Saturday, October 20, 2007

More on El Sistema coming to America

In the LA Times:
"the Young Musicians Initiative, a series of partnerships and fellowships designed to, as Borda puts it, "connect the dots" in the sprawling local music education scene. The initiative's centerpiece will be Youth Orchestra L.A., a campaign to start orchestras in underserved areas. Eventually, by working with dozens of schools, public and private agencies and arts organizations, the Philharmonic hopes to give every child in the county the opportunity to play an instrument."

From Reuters:
"Special recognition went to conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. Given jointly by classical WQXR New York and Gramophone magazine, this award acknowledged the worldwide influence these players have had on listeners and the life-changing impact the program, also known as El Sistema, has had on its own musicians. Since its founding 30 years ago, El Sistema has helped bring music to underprivileged and at-risk players and listeners throughout their home nation, and inspired similar programs in other countries."

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Mix of Classical Articles and More

From the Washington Post (reg req):
Post-Classical: No Coats, Ties, or Stuffed Shirts

Similar tale in Australia.

Alex Ross in the New Yorker:
The Well-tempered Web

I've started a 'clean' scratch-pad wiki for, the latest iteration of the community music school. It's really a way for Nick and I to work on this long distance, but anyone interested is very welcome to chime in.
Here's an article from the Ottowa Citizen about a similar program beginning there.

A youth orchestra festival in LA features our friends, the SBYO, among others. This festival will be the debut for the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra.

A classical (British) version of American Idol? Let's do a kinder, gentler version here in Alabama. What do you think?

The Hawaii trip:
The deadline passed for commitment. We didn't have any help from you all on this. Nick and I felt that MYO couldn't afford to pay the $500 fee and then the $50/body in December, etc, until we could get everyone together on paying for/raising funds for this trip--let alone figure out who could actually go.

Doesn't mean we won't go anywhere. We've got lots of ideas and have at least two travel agencies lined up that specialize in arranging youth orchestra tours. If you really have strong ideas about where we should go when, why don't you get involved in the planning?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007

"More Eyes to be Wise"

"When I think of all those wave functions filling space, rich in potentials, accumulating more and more possibilities as they fan out, I wonder why we limit ourselves so quickly to one idea or one structure or one perception, or to the idea that 'truth' exists in objective form. Why would we stay locked in our belief that there is one right way to do something, or one correct interpretation to a situation, when the universe demands diversity and thrives on a plurality of meaning? Why would we avoid participation and worry only about its risks, when we need more and more eyes to be wise? Why would we resist the powerful visions and futures that emerge when we come together to co-create the world? Why would we ever choose rigidity or predictability when we have been invited to be part of the generative dance of life?"

--Margaret Wheatley, "Leadership and the New Science"

This book makes so much sense to me. Yet it was first published years ago. Did I miss the part where this was the latest management fad and then faded away like all the rest?

This is Amazing

Friday, October 12, 2007

I'm Back

I didn't stop for anything on my way home yesterday. Ready to go to work today.

This is cropped from the only photo of me from the trip--taken at the Great River Road Archway. What an adventure I've had! It will be interesting to see how the world has changed as a result.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

We Are All Connected

From Margaret Wheatley in "Leadership and the New Science":
We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. I have learned that in this exquisitely connected world, it's never a question of "critical mass". It's always about critical connectedness.

I found this headstone while wandering randomly in the Mt. Hope Cemetery outside Anson, Texas.
More about yesterday's adventures on the blog, of course.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

On the Road Again

I have done two posts on the blog, but haven't had time to add much here. The spiritual peace of the Great Stupa I visited Monday contrasts strongly with the violence I discovered had occurred at the now-quiet places I visited yesterday. But now I've been through Happy, so expect good things today as I traverse Texas the long way.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Teachers and Mothers

We had breakfast yesterday with my uncle, Bob Ramsay, his wife, Marilyn, and her son, Chuck. Bob was a teacher and a farmer, and good at both because he loved his students and his land. I can remember seeing his tall frame stalking across the alfalfa field as he irrigated. And I remember his kindness to us after my father died. He tried to teach me to drive a manual transmission and he gave me away at my wedding. In later years, he did not flinch when a very young Philip was irresistibly drawn to his model steam-driven tractors and his wonderful model train layout. He taught auto mechanics, so he and Philip would probably be buddies now if we lived closer.

As I wrote in the blog, he used proceeds from his farm to donate public land in honor of my family. What an unbelievable legacy that will resonate through time. I thought a lot about words on headstones and decided 'teacher' would be one of the words that would say the most about the life and goodness of the person named there. Bob should have that, but he has given even more.

The only significant word I could claim is "mother". While that is a good word, it is not enough. Mothers are driven to give, to make their children into good people. And, unfortunately, a few who could claim the word don't deserve the honor it should command.

I am eager to get back to Birmingham to plunge myself into MYO, MCYO, and creating the Random School. You should have seen the excitement and comprehension on my sister's face when she watched the SBYO video and realized what we want to do. If we can create this music program close to what we envision, we will have done something worth a good word or two.

Chaotic Personalities

My family tried a thing once where we made New Year's Resolutions, but instead of doing it for ourselves, we each did it for somebody else at the table. Guys. This is not a recipe for a harmonious dinner.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Spirit of Love

I spent yesterday with my sister and her family. As I have written before, I admire them so much. They are all beautiful, hard working, dedicated, persistent. But the most striking characteristic of house and family is the love that permeates the atmosphere--love for each other, friends, community, even strangers.

We went to Lauren's cross country meet in Longmont. Lauren is a swimmer but thought the cross-training would help build strength. Strength of character, mostly, because she does not like running at all. The coach has asked her to finish the season to help the team, so she persists. My sister traversed the course many times to cheer on Lauren, the Estes Park team, and anyone else who passed by--especially those far back in the race.

Gregg and Suzanne have one of those houses where all the kids come to play. Yesterday Gregg must have moved his ladder 20 times at the request of various children: to access the zip line, to climb the bear tree, to climb other trees, to rescue children stuck in the trees. The 'orders' for lunch would've driven me nuts--'half tuna, half grilled cheese', 'tuna with no mayo', 'turkey with lettuce', milk, lemonade, water, Cheetos, Fritos, chips, oranges, apples, and freshly baked cookies.

A neighbor brought a taste of a dish she had made. A high school girl who spends several nights a week at their house arrived to dress for homecoming. Her parents, living in Longmont to care for an aging parent, arrived for photos and a report from Suzanne on the advisability of their daughter attending various homecoming events.

My sister bemoaned that she was just a "Roseann" to a friend's "Martha Stewart". My goodness, I don't even have a place on that scale! It would be great if we could live closer, but they could never come to my house. The comparison would be too painful!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Charming Overlook

Loveland, Colorado must be the sculpture capital of the world, definitely a more glamorous claim than Alma, Arkansas grasp at spinach-related fame. I haven't seen any signs posted, but there is sculpture in every possible public nook. Yesterday my mom and I visited the big sculpture park. There was something for every taste, although these donated pieces tend toward the figurative. The controversial piece depicting three nudes in a vertical circle was moved to a discrete clearing here after an uproar after it was installed in a traffic circle.

There is a pavilion for concerts in the park, and a lovely water-born stage in the park adjacent to the community center. It would be a great place to bring our orchestras. My sister lives 30 minutes away in Estes Park. Her husband owns the Comfort Inn there. We might be able to play in Estes, too. And visit Rocky Mountain National Park. Perhaps we could visit the Rocky Ridge music camp. Several orchestra members have spent a summer there. Colorado is full of wonders. And we have a built-in network of people to help us, should we decide to visit.

It occurred to me that you may have a built-in network in some other wonderful place we might take our orchestras. It is my firm belief, having lived in more than a dozen places, that every community has something to offer. Think about it. Perhaps our orchestras can discover the hidden charms of some overlooked places and be appreciated for bringing music where others hadn't thought to go. It's all about the 'long tail' these days.

Pictures of the sculptures from yesterday are here.

The website is down. I will post more words and photos there when I can.

Finlandia='This thing could go nuclear'

A very amusing article in The Guardian on the classical music code in movies:
"As a rule, film score classical music is used as a shorthand: Handel indicates that the snobs have arrived, Mahler that someone is about to die, but not before pouting about it, and Wagner is a sure sign that big trouble's a-brewing. This cultural semaphore system was established in the silent-film era, when no monster worth his salt would dream of making his entrance without the accompaniment of Bach's Toccatta and Fugue in D or something equally theatrical by Liszt. The tradition continues today: Vivaldi's ludicrously overplayed Four Seasons invariably indicates that the stuffed shirts are having brunch; Beethoven's Ode to Joy announces that Armageddon may be just around the corner; and anytime an aria by Verdi, Bellini or Puccini is heard, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone is going to get raped, stabbed, blinded, buried alive or impaled."

And here's something you all could help us with at concerts:
"He told me that at concerts he goes up to members of the audience he doesn't recognise, to say hello, ask them why they have come and what else they are thinking of going to..."

We should quiz potential orchestra members about why they don't join, too. Let us know what you find out so we can adapt and adjust to make the organization as inclusive as we can. We refuse to be static as the world changes around us--that's a sure path to failure.

The article goes on to mention Venezuela and something similar to our ASO-Go program:
"Both the Hallé and the Liverpool Phil have schemes by which people in the community bring groups to concerts. Ryans says one of these team leaders - all unpaid music lovers - will bring as many as 270 people to a concert. In the past, these were often groups of work colleagues going for a night out. What a brilliant audience- building model, with small cells spreading the message to the rest of society."

And he even gets around to the Random School:
" can people from the ethnic minorities (another naff term, like "working class" and "classical music" itself), be attracted?The latter problem is particularly acute for Maddock in Birmingham, with its large black and Asian population. Can the cultural chasm be bridged? "You've got to start at the youngest possible age," he says, "by getting people involved in youth orchestras and youth choirs. Their make-up is now much more typical of the general population in Birmingham than our adult chorus, for example, so there is a generational change there."

Friday, October 5, 2007

A House Without Windows

Once again, the essential words are on, with more photos here.

When I was young I found a book called "A House Without Windows" by Barbara Newhall Follet. It's about a girl who chooses to live in nature and eventually transcends to a higher being. It was written when Barbara was 9, and rewritten at 12 after the manuscript was destroyed in a house fire. In her twenties, she walked out the door of her home, never to return. Touching and disturbing, but somehow fascinating.

Haven't you been tempted to just walk away? I have been, sometimes drawn by the natural world, sometimes craving a simpler life. What I have discovered this year is that, just walking away from the status quo, life never gets simpler. Better in some aspects, but not less complex. And quantum physics and other new sciences show that even in nature, randomness and chaos are needed to create order which then dissolves again in a complicated, beautiful ying-yang relationship. The secret to sanity is to accept the chaos, to continuously adapt to the change and embrace it. For me, the tempting horizon is now the Random School instead of the antelope trails of the Great Plains. Let's use music to create order from the chaos and pain being human engenders.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Roadtrip Day 2

I think my post on the blog explains today just perfectly, so I won't repeat. I will say that what I would want on my tombstone is a sentence about MYO and this new project that I call the Random School (like Cosmic and Blue Frog--a working name). As I've been driving and thinking about it, I'm more and more committed to the school--which will include all the orchestras. And so fired up about the possibilities. If you want in on the discussions, just email me. It doesn't matter who you are or where you live, your involvement is encouraged and appreciated.
All the trip photos are here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

On the Road - Day 1

I'm in Alma, Arkansas tonight. The trip is every bit as fun as I'd hoped. I posted a couple of photos on the blog.
Here are some more. Now off to see what I can do with your emails!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Post to Myself

From Margaret Wheatley again:
While those who want to support new leaders are struggling with the dilemma of scale, individual leaders face very challenging conditions. They act in isolation, often criticized, mocked, or ignored by the prevailing culture. They have no way of knowing there are many more like them, pioneers struggling with new ways of leading. It is a constant struggle to maintain focus and courage in the midst of such criticism and loneliness.

And, there are other challenges for these pioneers. These arise from the dynamics of paradigm shifts and how people generally behave when confronted with a new world view.

New leaders must invent the future while dealing with the past.
In speaking with these new leaders, it is very clear that they refuse to carry the past into the future. They do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past having, in many cases, personally suffered from ineffective or brutal leadership. They want to work in new ways, but these new ways of organizing, the new processes for implementing change, have yet to be developed. It is their work to invent them, and so they do double duty. They must simultaneously invent a new process or organizing form, and also solve the problems created by past practices.

It is difficult to break with tradition
It is not easy to invent the new. It is difficult to break free of the training, history, and familiar practices of the prevailing culture. New leaders certainly know that bureaucracy doesn't work, that corruption destroys communities, that aid administered from the top down most often fails. They refuse to repeat these practices, but they, like all of us, have been raised in these traditional ways. Past habits of practice exert strong pressures. When crises mount and people feel fearful and overwhelmed, we default back to practices that are familiar, even if they are ineffective.

Supporters want them to look familiar
Those with the means to support new leaders often complicate their pioneering work by wanting them to use familiar and traditional leadership processes. Those with resources often feel it too risky to support experiments with new practices. It feels safer to ask for traditional strategic plans, business plans, measurements, and reports, no matter what the context of the initiative. On the surface these seem to be important skill sets, but there is now substantial research demonstrating the failure of these methods to produce desired results in the most traditional of organizations. Perhaps supporters are risk-averse, perhaps they are unaware that these methods don't work. Whatever the reason, sponsors insist that pioneering leaders conform to the past. Resources are not available unless new leaders can demonstrate competency in familiar leadership practices, even those that have consistently failed to achieve sustained change.

And when resources are scarce, and competition grows among different projects, it is easy for pioneers to lose their way. Against their best judgment of what works in their community, they agree to comply with procedures and practices they know can't succeed. Over time, they fail, not from lack of vision or willingness to experiment, but because they have been held back from those experiments. We destroy these pioneers by insisting that they conform to the mistakes of the past.

There is no room for failure
As pioneers, it is impossible to get it right the first time. No one has yet drawn accurate maps--explorers learn as they go. The maps that pioneers create will make it easy for large populations to migrate easily to the future, but their own explorations require great sacrifice and constant learning. Our present culture doesn't support this kind of experimentation. We want right answers quickly; we ask people to demonstrate success early in their ventures. We evaluate them based on short-term measures. We seldom give adequate time for the explorations and failures that are part of mapping a new territory. Instead of offering additional resources to their explorations and experiments, we abandon them in favor of safer projects that employ familiar, flawed means.

We want them to fail
This is the greatest, unspoken difficulty pioneering leaders encounter. Society does not want them to succeed. To acknowledge their success means we will have to change. We will have to abandon the comfort of our familiar beliefs and practices. People naturally flee from such changes and thus, even as the old ways fail, we hold onto them more fiercely and apply them more zealously.

She proposes solutions in the remainder of her article.