Friday, May 2, 2008

Gate City's Children Deserve It!!

Yesterday I spoke with Jaime Austria of El Sistema-NYC for two hours. What a wonderful, knowledgeable person he is. He really helped boost my spirits when I needed it most.

Jaime told me an inspiring story about a man who lived in his car and worked two jobs in order to build a school for a village overseas that had nursed him when he was ill.

Then I received this email from Lauren:
Jon and I went out to Pastor Lee's church today. We left with a very good feeling about the place, actually. I've attached pictures of the various rooms that could be used for teaching. While it is in a pretty rough side of town, it is far enough removed to where we felt very safe at the location.

I do NOT think that this location will be acceptable as far as a place for homeschool kids to come for private lessons. The kids would be safe, but I don't believe that parents of homeschoolers would be comfortable bringing them into this area. However, this is the PERFECT place for Scrollworks to establish another nucleus, as there are many children within walking distance that are hungry for the music education that we could provide. It fits in with our mission statement EXACTLY. I simply do not see it as a place that is going to work for paid private lessons - it will have much more of a cave9 feel, giving the kids in the community a positive outlet and getting them off of the streets and into something constructive.

As you can see from the pictures, there are a number of rooms that could be used for teaching. the sanctuary is of a decent size; there is an organ, keyboard, piano, and drum kit that they are willing to let us use for teaching, and there are several rooms and offices that could be used to teach various instruments or private lessons.

The Lees are WONDERFUL people and are incredibly supportive of what we are doing. They are hoping to get their talented children (a flute player, a tuba player, and a clarinet player) into the MYO ASAP. They truly believe that their facility could be used to help us make a positive difference in the community, and I definitely believe that it would be an appropriate place for us. With Mrs. Lee's connections at the surrounding schools, we would be able to have lectures or talk to the children at the schools to let them know if we decide to have a program there, and Mrs. Lee could also do even further publicity.

So the question is, do we have the staffing/funding to begin at another location that doesn't show much promise of being a place that will draw paying students? This is going to be a place that is successful for those who can pay little or nothing for music lessons. The Lees are optimistic - I told them I would discuss with you two and we would be back in touch with them shortly. They are eager to see if they can start spreading the word about a summer program.

Pastor Lee's church is in Gate City near Woodlawn. (Look at the satellite view.)
We have returning college students very eager to teach for us: Molly, Shane, Taylor and more.
But we do not have the funding to do a 'free' location. While these young people don't ask for much, they need some recompense for their time and efforts. And we'd need to provide instruments, etc.

I haven't discussed this with Nick yet, but I so want Scrollworks at Pastor Lee's church this summer. My instincts tell me this is a place we need to be.

I have given everything I can give to Scrollworks--every penny I've got. I'm working way more than 40 hours a week on this program. I'm taking no salary right now. But when I think of what we could do in Gate City!!! I am going to get a night job to make it happen. And dear Philip said he'd take on two jobs to help.

Why do I want to do this? Watch the 'Tocar y Luchar' video. Then come visit the children of Hill Elementary. Look in their eyes. Talk to Matthew who has figured out how to make music with every instrument he touches. Talk to Carmen about the cello he took home. Look in the eyes of Carlos and Donovan who want to learn drums so very badly, but feel peer pressure to express themselves with their fists. Tell me they don't deserve a program like El Sistema, which the children of Venezuela's slums are using to change their lives.

The drive to accomplish this nearly makes my heart explode. What are you doing to make your heart explode?

1 comment:

Lauren K said...

i am glad to hear you are so fired up about Pastor Lee's church. however the thought of you going out and getting a night job on top of all of the work you are already doing is worrisome to me, and i think we need to explore all other options before you commit yourself to even more obligations and put your health at risk.

here are the options that i am thinking about:

option #1 - move forward with the summer program, but staff the location with volunteers. two of my friends have already come forward asking to volunteer, and Jon believes he would be able to find others willing to volunteer their time. And how about Philip? Perhaps the Lee children would be willing to volunteer and teach, as well as other members of the MYO. that could begin the students-teaching-students aspect that needs to be integrated into the program. additionally we could begin a fundraising campaign with the explicit purpose of funding the Gate City location, hopefully getting enough money to get instruments for the program there. if the time is right for the summer program despite our lack of funding, we WILL find the volunteers that will make it happen. if we can't find them..

option #2 - instead of summer, we plan for an after school program to begin with the start of next school year, sometime in august. by then we should have our 501(c)3 and will hopefully have more funding, either from big donors or DIY fundraising specifically for this location. with more funding, we will be able to staff the location with paid employees. i am completely on the same page with you - Gate City's children deserve it, and Pastor Lee's church will be a perfect location. however, if Gate City's children have to wait just a few more months to start their music education, that is ok. waiting a few more months is not the same as us turning our backs on them.

if we cannot find enough volunteers to staff the location, i think it would be wise of us to be patient and give it a little more time. things will happen when the time is right, and if you are having to pick up a night job to provide out-of-pocket funding for yet another location, it seems to me like it could be forcing the situation and stretching us too thin. we've already talked about how we've reached critical mass as far as paid employees and locations, and how we are unable to expand to another location without more funding. the funding is out there and we can get it without you having to run yourself into the ground.

i want you to stay healthy and happy - you are already so busy and stress is high right now, so choosing to add another burden should be your absolute last resort!

you know i love you and your big heart, jeane! that's why i'm doing my part to look out for you! we WILL establish ourselves in Gate City, and i have faith that we can do so in a way that is going to be best for everybody, including YOU! :)