April 28 Minutes

Minutes of the Association Meeting in Chicago – April 27 – 29, 2012
Saturday 4/28/12
The People’s Music School

Bob Fiedler offered a quick tour of the music school.

We began the meeting at 9:09.

Beth said that the purpose of the day is to move ahead the work that has already been done by the group. Last night we talked about how we would know that our time here has been worth it.

The group as a whole articulated some goals. If we have used our time well, we will have a schematic of an association that is fleshed out and descriptive enough to give people something to carry back to their extended groups – how the association would function. This would not be finalized but would be a point of departure document.

  1. How the association would run, how it would be ratified, etc.; how operations would come to life.
  2. Next steps.

Another viewpoint – we need a way to get more input from those who are not here.

We also need to know how people are feeling about the process – are we moving ahead well; are people being left out or feeling left out of the process.

Beth also said that we have to disavow ourselves of the idea that we are coming up with something that is perfect. It leaves no room for input and change. This is not about the saving of the work, but about creating a tool, a mechanism for change and evolution – the whole as more than the sum of the parts. It won’t be the perfect business model either.

A tool not of perfection but of evolution. Being and not being complete.

We will break into three groups:

  1. Ground rules for the association (Bylaws, Mission, Vision, business elements – officers, committees, etc.)
  2. Ratification process
  3. Association Ramp-up – how we will operate; first stab at a business plan

There was some clarification of the different groups.

Once this process is done, it gets sent out to all of the people involved in the network for feedback. The process will continue.

The process has been open to all input. At one point the surveys were limited to one person per organization. However, having one vote per organization does not have to be the ratification strategy.

Katie asked whether the Bylaws would not be ratified without a vote of at least 2/3, or some majority percentage of the entire group.

Each working group will have a recorder who will take down decisions, etc. All will report back at the end of the day.

What is the current definition of we? It is approximately 110 individuals nationwide involved in the discussion. Some have been on calls – some have filled out the surveys.

Tom Zelle asked that we define different layers of “we-ness”.  The drafting group is this group meeting now; the working group has been the people involved in this process; the movement has been the entire network.

Further input will be required from the entire network. The working group delegated this group to go through this process. However, we do not pretend to represent the entire network.

Albert said that the creation of this tool will allow everyone to engage on another level.

Kassie is concerned about the organization being inclusive enough.

Mark Sarich asked whether all of the existing nucleos have been invited. Beth said that the list reached out to all of the nucleos plus other interested parties. Mark said that they chose to participate or not. Louisa pointed out that there are circumstances that allow people to participate or not.

Bob Fiedler feels we should be very happy with the work done so far.

Group culture/Ground rules

  1. Limit the length of comments (two minutes?)
  2. All perspectives heard – be sure all people get a chance to speak; open mindedness
  3. Facilitator in each group
  4. Recorder in each group
  5. Parking lot for important ideas, while continuing to focus on the agenda
  6. Staying on track
  7. Appoint a reporter when reporting back
  8. Laugh
  9. Joy
  10. Forgive yourselves

Report Back by the Various Groups

Group One – Bylaws/Foundations

ALTERNATE VISION STATEMENT – We envision a world where every child has access to music and intensive ensemble music learning and performing, based on universal human values to promote positive youth development and thriving communities.

Work in process on Mission Statement

We agreed that the mission statement is basically good, but needs more. The words choir and orchestra are more appropriate in the mission statement than in the vision statement.

Red-Lined Items in the Cumulative Decisions Document

Definition of Membership

• Got rid of the 5 hour per week requirement. It is meaningless in relation to the rest of the information about member organization quality.  Replaced it with:

“Consistently engages students in music learning and practice as many hours a week as possible.”

• Need to add a definition of teaching quality (mentoring, teaching by example, etc.; training of teachers) Move this to the top or close to the top of the list.

Term Limits for Board Members

Two 3-year terms with at least one year off between years on the Board; staggered terms (1/3 of Board each year)

Worked a little on the Bylaws, but we realize another group was as well

  1. Drop the 5 hour requirement for members – changed it to “Consistently engages students in music learning and practice as many hours a week as possible.”
  2. Add to the definition of membership a definition of teacher quality – mentoring, teaching by example, etc. Move this close to the top of the list.
  3. If a fee is charged, charge by budget level.
  4. (ARTICLE V, Section 6) Board and committee structure should include a self-elected constituent with the power to veto Board decisions, possibly.
  5. Gift group separate from Board – to serve as a monitored gateway
  6. Develop a separate regranting Board within the organization when needed by vote of the members.
  7. Have only two levels of membership – Organizations, Friends.
  8. (ARTICLE V, Section 7, d) – ¾ of directors make a quorum
  9. (ARTICLE V, Section 1) – nominated by the membership and elected by at least 40% of those voting.
  10. Possible solutions to the issue of dominance by one region – Members of the Board will be assigned to regularly collect information and feedback from organizations not represented on the Board – this might be regional OR one representative from each region and the rest of the Board members general


  • Some people don’t want to include “choir and orchestra” in the mission statement.
  • Bob asked about having the members able to veto a Board decision. This process is in development currently. It is meant for important issues. A process would need to be clarified.
  • Vision Statement – why does it say world? Tom said that we operate with universal principles. That doesn’t mean we have to impose them on others. Louisa suggested using the word society rather than world. The point of the vision statement was what is happening to the children – what creates the transformation.
  • One more thought about mission and vision. Concise statements are really good. Keep in only those words we really need.
  • The issue of keeping the words orchestra and choir in the mission statement came up yet again.

Group Two – Ratification Group

  • New Membership names: 1) Active Programs 2)Programs in Planning – high need for support 3) Friends – individuals and institutions
  • Eligibility – self-defined
  • Dues – begin without dues; create and maintain an alternate system of accountability and voluntary dues; Budget size, number of site coordinators, years in service, etc.
  • Other names for the association – Consortium or Collective or Network (including El Sistema USA or not)
  • Board representation – each program nominates one member, with commitment to people working on the ground who will communicate back to the organization
  • an organization counts as a group with one Board overseeing it, no matter how many nucleos
  • 17 total Board members – and each organization get three votes per election
  • 13 members should come from programs and the Board elects the other 4 members
  • regional representation – 5 regions – all represented on the Board. Regional elections. Regions need to be defined.
  • Terms of office – staggered, 3 year terms, 2 consecutive with a year off
  • Open seats on the Board – pay special attention to regional distribution
  • don’t need a nominations committee

Discussion – were there any other structures proposed for dues? People had different opinions about voluntary, mandatory fees. If the organization develops, it would be excellent for everyone to at least pay something. Are there substitutions for cash dues? Etc.

The name – collective, consortium, network – what? Alliance is another common name.

Also the issue of calling it El Sistema USA.

Moving away from a service organization model – Leni is interested in this.

We’re also moving away from a certification issue.

Idea of having equal members, with internal self-definition along a continuum of the definition of what constitutes a program inspired by El Sistema.

Friends – this category has potential for growth through networking.

Mark Sarich has concern about having members self-define. Some might not be ethical about it.

Group Three – Ramp up

How to get the association off the ground – identify a potential non-nucleo  incubator. This could be an incubating organization in general. Would allow the group to take dues immediately. The incubator would have a time-limited association with the group. This would be a stable, $1.5 million or larger organization.

This organization would offer office space, supplies, HR, accounting, development staff, technology, marketing tools, etc. The incubator would ideally by a quiet partner, allowing the association to have its own identity. The association could apply for 501c3 status immediately, but stay wit the incubator as long as needed.

Location – this should be a place we would want for the long-term. It should be in a large metropolitan area with nucleos.

Executive Director – this job might depend on where the incubator and association are located. However, it might not. Hiring of the ED – this would be a job of the Board. They would select a search committee (at least three) which would develop a job description, skills and characteristics; develop interview questions; interview people; identify a candidate who would be put to the Board for a vote.

Need at least two Board members.

Strategic Priorities – outcomes evaluation came out as the first one.

ED job  – coordinating Board, addressing member issues, informing external stakeholders, sharing resources, fundraising, etc.

Salaries for ED and staff person, plus $50,000 – half for a fundraised; half for supplies, travel, Board coordination, payment to incubator. Dues would cover this, as well as grants and contributions.

Create a business planning task force before it opens.

Board meetings – three in the first year. Monthly Board Skype meetings or committee meetings.

Annual meeting of full membership. Could be connected to a convening.

Tapping funding sources – there are already interested potential funders.

Next steps – research market rates for salaries; research incubators.

Comments – would the ED have benefits? What is the salary? Should the person be an insider or an outsider?

People might bid for the right to incubate this group.

If the ED is a person from a program, might he/she not have a conflict of interest?

The group will talk about a timeline tomorrow. All groups should do the same.

We have a potential lawyer who can help with a lot of the legal work pro bono.

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