January 23 Message

Dear Friends,

We are at the stage where your voice and thoughts could make the biggest difference on if and how a national association is developed. I want to thank all of those that have participated so far and make a encourage everyone to complete the clarifying survey that Beth Babcock has put together to guide our final call before we formally talk face-to-face at the LA Philharmonic’s Take A Stand Symposium: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GVGWLJZ

This survey must be completed by 9PM EST on Tuesday January 24th.

The final call is this Wednesday, January 25, from 11:30AM – 1:00PM EST.

Conference Call Dial-In Number 760-569-0111
Participant Access Code 121767#

=== Beth Babcock’s Memo To The “Working Group” ===

After reviewing the minutes of the January 18 conference call, the responses received to date (1/21; 20 responses) for the Working Group’s first survey, and subsequent advisory e-mails sent by Working Group Members, there seems to be significant agreement among the group about a number of critical elements. Although the group may need to work to find the exact nuance of wording most appropriate to convey their sentiments, it appears that agreement is strong about the following defining elements of core membership:
  • Approximately 95% of the group appeared to agree that core members should have a primary purpose of creating social change for children through music;
  • Approximately 80% of the group appeared to agree that core member organizations should focus on serving children with financial and other barriers to traditional music education (as demonstrated by a majority of students served possessing such needs);
  • Approximately 85% of the group appeared to agree that core member organizations should operate with policies specifically designed to make their programs financially accessible to all children they serve;
  • Approximately 70% of the group appeared to agree that core member organizations should have ensemble performance as a fundamental element of program curriculum.

With regard to one element discussed in the survey and the conference, there was a broader array of opinions:  the importance of program intensivity as measured by hours of instruction provided per week.  Approximately 70% of the group felt that definition of program quality (or intensivity) as measured by hours/week/child was important to include in the main characteristics of core membership.  The reasoning for this, from the comments received, appears to be because working group members’ own experience and research shows a significant correlation between the number of hours of program contact with the quality of social outcomes the members’ so clearly expressed (#1 above) as the raison d’etre  of their programs.

There was concern expressed that if some measure of program quality and/or intensivity were not included in the definition of core membership, it would be very difficult for the association to achieve shared goals of strengthening programs and creating powerful social outcomes.   Therefore, since the majority of group members appear to feel that this is an important element to be retained where clarity and consensus need to be built, future surveys and discussion should be used to ascertain the will of the group.

With regard to the potential purpose of the association, group members were asked to rank order ten possible purposes (1=most preferred- 10= least preferred) and the outcome of those rankings were:

  1. Develop shared outcomes data (3.13)
  2. Provide opportunities for staff to share best practices, learning, & expertise (4.19)
  3. Provide resources and tools for program evaluation (4.25)
  4. Create share tools for program delivery (music libraries, etc…) (4.71)
  5. Create platform for shared public advocacy (5.06)
  6. Obtain new sources of philanthropic funding (5.50)
  7. Create greater public awareness about programs (5.94)
  8. Establish minimum basic standards or guidelines for programs (6.05)
  9. Create opportunities for students’ shared performance and learning (6.37)
  10. Support program growth and expansion (6.84)

(Note:  the numbers above show the average weighted rank of the group’s responses; the lower the number, the higher the group’s preference)

There were many comments from group members that they valued all of the purposes listed above and that choosing among them was very difficult.  These individual comments are reinforced by the rankings themselves which show tightly clustered rankings (3.13-6.84) with no overwhelming consensus on top or bottom choices (e.g., if all members had ranked one choice #1, you would have seen that number above).  The group therefore seemed to agree with one respondent who stated that “I had a hard time with this because this could ALL be helpful.  It illustrates to me how many benefits could be achieved by starting an association. Very important!”

However, a closer look at the rankings does appear to produce a few themes worth mentioning.  The group’s four top choices are all focused on strengthening internal components of existing programs’ outcomes measurement and quality.  Given the relative newness of many programs and the interest to form a national association, this primary focus on internal capacity building seems entirely logical, warranted, and relatively easily accomplished by such an association.  Data such as this suggests that early strategy for the association would be to concentrate on addressing these elements.

The second cluster of responses (Numbers 5-7) all focus on building external elements of program support:  public advocacy, new funding sources, and public awareness.  This too appears to be very logical and thoughtful on the part of group members.  It indicates that members wish to focus first on capacity-building and then use the combined strength of solid programs to leverage additional public and private support and expand program impact.

The final cluster of responses (Numbers 8-10) appear to focus on what group members consider to be values they might accrue from membership as the association and core member programs mature.  These are things such as establishing program standards, expanded student learning and performing opportunities, and support for program growth and expansion.  It is heartening to see what appears to be such sound hierarchy of strategic priorities emerge from the working group.  

Given the areas of emerging consensus and those needing further clarification shown above, the next group survey and conference call can be expected to focus on refining understanding of group ideas regarding program focus, quality and intensity and new items including preferred descriptive terms for association name and mission.


About Stanford Thompson

Stanford Thompson is a musician and educator who is passionate about using music for social action and serves as the Founder and Executive Director for the El Sistema-inspired program, Play On, Philly! and the Chairman of El Sistema USA. He also serves on the boards of the Interlochen Center for the Arts, the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Composers Forum, and as Chairman of The Curtis Institute of Music Alumni Network. He regularly contributes to the communities of TED, League of American Orchestras, and El Sistema-inspired initiatives around the world. For El Sistema inspired programs he has implemented, Stanford has secured over $8.5 million in funding which has impacted the lives of hundreds of children in Philadelphia. Trained as a professional trumpeter, Mr. Thompson has performed with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Curtis Symphony Orchestra, Lancaster Symphony Orchestra, Symphony in C and recorded on the Ondine label with Christoph Eschenbach. Stanford also appeared as soloist with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Ocean City Pops Orchestra and the North Springs Philharmonic. He has lead residencies with Philos Brass in Milford, Pennsylvania and Atlanta, Georgia where they performed recitals and outreach presentations, presented master classes, and conducted clinics. In the jazz idiom, Stan has performed for the Berks Jazz Festival, performed on the Washington College Concert Series and presented for the opening gala of the Philadelphia Orchestra with the Rittenhouse Jazz Quintet. Stanford is a native of Atlanta, GA and holds degrees from The Curtis Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory’s Abreu Fellows Program.
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