Friday, August 22, 2008

The Needs of Each Child

From Gary Stager in GOOD Magazine:
The problem is that we do not create productive contexts for learning in which the needs of each child are met as their talent, interest, curiosity, and passion are amplified...

...Would these folks send their own children or grandchildren to their “reinvented” schools? Is a steady diet of memorization, work sheets, and testing the sort of education the children they love receive? Of course not. If affluent children enjoy beautiful campuses, arts programs, interesting literature, modern technology, field trips, carefree recess, and teachers who know them, I suggest that we create such schools for all children. What’s good for the sons and daughters of the billionaires should be good enough the rest of the children, too.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why Free Music Lessons? Because 'Free' Changes Everything

Peter Singer reports in the Guardian that even the thought of money changes our behavior:
Trivial reminders of money made a surprisingly large difference. For example, where the control group would offer to spend an average of 42 minutes helping someone with a task, those primed to think about money offered only 25 minutes. Similarly, when someone pretending to be another participant in the experiment asked for help, the money group spent only half as much time helping her. When asked to make a donation from their earnings, the money group gave just a little over half as much as the control group. that we are aware of the isolating power that even the thought of money can have, we can no longer think of money's role as being entirely neutral.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Want to be in this list

From the Independent:
Three beacons of excellence currently dominate the youth-orchestra scene:Gustavo Dudamel's extraordinary Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela; the UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra; and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, whose magic derives from the unique chemistry between its members, its charismatic creator, and the political tragedy to which it is a defiant response.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Getting Back Up

Saturday at Cave9 was so wonderful, so perfectly the essence of what we want to accomplish there.
But the work facing Nick and I to make this continue is daunting. 24 hours a day is not enough.
And today Nick starts back at Altamont, limiting his time even further.
Yesterday, contemplating the overwhelmingly busy week to come, I had a crisis of confidence. Philip reassured me that we WILL make it work--and I've got to believe him.
Now I read this in the New York Times and am in tears:
People hit the Alabama ground the other night when another argument by gunfire broke out in Birmingham. Not everyone got back up.
I am so sad for LaWanda Russell and her family and friends. I am sad for the city.

When I was a suburban housewife in North Shelby County, this violence might as well have happened in a foreign country. But after a summer with Scrollworks, I know the places, I know the faces. I dread reading each news story, fearing to recognize a name. I want to keep close all those students that spend the afternoons with us at the Carver Theater and Cave9, knowing they are safe while they are with us. And I am so glad the one child we had banned from Cave9 for misbehavior (spitting coffee on people, hitting our cars with chains) has apologized and been welcomed back for lessons.

Economic circumstances allowed my children to grow up safe. Every child deserves to grow up safe. We need them all to 'get back up' because each contains a seed of hope for our future. I have seen the seed in the eyes of even the most difficult child.

Thus I am rededicated to continue, to work harder because I think, in the long run, MYO and Scrollworks can help.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sometimes you get more than what you pay for!

Group gives free haircuts in Collegeville

From the Birmingham News:
About 30 young men waited to get their hair cut today at the Collegeville Community Center as part of youth summit intended to teach what manhood really means.

Three Birmingham area barbers volunteered to give free haircuts, said George Stewart, founder of Cover to Cover, the organization that sponsored the event

Saturday, August 16, 2008

'We want our kids back, too'

From Racialicious:
Black children are disposable expectations.

Black girls are expected to become mothers too soon. Black kids are expected to be dead too soon. Black boys are expected to become criminals. Black students are expected to dropout of school. Black youth are expected to grow into the lesser-thans that we fear and secretly prefer they become.

When people have those sorts of expectations of you, an attitude of disposability follows. It has to...

...I’ve lost track of the number of black girls and boys under 21 that got abducted, vanished, or killed. I’ve lost track of the number of mothers, husbands, and children that have screamed for help from police and media and other communities only to be ignored. Outside of our blocks and neighborhoods no one cares.

Simultaneously, I’ve lost track of the white kids and white women from seemingly 8-80 that receive local, regional, national and even international attention when they are missing, molested, harmed or who aren’t allowed fulfill their “expectations.”

Everything from runaway brides to vacationing coeds to murdered military moms to snatched up toddlers and housewives. Be they rich, poor, rural, suburban or city, missing white women and white teens are valued. They are cherished. When violence befalls them it is “news”. It is a surprise that it happened to them—where they live. Theirs are the tragedies that must be covered. They are the victimized who must be championed. Their families are the ones deserving of justice and closure. Their families cannot be left to cope alone. They are the lost that must be found.

Nancy Grace doesn’t have an aneurysm on camera when LaToya goes missing. Dan Abrams doesn’t get outraged when Marcus or Jamar vanishes. Katie Couric and Barabara Walters don’t break down in tears when kids from South Central are murdered. Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann don’t interrupt your program when Jaunita is found chopped up into pieces. Magazines and newspapers aren’t tracking those cases. They’re just not news enough or “human interest” enough for all of that...

These kinds of hypocrisies and disparities drove me to look for ways to help. That’s how I discovered great child advocacy sites like Missing Minorities, What About Our Daughters? and Black And Missing. Since I used to write ads for a living, I figured I could do something they could use—and the We Want Our Kids Back, Too campaign was born.

We Want Our Kids Back, Too is a viral web campaign that combines picks of missing and endangered children of color (Black, Hispanic, Asian, mixed race/multicultural, etc.) with commentary challenging all to consider disparities in coverage, outrage and concern. Each ad highlights a different child/teen and reminds us that they are just as human just as “all-american” as Jesse Davis, Natalee Holloway, Elizabeth Smart and all the rest who receive so much focus. The ads also encourage us all to do better about giving all children a fighting chance for safe recovery regardless of ethnicity and background.

Please visit where you’ll find all sorts of fresh ads to grab and spread around and re-post. You can also find them at

Note: Posters are being updated and added frequently, as there is no shortage of missing kids of color and no shortage of parents, relatives and friends who want their safe recovery. So check back often and take the posters and spread them around as you see fit.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chase the Lion: The Lion Chaser's Manifesto

From Mark Batterson at
Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshiping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away.

Chase the lion.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Google worldview: 'an abundance of talent and limitless will to create'

This from BuzzMachine resonates with me. Scrollworks' goal is to make a level playing field by giving everryone access to music instruction and then to nurture those who stand out :
The curmudgeons also argue that this level playing field is flooded...: a loss of taste and discrimination. I’ll argue just the opposite: Only the playing field is flat and to stand out one must now do so on merit - as defined by the public rather than the priests - which will be rewarded with links and attention. This is our link economy, our culture of links. It is a meritocracy, only now there are many definitions of merit and each must be earned...

...But we are shifting, too, from a culture of scarcity to one of abundance. That is the essence of the Google worldview: managing abundance. So let’s assume that instead of a scarcity there is an abundance of talent and a limitless will to create but it has been tamped down by an educational system that insists on sameness; starved by a mass economic system that rewarded only a few giants; and discouraged by a critical system that anointed a closed, small creative class. Now talent of many descriptions and levels can express itself and grow. We want to create and we want to be generous with our creations. And we will get the attention we deserve...

...This link ecology does potentially change the nature of creativity. It makes it more collaborative, not just in the act but in the inspiration.
Perhaps the role of the creative class is not so much to make finished products but to inspire more to be made. It is the flint of creativity...

...When we talk about the Google age, then, we do talk about a new society and the rules I explore in my book are the rules of that society, built on connections, links, transparency, openness, publicness, listening, trust, wisdom, generosity, efficiency, markets, niches, platforms, networks, speed, and abundance...

Hope, purpose and a future for youngsters...and classical music

The Telegraph has an interview with Dudamel:
Dudamel came up through El Sistema, the visionary initiative of José Antonio Abreu that harnesses classical music as a way of giving hope, purpose and a future to Venezuela's youngsters. It has had the additional effect of making music an essential part of life there.

"Classical music in Venezuela is now something like a pop concert," Dudamel says. "You can see people screaming or crying because they don't have a ticket. Recently, I went to a disco with friends, and all the young people were saying, 'Dudamel, we want to go to your concert, but it's impossible because it's sold out.' It's really amazing."

This weekend emphasized the trend we have been seeing. More and more of our students are choosing to study the orchestral strings. Why? I suspect because they CAN.

And Psychology Today has an article on China's 'little emperors'. I think many American children are suffering from the same problem.
China may be the world's next great superpower, but it's facing a looming crisis as millions of overpressurized, hypereducated only children come of age in a nation that can't fulfill their expectations.
This culture of pressure and frustration has sparked a mental-health crisis for young Chinese. Many simmer in depression or unemployment, unwilling to take jobs they consider beneath them. Millions, afraid to face the real world, escape into video games, which the government considers a national epidemic...

..."In this generation, every child is raised to be at the top," says Vanessa Fong, a Harvard education professor and author of Only Hope: Coming of Age under China's One-Child Policy. "They've worked hard for it, and it's what their parents have focused their lives on. But the problem is that the country can't provide the lifestyle they feel they deserve. Only a few will get it."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wise Women

Leslie Belser lent me a sweet little book encapsulating the thoughts of Oseola McCarty, Simple Wisdom for Rich Living. Ms. McCarty is the woman who saved enough from her earnings doing laundry to endow a scholarship at the University of Southern Mississippi. Here are just a few I liked:
There is a lot of talk about self-esteem these days. It seems pretty basic to me. If you want to feel proud of yourself, you've got to do things you can be proud of. Feelings follow actions.

Young people should find something they're good at. They need to practice to build skills and to keep their minds busy. I think working hard give them an important feeling of accomplishment.

I still have lots of learning to do. I am supposed to take a computer class at the university. I visited one class. I had so much fun. Everybody was laughing, talking, and showing each other how to do new things. I felt like a child again.
Ms. Hill and Mrs. Belser spend a lot of time at Cave9 because they want to give their children the opportunity to immerse themselves in learning and playing music. Around 5:30, I can hear Mrs. Belser calling to Matthew, 'Just 5 more minutes!' Invariably, they are walking out the door only when all the instruments are packed in the car so that Matthew has nothing to play. He usually negotiates to take an instrument home for the week, so he and his mom have to haul all of his own instruments plus a guitar or violin.

Ms. Hill brings her grandchildren. AnLeia cannot get enough, soaking up everything offered on multiple instruments. Brian has an interest in just three instruments, so after a couple of hours of lessons, he waits for AnLeia, too. Yesterday I asked him if he was interested in teaching beginning strings. He brightened and sat up in eagerness. At Nick's urging, Brian gave Mrs. Belser a violin lesson, which they both seemed to enjoy.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra: Harmony Heals?

The TimesOnline reports on Daniel Barenboim's efforts to use music to bring young people together:
This year, 120 musicians – the youngest 12, the oldest 30 – from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Iran are playing a massive programme: the Brahms Symphony No 4, Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante, three Wagners including Act I of Die Walküre and Schoenberg’s Variations for Orchestra.

The Divan also includes a Spanish contingent, a nod to the Andalusian regional government, which helped to set up the Barenboim-Said Foundation. Four players from Gustavo Dudamel’s Simón BolÍvar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela swell the brass (and to the Divan girls’ delight, they play late-night salsa gigs).

There is more to the Divan than music, however. It is a philosophy that aims to teach logic in the midst of the illogical Middle East conflict...

...reflecting on the personal journey she has begun, Khleifi says: “The cornerstone of the Divan is that each side acknowledges there are two sides to stories. We don’t agree but not agreeing doesn’t mean that you don’t understand.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Challenge: "to reach the less better-off children"

From The Wokingham Times in the UK:

For more than 25 years, young musicians across Wokingham and Bracknell have been honing their skills with Berkshire Maestros.

Now the trust is offering music lessons to encourage more young people to take up music.

Reporter Hugh Fort spoke with recently-appointed chief executive Philip Lichfield to find out more about the group.

Music should be available to everyone, whatever their age, ability or background – that is the message from Berkshire Maestros.

Formed in 1982 as Berkshire Young Musicians’ Trust, the charity helps young people across Berkshire make the most of their ability and, more importantly, enjoy music...

...The charity also offers a “sponsor a child” scheme, where people can pay to help a child or children from a disadvantaged background.

Mr Lichfield said: “One of the challenges we face is to reach the less better-off children.

“We have done well in reaching the better-off families, but now we want to give everyone the chance.”

Berkshire Maestros

Friday, August 1, 2008

The voice that calls me: Music for the children can heal the city

Don Griesmann writes what I feel:
...Some stimulation hits me and I have to do something. It seems I have no other choice. I have to do something. But it is so absurd!

... It is the pursuit of perfection and, if not that, then it is the pursuit of excellence. It is an experience of constant renewal; there is a dimension of the human soul and an orientation of the heart and the action of our body and being. It is a way of making sense of the insensible, the senselessness, the hole that needs to be filled and made whole. A stupid problem that should not even exist does not need a stupid fix. It needs the best of me and the best of people with whom I join.

The spiritual slams the brain and says, what are you going to do about it? ...

Beginning a nonprofit organization is a spiritual act, a leap of faith. It is walking to the end of a cliff and taking one more step. I know it is the right thing to do. I may not know the right way to do it. But I believe that next step is for me to take. It is a calling that is difficult to hush and put to sleep.