January 30 Message

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your time, energy, and faith in the conversations we have had to date about building a professional association for the work that we are doing around the United States. Please review Beth’s review and recap of the surveys completed over the past two weeks. For those that will be in Los Angeles this week for Take A Stand, I encourage you to attend a special session the LA Phil has granted for discussion on Tuesday January 31st at 12pm PST in Room 4-5 (please review the official schedule for any changes). I strongly believe that a national association for the work we do will greatly aid the health and growth of the movement of using music for social change. I hope that you all will make the time to be part of this conversation.

We will also look into organizing a breakfast on Wednesday February 1 to continue our discussion before Beth has to leave Los Angeles. We will send out additional information about that once we have a plan confirmed. If there are any others that should receive these messages directly, please let me know so they can be added to the list. FOR THOSE NOT IN LOS ANGELES, any feedback to Beth’s message below is welcomed and will be mentioned at tomorrow’s meeting if you reply to this message with your thoughts.

Best Wishes,

Review of Association Working Group Survey #2

Recap of discussions and survey preceding Survey #2

As may be recalled, the first survey of the Association Working Group and subsequent phone call (1/18/12) revealed a great deal of agreement around the most important characteristics of core member organizations and the hierarchies of purpose which the Association could serve on behalf of those members.  Participants in the survey and calls largely agreed that core members should:

  1. Create social change through music;
  2. Focus on primarily serving children with access barriers (both financial and social) to other music programs;
  3. Should provide programs in a manner that ensures equal access to all children regardless of ability to pay;
  4. Should emphasize ensemble performance as a core of curriculum.

The group also showed strong agreement on the strategic priorities of the Association:

  1. It should first focus on capacity-building within the core membership through shared learning, program resources and materials, data, and outcomes evaluation;
  2. Next, the Association should promote external opportunities for advocacy, fundraising, and public awareness;
  3. Finally, the Association should create platforms for future core member development through support for established standards of quality, shared performance and learning for students, and member growth and expansion.

Where agreement was not found and further clarity was needed was in understanding the Group’s opinions as to the importance of program quality as a defining concept of core membership.  Therefore, it was agreed that the next survey and phone call (Survey #2 and conference call 1/25/12) would further explore the group’s opinions on this question.

Survey #2- Summary of Content 

As discussed in the 1/25/12 conference call of the Working Group, response to the survey was once again very good.  At the time of the call, 26 responses had been logged, which increased to 31 responses by the time this summary was written.  Although the responses increased in number, the basic outcomes did not change at all.  Prior statistics reported to the group were not mitigated, and instead were reinforced.  The summary below therefore contains all data to date (i.e. the 31 responses).

In the new survey, the following findings were achieved:

  1. The group agreed that quality of programs should be included as a defining characteristic of core membership in the Association (Rating of 1.58).  There were no respondents who either disagreed or strongly disagreed with this statement;
  2. The group also agreed that hours of programming per week was an important way to measure such program quality (Rating of 1.61).
  3. The group did not agree that the ratio of paid staff to volunteers was a strong measure of program quality (Rating of 2.89 with wide variation).
  4. The group agreed that it was important that core members’ programs be inspired by or built upon the values of El Sistema (Rating of 1.71).
  5. The group agreed that it was important for the Association to publicly identify itself as being inspired by or built upon the values of El Sistema (Rating of 2.08).

(Note:  respondents were asked to rate 1-5 their strength of agreement with the above statements; 1= strongly agreed and 5=strongly disagreed; therefore, the lower the rating number, the stronger the agreement.)

Respondents were then asked to list their preferred names for the new association.  19 respondents offered their suggested names and what emerged once again reinforced prior findings:

  1. Over two-thirds (13/19) stated that the name of the new Association should be El Sistema USA (11) or should use El Sistema as part of the Association name (“Sistema USA”, “US El Sistema Network”);
  2. Preference was also given to names expressing the themes of music and social change (2) (examples-“National Association of Programs Promoting Social Change through Music”; “The Association of Music Programs for Thriving Societies”);
  3. Other respondents listed more general names (3):  “Music System of America”;  “POP USA-Public Orchestra Programs USA”; “Music in Motion”;
  4. One respondent chose not to list names per se, but listed concepts of life skills as more important to include in the name than music.

Such responses as those above appear to affirm the prior agreements of the working group that core members and the association should be inspired by or built upon the values of El Sistema, social change through music, and the importance of ensemble performance.

The final question asked respondents to craft a one-sentence mission statement or descriptive phrases to be included in such a statement for the Association.  23 respondents offered their suggestions and the prominent themes and common language that emerged were:

  1. 15 respondents included wording descriptive of social change as a primary purpose of the Association and/or its core members;
  2. 8 respondents specifically used the name El Sistema in the mission statement and alluded to El Sistema inspiration or values;
  3. 7 respondents specifically included language describing the Association and members’ goal of  universal program access including serving “underserved”, “ALL” (sic.), and “Every child”;
  4. 5 respondents included statements regarding program quality;
  5. 5 respondents included references to ensemble-based programs.

Such responses are also consistent with the priorities reiterated above and in previous conversations with working group members.

Submitted by Beth Babcock 1/29/12


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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