Thursday, July 31, 2008

Scrollworks Inspires

From Jaime Austria of El Sistema NYC
Inspired by you, my wife Chris has been going to the South Bronx and teaching recorders, singing and
solfege to children; she goes 3 times a week and it's done in a "storefront" church. Although
classes and lessons are held there, the music program is not tied to religion. One parent had concerns––we don't know whether negative or positive––and asked if it was a Catholic program; Chris told her that it's a music one and had no religious affiliations. Seemingly reassured, she enrolled her son.

This is the 3rd week and the children's desire and progress indicate that a continuation through the whole year and beyond would be something to aim for.

Chris needs to find teachers to take over because she goes back to her regular public school kindergarten class in the Fall.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dave Matthews should be asking for Harry's Autograph

In my opinion, Dave Matthews should be seeking Harry out, not the other way around. Dave Matthews is touring the world making a fortune off of devoted fans like Harry.

Harry is very smart, a gifted musician, and is working very hard FOR NO PAY to give music to children who otherwise would not have access to music. He believes that somewhere out there is a young person who's a more awesome musician than he is and that this child may not find that out unless Harry makes it possible. Harry's the one who needs to be handing out autographs!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Arthur Bushkin Provides Inspiration

Quotes from Arthur Bushkin's FaceBook profile:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. ~ Margaret Mead
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear ~ Ambrose Redmoon
The committed person brings an energy, passion, and excitement that cannot be generated if you are only compliant, even genuinely compliant. The committed person doesn’t play by the ‘rules of the game.’ He is responsible for the game. If the rules of the game stand in the way of achieving the vision, he will find ways to change the rules. A group of people truly committed to a common vision is an awesome force. They can accomplish the seemingly impossible. ~ Peter M. Senge
"The Man In The Arena"

It is not the critic who counts,
Nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled,
Or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,
Who strives valiantly,
Who errs and comes up short again and again,
Who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions,
Who spends himself in a worthy cause,
Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
Who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
So that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
~ Theodore Roosevelt
"Believe In Your Dreams"

You'll find that life always responds to your outlook. What you expect to happen, happens.

Expecting something to happen energizes your goal and gives it momentum.

Believe from the depths of your innermost being that you will achieve what you set out to do, and it will open the way for miracles to happen.

Your expectation will open the doors to your supply. Expect great things, work with passion for them, and they will surely come to you. Your supply will always correspond with your expectations.

There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as the expectation of something tomorrow. You can't succeed beyond your wildest expectations unless you begin with some wild expectations.

To win, you must expect to win.
~ Anonymous

The Trouble with Cellos

It has been quiet at Cave9 as the summer winds down. Even so, magic still flows abundantly.
There is something about Cave9. A rare conjunction.
Every time I turn around, something remarkable, and yet completely natural, is happening.

Yesterday was no exception. Here, Armani is teaching Matthew to play the cello. They were both totally absorbed, not even glancing up when the flash went off. Matthew's mom was nearby with freshly popped popcorn, amazed that Matthew hadn't noticed his favorite snack.

These are two good children. But they have the same interests and distractions as most of today's children. Yet they spent an hour struggling to teach and to learn an instrument invented centuries ago--not playing the latest video game or hanging out at the mall. No adult stood over them. All we did was provide the opportunity. How many others need this opportunity? How many irresponsible acts on our streets could be prevented by just providing something else to do?

Learning the cello has drawn Armani into a new sphere. He is now comfortable with Michael Fernandez, who patronizes the Starbucks where Armani's mom works and is the principal violist of the ASO. At the Scrollworks benefit at Java and Jams, Michael introduced Armani to Craig Hultgren, cellist with the ASO. Craig and Armani discussed the merits of the cello Armani wants to purchase off the internet.

Think about that. What if we could do that for more of the young people who live near Cave9? The changes to our community would be profound.

The main problem that Armani has found with playing the cello is that it is difficult to get the one we've lent him home on his scooter when it's raining, not to mention preventing him from borrowing an acoustic guitar at the same time.

The trouble with cellos is that they are wonderful.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Birmingham and the Crayola Box Youth Orchestra

That's my dream.
What image comes into the mind of the world when they think of "Birmingham, Alabama"?

Just this week I have talked to Anwar Marquette. In 1963, he told me, he had his protest sign taken out of his hands by Bull Connor only blocks from where we teach free music lessons at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.

I talked to Leslie Belser yesterday about the college students of all races that canvassed Birmingham in the 1960's to raise money for the civil rights movement. In the Smithfield neighborhood where she lives and where we teach at Hill Elementary and the NorthStar Youth Minisitries, many phones were tapped.

That's what people the world over remember when they think of our city.

I want to change that. I want the world to bring to mind a youth orchestra with a Crayola box of faces performing beautiful music with passion and joy.

That can't happen now. Only some of the crayons have access to the music lessons they need to be able to play in harmony, with skill and passion. So we have to 'grow' our own orchestra, fill the box with all the colors. That's what Scrollworks is about.

And it's working. All of our ensembles for the coming year will be more diverse. The younger ensembles will include many of the wonderful young musicians from within the city limits of Birmingham that we have met over the last 6 months.

It's hard work. But my dream will come true because I am going to MAKE it happen.
I could make it happen better and faster with your help. Email me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Seeing the Horizon Beyond the Forest

Perhaps I should stop reading all of the non-profit blogs. I haven't had time all summer, so I'm attempting to catch up. But it is so discouraging. Our vision for MYO and Scrollworks doesn't fit much of what I'm reading.

Somewhere this morning I skimmed a blog post discussing 'Constituent Relationship Management'. This post discussed a half dozen titles and job descriptions for people working in this corner of the non-profit world. There is a large body of software aiming to streamline 'CRM'. I don't want to work in an organization that needs software to 'manage' the people it serves.

When we envision the structure of our organization, we don't see a tree. We see a horizon. A simple line, maybe just a few dots. Why? Because we want someone from Hale County or Orrville or Fort Payne to come to us and say, "I want something like Scrollworks in my community!" and we hand them a booklet with 5 pages telling them how to do it. To get music education to our children, to bring communities together in harmony shouldn't require an MBA in non-profit management. It should be simple. It has to be easy.

I have been rereading Carse's 'Finite and Infinite Games'. Last night I substituted 'Scrollworks' everywhere he mentions the Renaissance. The substitution worked:
Scrollworks is not an effort to promote one or another vision. It is an effort to find visions that promise still more vision.

Each person whose horizon is affected by Scrollworks affects the horizon of Scrollworks in turn.

Scrollworks is a people, a people without a boundary, and therefore without an enemy. Scrollworks is not against anyone.
Whoever is not of Scrollworks cannot go out to oppose it, for they will find only an invitation to join the people it is.

I think that is why Scrollworks doesn't fit the non-profit mold and also why it is unstoppable. It is not simply a 'program' of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestras. Everyone feels it. It is a movement, a revolution.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I have spent a lot of time with Armani this summer. What a great kid. He originally came to Cave9 in the spring with his trumpet. He has since switched almost exclusively to cello. And he's doing very well.

Armani usually is at Cave9 almost the entire 9 hours we are there each week. He arrives on his scooter and begins a round of lessons, coming back to the cello several times. For awhile he came to every ensemble at Avondale, but now is a regular only at the string ensemble on Monday nights.

Armani is very smart. He's also persistent. Nick has really pushed him this summer, and despite frustration and some embarrassment, Armani comes back for more. He has more than once done better on the cello and in theory lessons than more-advantaged children who've had hours of private lessons.

We've had interesting discussions. Armani's grades aren't what they should be. He says school is boring, homework is boring and that grades don't matter. I've told him I expect much more from him. If he's going to continue on the cello with Scrollworks, I expect his grades to come up. Last night Nick asked him to put as much work into his education and his music as we are. Armani seems to be listening.

His mom is so nice and is working so hard. She's going to nursing school and works at one of the Starbucks that is closing. His sister, Angelica, is a sweetheart. His dad came to see Armani play in the string ensemble when he visited Alabama a few weeks ago.

I believe Armani is what Scrollworks is all about. Giving a child what they need to succeed--whether it be musical, academic, or just the right words. I have every confidence that Armani will come back and see us someday having done something truly significant with his life.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


More from Chris:
...planning is great, but when it comes to acting, I prefer the ready-fire-aim method, and I prefer to start sooner rather than later. You can always make changes later on, but if you never begin, you'll never know what could have happened if you tried...
...just do something.

Real Friends and the Concerns of All Humanity

From 'A Brief Guide to World Domination' by Chris Guillebeau:
...if you want to know who your real friends are, start telling your craziest idea to everyone you meet. Some people will slowly back away from you as if you really are crazy, but others will latch on to your idea and help you any way they can. The people in the second group are your real friends.
and from the same source:
An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. --Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am Birmingham

Through the Terminal, I found this t-shirt which exemplifies my summer experience.

Since the first of June, I have spent many very long and hot days in the center of our metropolis, cruising between Hill Elementary, the NorthStar Ministries, the Center for Urban Missions, the Church of the Glorious Light of the Apostolic Faith, Cave9, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and Avondale United Methodist Church.
I have associated with some of the best people I have ever met. Nick, of course. All of the Scrollworks teachers, the administrators at each of the locations, and, most especially, the children.

Each day my respect for this community has grown and deepened. As I recently told Leslie Belser, I have filled in holes in my knowledge of the people and the places--and she has helped a lot with this. Yes, Birmingham has problems. But, having lived in literally dozens of towns across the US, I know that every place does. Birmingham is a rich place to live with so much to offer--including the opportunity to help fix the problems.

Nick and I have had a roller coaster of a ride. He's been described as a sheepdog, renegade and wildcat. Yep.
We're determined to continue. There's too much to be gained and the only losses would be personal--and thus inconsequential. If you aren't already strapped in for the ride, we invite you to join us. And, Harry, please make sure you've got a good grip on your iPhone.