February 18 Message

Dear Friends,

In preparation for our next conference call on Wednesday February 22, 2012, we have developed a 6 minute response survey which needs to be completed by 9PM EST on Tuesday February 21st. Please complete the survey so that your voice can be heard: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RTKY76N

Wednesday February 22, 2012 – 11:30am-1pm EST
Conference Dial-in Number: (760) 569-0111
Participant Access Code: 121767#

Review of Association Working Group Decisions to Date – 2/18/12
As noted in the Working Group Meeting minutes of 1/31/12 and 2/1/12 (at the Take A Stand Symposium in LA and found on the Working Group websitehttps://musicassociation.wordpress.com/), much has been accomplished by the group in its seven prior meetings and conference calls. Working Group members voted to move ahead with next steps in developing an Association and validated the process used to date. Specifically, Working Group (WG) members voted to hold a convention to draft by-laws for the Association in late April or early May, 2012. Prior to this face-to-face gathering, teleconferences will be held to refine the guiding principles to be used in the drafting process. In addition to these preparatory meetings, WG members will be routinely surveyed, so that they may make their opinions and ideas heard, regardless of whether their schedules permit teleconference participation.

Every effort will be made to engage the entire field of El Sistema inspired organizations for their help in shaping the new Association. All meeting minutes, survey summaries, and other commentary will continue to be found on the Association website and the shape and direction of the new Association will be governed by the will of the group. Whenever possible, the will of the group will be defined as having been clearly expressed when surveys and/or discussions show a three-quarters supermajority or higher in level of agreement.

Core Membership
From the previous surveys and meetings, it is clear that the group has decided that the new Association should have a core membership comprised of organizations which:

  • Have missions to create social change through music;
  • Are inspired by or built upon the values of El Sistema;
  • Focus primarily on serving children with access barriers (both financial and social) to other music programs;
  • Provide such programs in a manner that ensures equal access to all children regardless of ability to pay;
  • Provide rigorous high-quality programs as measured by a minimum number of instruction hours per week (current discussion is five hours, but TBD);
  • Emphasize ensemble performance as a core of curriculum.

As noted above, the average minimum hours of instruction for organization membership still needs to be finalized.  In addition, the use of peer instruction as an defining element for core membership also needs to be explored,  Both these elements will be examined in this week’s survey.

Additional Membership Categories
As core membership is close to being defined, the Working Group has begun to discuss other possible categories of membership within the Association.  Additional potential categories of membership that have already been mentioned by WG members include interested:  individual members including supporters, professionals in the field, and/or students; university and/or training programs for academic institutions training professionals in the field;youth and/or adult orchestras; foundations and/or other sponsorship organizations; community partners such as schools and community or government agencies; similar and/or new programs that don’t quite fit core membership criteria.  

Most associations have additional categories of membership in addition to core membership.  The purpose of such expanded membership is to create effective means of collaboration between relevant groups in promoting the Association’s mission.  Each category of auxiliary membership, once specified is accorded benefits of membership specific to the group.  So, for example, students or other individual members might be given the benefit of receiving all Association newsletters and attending Association conferences, but might not be given any rights to elect board members to the Association Board.  Whereas other categories of membership might not only be given rights to elect board members, but also to have a seat(s) on the Board itself.

Since characteristics of core membership are close to being defined, the Working Group will now move on to introduce and define other additional categories of membership.

Association Name
There was much discussion on 1/31 and 2/1 about the possible name for the Association. The highest agreement to date (2/3 agreement), both in surveys and meetings, appears to concentrate around the names El Sistema USA or Sistema USA. During the most recent meetings in LA, Mark Churchill, the current head of El Sistema USA has stated that should the Association move ahead to legally incorporate with the principles outlined to date, he would be willing to transfer the El Sistema USA name to the Association. Given this support, previously suggested names, including El Sistema USA, will begin to be tested with the WG in future surveys. 

Association Mission
In the last survey and subsequent discussions, WG members suggested possible formative elements of the Association Mission Statement.  To date, WG members have suggested that the mission statement should reflect some or all of the following purposes:

  • Creating social change through music
  • Reflecting the values and/or inspiration of El Sistema
  • Serving all children regardless of need
  • Promoting high quality rigorous instruction
  • Through ensemble-based programs

Given these elements, in the next teleconference, WG members will be asked to volunteer for a small subcommittee (5-8 members) which will draft one or more sample mission statements for proposal to the larger group.


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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