Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Search for Motivation

I have admired my daughter's discipline throughout her life, but especially as she has applied it to practicing her cello. I struggle with myself daily to be more disciplined and productive. Leo Babauta at Zen Habits says:
"...if you think you don’t have discipline, you don’t need it. What you need is to commit to your goal or habit and fully motivate yourself...

...I think that most of us believe that discipline is something you either have or don’t have — some believe you are born with it, and some,... believe it is something you can develop as a habit. But what exactly is it we’re talking about when we say the word “discipline”?

If I wake up early every morning to run, do I have discipline? Most people would say that I do. But, as someone who regularly wakes up early, and who runs frequently (not every day), I can testify that I for one do not have discipline. I am anything but disciplined, and never have been.

So how do I explain my ability to wake up early, and to run on a regular basis? Simple: I have adequate and varied motivation. I get up every morning, not out of discipline, but because I really want to — and have tricked myself into doing it. I get out the door and go for a run not because I’m super disciplined, but because I really want to."

I know Molly has a hierarchal series of goals that motivates her. Long term, she knows she has to reach a certain skill level to have a viable career as a musician. Short term, she wants to be first chair or win the concerto competition, or not embarrass herself at her recital.

Leo also has a list of 'motivation hacks'. I have found only a couple of them helpful in the past. Scott Young has another 20, with some overlap. I can read all the lists I want. It won't do any good if I don't PRACTICE.

Just for fun:
Friday we enjoyed the Chad Fisher Group at the Arts Alfresco event at Aldridge Gardens. Many in the audience brought drinks and dinner. The jazz and the atmosphere made a very pleasant evening. Next on their calendar is a performance of Shakespeare's "A Comedy of Errors" by the Park Players. Check it out--we will!

I watched "Hero". A beautiful movie in the vein of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", it's about the attempts of four assassins to kill the first Chinese emperor, Qin, during his bloody and ruthless campaign to unify the country. My husband found it slow, but I loved the use of color and the choreography of the stylized combat. For all the conflict, only a few tiny drops of blood are shown--unlike in my husband's beloved action movies.

Nothing produces such odd results as trying to get even. -Franklin P. Jones

Those who are incapable of committing great crimes do not readily suspect them in others. -Francois De La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)

A single moon
Bright and clear
In an unclouded sky;
Yet still we stumble
In the world’s darkness.
- Ikkyu (1394-1481)

The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, "The children are now working as if I did not exist." -Maria Montessori, educator (1870-1952)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

PDO 2.0? (Prarie Dog Orchestra)

in ur orchestra
photo: Gruven

I don't know why these tickle me so much.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I am 'unable to not talk to' myself

I just got my used copy of 'Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power' by C. Fred Alford and cannot put it down. This made me cry:
Still, Harris continues to tell his story. He seems convinced that if he can just find the right words to tell it, someone with the power to set things right will listen. It is a common delusion among whistleblowers.

Despite heroic efforts by more than a few, it's very likely little will change. Even though this is clear to me, I still can't make the delusion go away. I want to shout from Red Mountain so that someone will do something.

It is going to take a long time for me to accept that justice likely never will be done, not just in my case but in most cases. The author says:
The greatest shock is what the whistleblower learns about the world as a result--that nothing he or she believed was true. That people can be so deeply shaken by knowledge is not something I had expected to find.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Essence of MYO

Tuesday several MYO members, parents, Bobby Horton, and Nick and I met with Kenny Smith of al.com at the Altamont School to make some recordings for a podcast.

(A podcast is an mp3 sound file that you can click on and listen to with the media player on your computer. Or you can download the file onto an mp3 player such as an iPod to listen away from your computer.)

This assemblage really defined much of what we hope for the Metropolitan Youth Orchestras. As each musician performed a sample for Kenny, the passion for music lit up every face. Bobby Horton's presence represented our desire to include the musical community as an integral part of the organization. Kenny Smith will help us reach out to the broader community, where we hope not just to entertain and educate, but also to develop sources of wisdom and friendship. The other family members--parents and siblings--are the heart of the MYO family, providing support, guidance, and inspiration.

Kenny's blog is called 'Alabama Conversations'. He covers a wide range of topics, interviewing experts and just plain interesting people for his podcast. Visit, listen, subscribe to his RSS feed! He will let us know when he posts the MYO podcast--probably sometime next week.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The New Black

The Internet is a magic playground for my brain, a vast candy store of sweet information. Sugar high? Bring it on.

Through Alex Ross, Ethan Iverson, and Matthew Guerrieri, I have discovered the wonderful animated short "Ballerina on a Boat" with a sound track by Alfred Schnittke.

That lead to his Sonata for Cello and Piano. Wow.

The animation reminded me of the Triplets of Belleville. Which made me think of another movie where the words don't matter: Baran. Absolutely beautiful movie.

Contemplating the need for words led to this article in the Globe and Mail bemoaning the world's loss of vocabulary.
Reminds me of the 'demise' of classical music. Or not.

Walking my dogs very early this morning, I tried to think of one instance where the current of cultural change was permanently dammed by learned protest or law. Communication is the hole in the dike that the educated elite tries to plug with its finger. The more communication a society has with other cultures, the faster the current of change erodes the old structure. And it's just as impossible to stop as a hurricane's storm surge.

The inaccessible Amazon tribe still experiences cultural evolution, just very slowly. One outside visitor, and their culture changes instantly and forever.

When communication across this planet is equalized and instantaneous, the pace of cultural change will slow. There will still be churning, but fresh ideas will be harder to come by without new sources of stimulation. That's when the masses will press for interstellar exploration, craving a culture to absorb. Our first contact with extraterrestrials will be driven by a desperate search for the 'new black', a cooler iPhone, the next J. K. Rowlings.

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
-T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) (from Wordsmith.org)

Bamboo shadows sweep the stairs,
Yet not a mote of dust is stirred;
Moonbeams pierce to
The bottom of the pool,
Yet in the water not a trace remains.
- Zen Dust (from Daily Zen)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Do it to save lives, or don't do it."

From a book review on Amazon.com by Tim Hunter:
Unfortunately, the effect of resistance to evil ordinarily produces futile results - the walls seem to specialize in falling in on the individual resister while the public good and general interest is hardly advanced following the episodes. In a sense, this is a dark book perhaps of neo-Gothic horror since the reality is that the doers of evil escape thanks to enjoying the presumption of right and virtual invisibility.

Conceal a flaw, and the world will imagine the worst. -Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis)

Is 15 Minutes of Fame Too Much?

A 2-minute clip posted on YouTube got Alex DePue a gig with Steve Vai on the rock guitarist's upcoming tour.

We thought we should try to post some MYO material on YouTube. It would be a great way for far-away friends and relatives to see what we're up to. Maybe we'll collect some stuff at the party on August 4. I know Nick is thinking of bringing an instrument or two. Bring yours--student, parent, friend--and join in!

How did the Really Terrible Orchestra come to be? Was it an accident or a plan? In the Rocky Mountain News, Marc Shugold points out that
"...being adorably atrocious is tricky - it demands an earnest striving to hit all the notes, but with results that must border on the amusing without being dull or overly painful."
Mr. Shugold guides us to similar talents:
Mrs. Miller
Florence Foster Jenkins

Monday, July 16, 2007

Developing a Community

Friday I attended the final concert of the Dawson music camp directed by Layla Plunkett. The room effervesced with the musicians' enthusiasm. Smiles were everywhere. MYO was warmly welcomed by teachers, parents and students. We saw some old friends and made some new ones. We believe that MYO is inextricably bound to the community, so we intend to acknowledge those ties wherever we can!

In the WSJ, Michael Linton has a different assessment of the LAO conference in Nashville:
"...civic boosterism itself isn't enough to sustain an orchestra. The delegates were told that the findings of a two-year study in St. Paul, Minn., and Pittsburgh suggests that orchestras' institutional health lies in the adoption of a new business model. Music managers typically think that their job is to present the highest level of musical performances possible and pay for them by selling seats and catching grants. It isn't. Sell all the seats to all your performances, market through every site on the Web and corral every foundation executive you can, and your orchestra will still face a deficit. Music executives' real business is developing communities of patrons. And educating their children.

This is hardly news. From Machaut's dinner with Charles V of France in 1361 to Klaus Heymann's 1987 founding of the Naxos label, the culture of classical music has been funded through the generosity of informed patrons. The "new" business model simply recognizes this ancient reality.

But the business of creating an informed patron begins in the first grade...Have a 7-year-old listen to the opening chords of the "Eroica," give him a clarinet when he's 9, and by the time he's 50 chances are he's a subscriber looking for ways he can become a patron because all that music changed his life."

The East County Youth Symphony in San Diego offers something different from the other three youth orchestras in the area--it's free! Wouldn't that be great? Do you think that should be a goal for MYO?

No Permanent Character

From Daily Zen:
Peace and disorder in the world,
The distinction between
Friend and foe,
Follow upon one another
As illusion begets delusion.
A person of spiritual insight
Will immediately recognize
What is wrong and
Before long be rid
Of such an illusion;
In such a case one’s true
Friend may seem a foe and
One’s implacable foe
May appear a friend.
Enmity and friendship
Have no permanent character;
Both of them are illusions.

- Muso (1275-1351)

Can't decide if I find this reassuring or disturbing.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Do you want to hear the truth?

Doing the right thing is harder than I ever imagined. Doing things right is also harder than I ever imagined.

From How to Change the World, an interview with Jeffery Pfeffer:

Question: How do you get a company to behave in a truthful manner?

Answer: You start by having leaders tell the truth—which includes admitting what they don’t know and what they have done wrong. It is impossible to manage successfully if you don’t know what is actually going on. But a lie takes two people: the person who tells the lie and the individual who signals that s/he wants to hear it. So, you don’t want to punish people for surfacing problems or telling you bad news. You don’t want to “shoot the messenger,” but thank them for bringing issues and concerns to light.

Question: How do you turnaround a company?

Answer: As the late Peter Drucker said, there is no business without a customer. Turning around a company is mostly about providing people a great value proposition—giving them more than they expect. Better products, services, more attention, than the competition...

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Ends do not Justify the Means

Do you really know enough about your favorite non-profit?

Have you been asked to join the board of a non-profit? Be sure to check whether the corporation is in good standing with the state. For Alabama, you can search online through the Secretary of State's website. If the corporation is in suspension, then the members of the board may be personally responsible for the actions of the organization.

Tax-exempt non-profits with an income greater than $25,000 are required to file form 990 with the IRS. This form must be available to the public on request. Don't assume that your favorite organization is in compliance! If this form has not been filed, your donation may end up paying penalties to the IRS.

The Better Business Bureau has developed Standards for Charitable Accountability:
"These standards apply to publicly soliciting organizations that are tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and to other organizations conducting charitable solicitations. The standards are not intended to apply to private foundations, as they do not solicit contributions from the public.

The overarching principle of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability is full disclosure to donors and potential donors at the time of solicitation and thereafter. However, where indicated, the standards recommend ethical practices beyond the act of disclosure in order to ensure public confidence and encourage giving. As voluntary standards, they also go beyond the requirements of local, state and federal laws and regulations."

Read through the list of standards and then verify that your non-profit complies with some of them. DO NOT assume that the organization is doing the right thing. Request some of the information that should be readily available: the IRS form 990, an annual report or annual financial statements. Ask when the books were last audited.

Hopefully the organization won't be surprised by your request and you won't be surprised by their response.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Knowing the Rules

Yesterday afternoon was the first MYO board meeting. I was delighted to finally meet Dr. Irving and Mr. Horton after hearing so much about them from Nick. I was so impressed with the sincere interest all of these people have in MYO. And I certainly do appreciate their help and guidance.
After reading the LAO youth orchestra handbook, Mr. Drucker's book, and much from the Free Management Library, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed.
The MYO board acted yesterday to start us on the right path. Thanks so much!

Interesting comparison from Tom Cabaniss in the March-April Symphony magazine:
"...the way we approach kids in visual arts is so different: Here's some paper; here's some crayons; here's some paint. Do something! But with music, the walls have been so high that people say: Oh, you wanna compose? You had better go learn an instrument, do this, do that, and then we can talk..."

I don't think that's as true now. Computers and the Internet have made it easy and inexpensive to experiment with music, much the way digital cameras encourage risky photographs. I know several young people who have actually sold their compositions.

But, as Nick said yesterday, there is still this perception that to participate in orchestral music, one must first "know the rules." And I think the audience shares this perception. What other music form provides pages of program notes for each performance? Do those that don't read them--or find them difficult to read-- feel that their experience is less because they don't 'know the rules'?

Actually, I have not enjoyed classical music like I once did since Molly started playing cello. I find it difficult to focus on the music because my mind drifts into thoughts about her world of music--relationships, comparisons, etc. Here in Birmingham, I almost always know someone on stage--and that makes it worse. I do better with a strange orchestra in a strange town, but even then I get distracted by what the cellists are wearing or whatever. Hopefully the Molly effect will fade with time as her worries become more her own.

Monday, July 9, 2007

What is our "classical" music?

In the third part of his series, "Who Cares About Classical Music," Glenn Kurtz comments on the popularity of 'classical' music:
"The obvious implication is that classical music, like 19th-century narrative, is not popular because its form of narrative has become antiquated. The great tradition of classical music is not "timeless" but entirely temporal, just like every other human creation..."
"Isn't it worth our while to look for (and listen for) the emerging forms that tell the story of contemporary subjectivity? What living form, barely acknowledged by scholars of today, will scholars 100 years from now lament the loss of?

What is our "classical" music?"

Another important question is, what form will the orchestra take into the future? It will surely change from that required in the 19th century.

I guess it is the geologist in me that sees this evolution as inevitable, irresistible, and exciting. I wonder what it is about the human psyche that makes us resist change so adamantly.

Richard Chester, director of the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland for 20 years, "believes it to be the moment to go" and is seeking "a new challenge". He has some interesting insight into who participates in youth orchestras:
"...youth orchestras will be a focus of his activity, but this time with special emphasis on people who want to participate in amateur rather than professional music-making. By 1997, he says, a survey disclosed that 32 per cent of members of NYOS went into music professionally, most of them as orchestral players. Today, in his travels around the world, he has recognised that more and more young players want to continue performing music while pursuing other careers."

Eight Cheap Ways to Become Famous without Killing Anyone needs no comment, just a chuckle.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Can Youth Orchestra in Birmingham Have a Second Life?

I've been slow off the mark today, but Peter Drucker once again provided inspiration. Hindsight is 20/20, so I although I post the quotes that strike a chord with the past, my goal is for someone in the future to find MYO in harmony with Mr. Drucker!
"It begins with needs and ends with satisfaction. For this you need to know what the satisfactions should be for your customers...and the volunteers..What is really meaningful to them? Non-profit people must respect their customers and their donors enough to listen to their values and understand their satisfactions. The do not impose the executive's or the organization's own views and egos on those they serve."
"Non-profits are prone to become inward-looking. People are so convinced that they are doing the right thing...that they see the institution as an end in itself. But that's a bureaucracy. Soon people in the organization no longer ask: Does it service our mission? They ask: Does it fit our rules? And that not only inhibits performance, it destroys vision and dedication."

Idea fie:
The Vermont Youth Orchestra performed in Shanghai.
The visual arts have a strong prescence on Second Life. Could/should MYO be there? If so, how?

And, finally, the Donor Power Manifesto. My brain needs a bigger file cabinet. I guess del.icio.us and Google will do.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

In the End, You Can Turn It Around

I have just discovered Alex Ross' powerful article from The New Yorker, February 16 and 23, 2004 discussing what he calls 'the music'. I'm going to have to read it two or three times to absorb all of the points. Here are some highlights:
"It seems to me that a lot of younger listeners think the way the iPod thinks. They are no longer so invested in a single genre, one that promises to mold their being or save the world. This gives the life-style disaster called “classical music” more of a chance. Although the music is far from attaining any sort of countercultural cachet, it is no longer a plausible target for teen rebellion, given that all the parents listen to the Eagles."

"...new generations of musicians are dropping the mask of Olympian detachment (silent, stone-faced musician walks onstage and begins to play). They’ve started mothballing the tuxedo, explaining the music from the stage, using lighting and backdrops to produce a mildly theatrical experience. They are finding allies in the “popular” world, some of whom care less about record sales than the average star violinist."

Other interesting stuff:
-Joshua Roman, the 23-year-old principal cellist of the Seattle Symphony is going to play three concertos in one concert because "I was trying to think of something fun to do this summer."

-I keep reading about youth orchestras bringing in students from other countries to play with them. That sounds very enriching. Definitely needs to go in the 'ideas' file.

-Just love this insight from Life 2.0:
"If we turn on a room light it's not just us that benefits, is it? Everyone present can see better. As we give allow our own spark shine, the whole place has to light up too.
Isn't this our ONE responsibility?
The best way to avoid responsibility is to say, 'I've got responsibilities'
... Richard Bach"
-I have read a lot recently about information overload. Not me. I guess I'm a continuous partial attention/communications underload kind of person.

-If you're having a bad day, this article from the Glastonbury Festival will make you feel much better about whatever you are doing. Don't read it near lunchtime, though!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Fourth, Six, Remarkable and Amazing

For the Fourth, an article in the Washington Post about music and context. That came up recently when discussing programming for our orchestras. If we are doing a themed concert--American music, for instance--must we include music from the standard classical repertoire to, I guess, validate our educational premise? Nick's thoughtful conclusion was that, yes, probably at first, we do. His solution is characteristically unique and I'll leave it to him to reveal.

Nora Ephron describes the Six Stages of E-mail. Funny. True.

Jeff Brooks lays out some goals that MYO should aspire to, although his emphasis is on donors. I'd rather emphasize kids, although Peter Drucker says for a nonprofit they are tied together. We'll certainly need everyone's help to pull it off. And believe me, we're serious about pulling it off. So be remarkable and amazing: roll up your sleeves and get involved.
"The best fundraising in the world can’t beat simply being an authentically remarkable organization. And what’s remarkable?

* If what you do doesn’t make people say “wow!” you aren’t remarkable.
* If there aren’t outstanding heart and head reasons for folks to give to you, you aren’t remarkable.
* If you’re just like other organizations, you aren’t remarkable. (And if only an insider can understand the difference between you and someone else, then you aren’t different.)"

"To meet this challenge, what you say matters less than what you do. You need to create a superior reality, not just superior marketing. And that can only happen when the entire organization — from the board on down — is in complete alignment with the goal of being remarkable.

* It’s everyone’s job to create and run programs that not only accomplish your mission, but also make sense to donors and fill them with a sense of connection and purpose.

* It’s everyone’s job to articulate the mission in a way that donors, prospective donors and third parties (like the press) can understand and love.

* It’s everyone’s job to take part in the conversation that’s forming around your cause — through blogs, wikis and other online (and offline) communities."

"When everyone is pulling in the same direction, you’re on your way to being remarkable. To finish the race, you need to accomplish one or more of the following:

* Do something nobody else does.
* Be demonstrably more effective than other organizations.
* Leverage donors’ giving in amazing ways."

Drucker and Zen

Naturally, I like this by Drucker:
"Another common mistake is to patch up the old rather than to go all-out for the new...It is one of the crucial tasks of the executive to know when to say, 'Enough is enough. Let's stop improving. There are too many patches on those pants.'"

And a Zen story via Success from the Nest:

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Two Books I Should Have Read Earlier

Quotes from Peter Drucker's 'Managing the Nonprofit Organization':
"You want people as leaders who take a great view of the agency's functions, people who take their roles seriously--not themselves seriously. Anybody in that leadership position who thinks he's a great man or a great woman will kill himself--and the agency"

"The leader is visible; he stands for the organization...Leaders set examples. The leaders have to live up to the expectations regarding their behavior...the leader represents not only what we are, but, above all, what we know we should be."

"...it needs what I call marketing responsibility, which is to take one's customers seriously. Not saying, We know what's good for them. but, What are their values? How do I reach them?"

Quotes from "Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Your Nonprofit Corporation"; by Ms. Cellaneous The Unknown Attorney:
"The minute a new board of directors is elected, it should ask for an audit of the board of directors that preceded it; and if the board is one that continues from year to year, a yearly audit of the corporation books should be made. The books should be open at each board meeting for inspection. Do not trust anyone. Do not trust your treasurer with unfailing devotion to do the right thing without any checks and balances."

"Those who are innocent and who tell the truth have nothing to fear."

(If you are involved with any kind of nonprofit--swim teams, scouts, etc., you should immediately read this book. Oh. My. Gosh!)

Question Without an Answer

In the Tyee, Rafe Mair tackles the question that has tormented our family for almost a decade ("what is art?") and how the answer affects funding. The comments following the article are very thought-provoking.

Alex Ross discusses regional composers, particularly Sibelius, in the New Yorker. It is a very long article and I did not read it all, but this subject always makes me ponder who among us is being overlooked. I know groups like BAMA promote local composers. I am thus inspired to put their 2007-08 season on my calendar.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Fiddlin' Up Worms

In the mid-eighties we hiked into an oxbow lake that was home to several kinds of woodpeckers, including a nest of pileated woodpeckers. The area had recently been hit by a tornado, so much clambering was involved to get there and we never saw the nest. But the trip is memorable because of a fascinating encounter. On the way out we kept hearing the oddest sound, a sort of thrumming vibration. Eventually we came upon two gentleman running a handsaw back and forth across a stump. They informed us that they were 'fiddlin' up worms'. Now I find that orchestral instruments are used to the same effect in the World Worm Charming Championships. (Check the photo gallery!) Perhaps MYO could 'fiddle up worms' and sell them as a fundraiser!

Also fiddled up this morning:
A rather grim assessment of the state of classical music from Edward Rothstein in the New York Times.

The Moscow Times reports that Belarus was told to buy a better instrument for one of their competitors in the Tchaikovsky Competition.

Nicholas Kenyon, director of the BBC Proms, argues in the Guardian for their cultural significance.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

High Altitude, Open Attitude

According to the Aspen Daily News, the venerable Aspen Music Festival "hopes to appeal to a wider audience by bringing in musicians such as jazz great Wynton Marsalis". Alan Fletcher, CEO of the Music Associates of Aspen said:
"...it's about reaching out and crossing over. The future of classical music is more and more openness instead of more and more closedness."

Ancient attitude: ancient Irish musical instruments.

Timely attitudes: counting the beat and measuring spin.