Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It Falls Apart--When it Falls!

John Archibald writes of Birmingham's school enrollment falling below that of Shelby County. His figures on the administrative costs are telling:
"Birmingham spent 4.4 percent of all its expenditures, an amount approaching $14 million, on administration costs, the records show. Shelby, by contrast, spent 1.5 percent of its budget, or less than $3 million, on administration.

In fact, the cost of administration in the shrinking-but-still-bloated Birmingham school system came to about $500 per student, highest among the state's 10 largest school districts and 45 percent more than second-place Mobile County. Administration costs about $218 per student in Jefferson County and just $120 per child in Shelby County."

His comment that I want to remember:
"...Educating children is Job One.

When you cease to do that well, when you start to act more like an employment agency than a school system, don't be surprised when it all falls apart..."

CYO will play it's first concert at the Fall Colorfest in Mentone. While there we'll visit DeSoto Falls. This blog entry by Tommy Stevenson of the Tuscaloosa News says that there's not much water going over the falls these days. From a geologist's point of view, that's a great time to get a good look at the rock formations around the falls. Attitude is everything!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Asking for Directions

We're putting down the first sketches of a roadmap for where MYO will go.
Read these articles by Drew McManus to learn about one version of the map:
The Business Behind The Musicians Of Tomorrow
The Future Of Classical Music Is In Venezuela Part 1
The Future Of Classical Music Is In Venezuela Part 2
The Future Of Classical Music Is In Venezuela Part 3
The Future Of Classical Music Is In Venezuela Part 4

I've been having a wonderful dialog with Michelle Holland about what she would like to see. How about joining in?
Let us know what you think MYO could/should do for Central Alabama.
Email me.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pandora's Box Opened

From the CBC News, reporting on the Saskatoon symphony conductor suing the musicians:
"...the symphony steward's report from the 2006-2007 season said Sanford "engaged in abusive bullying tactics, shouting down, ridiculing or ignoring a player who tries to say something he disagrees with."

Other parts of the steward report quoted in the statement of claim accused Sanford of having a "dictatorial style," using intimidation, coercion and threats...

...Also defamatory, according to the claim, was the suggestion that Sanford is "incompetent" in his job.

The claim quoted from a part of the steward's report that said Sanford's "tempos are aberrant."

"At the string sections, tempos are wildly faster than those taken when the winds and brass join the rehearsals, making it impossible for the strings to anticipate what tempo will be required of them," the claim said, quoting from the steward's report..."

"Humanity is an ocean..."

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. -Mohandas K.Gandhi (1869-1948)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"It is no longer about you."

This post on Some Assembly Required is so good that I've got to quote it all. Please go visit Thom Singer's blog--and subscribe to his feed. He's worth reading every day!

"It is no longer about you. It is about finding a way to impact those around you. If you do this, you can be assured that opportunities will come to you. You just need to find the right place for yourself in this world and you will discover that life has amazing things to offer.

Sometimes people struggle in their career. These struggles cause them to hang on with a death grip to their current situation...which makes their situation even worse.

Open yourself up to possibilities. There are people who want to see your success, you just need to know the right people. Examine the people in your life and see if they are supportive of you. If not, that is okay (it is not required that others make you a priority), but you may need to focus on meeting new people.

Surround yourself with dynamic souls who are not selfish and your world will transform. But to attract these types of people, you need to be one yourself."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Exemplary Lives

I admire my sister, Suzanne Jurgens. She's the mother of three champion swimmers. She works full time and helps her husband, Gregg, at the Comfort Inn in Estes Park, Colorado. She's a breast cancer survivor and active on behalf of cancer research. This past weekend she undertook a grueling 12 hour hike to find the wreckage of our father's plane at the foot of Paiute Peak. He died there in 1974.
"We left the car at Beaver Reservoir just past Peaceful Valley on Highway 72 (?) We hiked 4 miles up a rough 4-wheel drive road then took the Coney Lake Trail. We didn't take the correct trail and had to go off trail to Lower Coney Lake. From Lower Coney Lake to Upper Coney Lake it is off trail, bushwhacking intense hiking. Very grueling. This hike was the most physically exhausting thing I've ever done in my life. But so worth it! We all commented this trip was one of the most memorable times of our lives. Interesting."

Interesting, indeed, how much emotion is still there after 33 years for all of us.

Philip Shockey had his stories to tell. He was a member of the West Point football team that was expelled for cheating in 1951. After earning his doctorate in geology, he returned to Idaho, where he'd done his thesis. The prospector mindset made geologists unemployable, so he worked as a lumberjack, hard rock miner, and school teacher.

Eventually, he made significant contributions to the science of uranium geology and significant discoveries for his company. The West was still wild then. He once photographed a rancher shooting at him in a dispute over mineral rights on federal grazing lands. He said he heard and felt the bullet go past his ear!

One night when I was in grade school, he was awakened by the voice of a farmer he worked for in high school. He heard his name called so clearly that he got up and searched the house for an intruder. A few days later he received notice that the farmer had died that day. My father was such a rational person that this shook him--and us--to the core.

I want to live up to the examples provided by both my sister and my father. I know that my actions in the last few months measure up to the family legacy. I hope I have made them as proud of me as I am of them.

Next summer I will take my son Philip to the crash site so my father can tell one more story to his namesake.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Newtonian Physics = Classical Music?

Well-thought out commentary by John Steinmetz published on Greg Sandow's ArtsJournal blog.

In a culture of multiple streams, no kind of music can tell the whole story, so classical music will not be replaced at the center of culture by some other kind of music. Instead, our culture will foster many kinds of musical expression, including some new ones uniquely suited to current values, passions, and concerns.
I like the concept of multiple streams. Doesn't just apply to music, either.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fear of Heights

I've been thinking a lot about articles at Copyblogger and Soho the Dog, Nick's post this morning, the article I mentioned on the MYO blog and our progress so far.

Perhaps it's time to lay out a vision for MYO that is fearless, something big, and true to ourselves. What do you think? Can we do more than a few decent youth orchestras?

When I contemplate just what needs to be done for the organization we have so far, I feel like I'm peeking into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It's terrifying to think bigger, but I'm beginning to believe that's where we need to go.

Monday, August 13, 2007



This graphic from Brains on Fire via Church of the Customer describes precisely how we see MYO developing. Where are you on the cycle? Will you go on to the next step? The future of the orchestras depends on it.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Be Extraordinary

Thom Singer at Some Assembly Required defines a major goal for MYO--to be extraordinary.
From the beginning--because of YOU--we've had this part covered:
"Are the people around you extraordinary? If you want to excel you need to have interesting and intriguing friends who challenge you and hold you accountable to your potential. If the people whom you call your friends are not upbeat and inspirational...then you are probably being held back from your God given levels of achievement."

And I take his parting exhortation personally: "Go forth and be extraordinary!"

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Orson Scott Card on Life Lessons

Michelle Holland sent me the link to this article by science fiction author Orson Scott Card. He has strong opinions about sports:

I’m glad that people who love sports have had a good time with them. But don’t ever, ever say, “This is a life lesson that you just can’t learn any other way.” There are no life lessons that you can’t learn any other way.

And a kid who’s lousy at sports but good at music or theatre or writing or videogames should get as much encouragement and honor as any athlete.

But he won’t.

And that’s what I hate about sports. That these physical games get treated, by kids and adults, as if they mattered more than activities that are just as valid, just as competitive, just as rewarding — and maybe more so.

There is no excuse for athletes being more respected and honored in school than scholars. But few indeed are the high schools that provide scholars and musicians and actors and poets with anything remotely like the honor given to athletes. And it’s not because athletics is harder than those other activities.

It may well be easier than, say, music composition or songwriting. Heaven knows, they manage to find enough professional football players to fill the NFL every season — but to find a songwriting team that can write an enduring Broadway score ... well, that doesn’t even happen once a year.

Everyone should be respected for what they do well, not belittled for what they cannot do. That is one of the best things about the Alabama School of Fine Arts. The students treat each other with respect because each has earned their place at the school. And that respect gives them a platform from which to explore who they are and who they want to be.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Be Kind

Just heard a song by Rara Avis called 'Yesterday'. It includes a sound clip of a woman saying "Be kind. Everything else will follow."

"Mozart!! I SAID to watch me for the changes . . ,"

FULL DISCLOSURE: this was actually just a few days ago with a guy whose name happens to be 'mozart', but who isn't that good at music. turns out he's ESPECIALLY not good at watching people for the changes and trying to keep up.

I love Dinosaur Comics. The images in each panel are the same for every strip. Only the words change. That requires tremendous creativity. (I read several dozen comic strips a day, on and offline. And, of course, have to read the Comics Curmudgeon to find out why some of them are funny.)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Prokofiev and Grieg -- ver 2.0

Tony Naler's blog in the Guardian prompted me to purchase the CD of Gabriel Prokofiev's String Quartet No. 1 by the Elysian Quartet. Since yesterday, I've listened to the whole CD three times! The first 4 tracks are the movements of the string quartet. The remaining 5 tracks are remixes of the first 4. I like it.
Maybe we should record an MYO performance and have a remix contest.

Colin Holter at NewMusicBox offers a solution to something I had been thinking about for the last few days. A parent emailed me championing the concept of a free youth orchestra that I blogged about earlier. Another parent wondered what was the point of teaching string classes in the schools for a couple of years when the parents would not be able to afford the private lessons required to continue.
Nick and I have talked several times about having funds available for orchestra and private lesson scholarships. Maybe we should go after the kind of sponsorships and endorsements that are ubiquitous in sports. Nick says he'll wear a sandwich board full of ads on the podium if it means one student can have private lessons. I agree. Now we just need to figure out how to make it happen.

MYO has barely been incorporated for a month. It feels like years. We're doing really well, but there is so much more to every aspect of this than either Nick or I imagined. We just keep stumbling forward, working hard, doing our best, and hoping we're doing most things right. This morning I told Nick that I'm worried I'll miss something crucial for the first rehearsals or performances. He reassured me that, yes, we probably will screw something up big time, but then we probably won't repeat the same mistake the next time. How to Change the World addresses this with "...a top-ten list of the ways a startup can feel deeply screwed up without really being that screwed up at all."
I particularly relate to these items on the list:
2. Big projects attract good people. We've certainly gotten help from many wonderful people from the very beginning. THANK YOU for your support and hard work!

3. Start-ups are freak catchers. Nick and I are #1 and #2 on that very short list. (Some days I'm #1, some days he is.)

6. Fearless leaders are often terrified. Yup.

9. Truth is our only currency. This one got us started down this path and gets us in trouble daily.

And, finally some fun:
Check out this version of Greig's "Hall of the Mountain King".
So that's how classical music gets an audience! Maybe we'll get some volunteers from our awesome cello section.