered by family obligations or material possessions, he has dedicated himself to a utopian dream in which an orchestra represents the ideal society, and the sooner a child is nurtured in that environment, the better for all. Sometimes Abreu emphasizes the spiritual enrichment that music brings to the individual; at other times, he points to evidence that students who go through the sistema become more productive and responsible members of society.
    The most remarkable feature of the Venezuelan music-education system is its instant immersion: the children begin playing in ensembles from the moment they pick up their instruments. Their instructors say the students are learning to behave as much as they are discovering how to make music. “In an orchestra, everybody respects meritocracy, everybody respects tempo, everybody knows he has to support everyone else, whether he is a soloist or not,” explains Igor Lanz, the executive director of the private foundation that administers the government-financed sistema. “They learn that the most important thing is to work together in one common aim.” Across Venezuela the sistema has established 246 centers, known as nucleos, which admit children between 2 and 18, assign them instruments and organize them into groups with instructors. Typically practicing for two or three hours every day, the children are performing recognizable music virtually from the outset...