April 29 Minutes

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

Beth was acknowledged for her great work on behalf of the network.


Beth shared that Eduardo Mendez sent an email this morning to Beth and Stan. He had sent a very diplomatic email earlier appreciating the work on the Association, with a caveat about staying open, and about being careful not to brand the work. This morning’s email clarified that Venezuela doesn’t want the Association to claim to be a certifying body or to claim to have a unilateral relationship with Venezuela..  The Venezuelans will continue to work with many other organizations in the US to foster the work.. There is concern in Venezuela about the use of the name El Sistema USA, that it might be perceived as our organization attempting to “own” the brand.. They appreciate our communication and want us to continue to communicate. They are aware of what we’re up to. We must be respectful of the political complications that can arise if we are not careful of how we pursue this work.

We are so grateful for this direct communication from Eduardo (and Louise hopes that the minutes directly reflect the content of what Eduardo sent). It is very timely and useful in helping us shape our work.

The development of El Sistema started from a very small nucleus and was able to grow from a shared central leadership and inspiration.. In the US, we’re starting very publicly and with a variety of programs in various locations. We are growing rapidly. Bringing together the many disparate ideas will allow us to grow quickly.

Because the situation is different here and we cannot to do it the way Venezuela has, as Maestro Abreu has reminded us. We need to find ways to develop our own work. Beth said that it’s completely logical for the Venezuelans to be concerned about  the way in which we might move ahead because  they are coming from a different place with a very different history.

We want an organization that can work together and still learn from Venezuela. What is the best form for that?

How will we as a group continue to interact? We can choose to create a platform to be evolved OR we can choose to continue the discussions, leading eventually to a platform. There are many gradations in between those two alternatives.

Beth has been the outside objective acolyte of the group (without long-term self-interest) to get these discussions going. Stan’s role has been from within the group connecting people to the discussion. Beth can’t do this indefinitely. We’ve been working hard with her on the process.

How do we want to proceed?

Mark said that weekend meetings like this have momentum but that can be short-lived once people return to their former lives.

Bob asked if there’s such a thing as a perfect platform.

Louise Lanzilotti offered a document that she developed yesterday with some alternate ideas, and ways to get some work done immediately, whether or not the association moves forward. She wants to be sure that the network continues talking and moving forward together. The document is below.


Open Source Network of US Organizations Inspired by El Sistema

(another name is fine – this just makes the point of being like a techie open source program)

The Open Source Network is dedicated to supporting the work of organizations that promote and build upon the core values of El Sistema. The network develops according to the principle Ser Y No Ser Todavia.

Core values of El Sistema inspired programs include:

  1. Every human being has the right to a life of dignity and contribution
  2. Every child can learn to experience and express music and art deeply and receive its many benefits.
  3. Overcoming poverty and adversity is best done by first strengthening the spirit, creating “an affluence of the spirit”
  4. Effective education is based on love, approval, joy and experience within a high-functioning, aspiring, nurturing community. Every child has limitless possibilities and the ability to strive for excellence. “Trust the young” informs every aspect of the work.
  5. “Ser – No Ser Todavia” (Being – Not Yet Being) Learning organizations never arrive but are always becoming – striving to include more students, greater musical excellence, better teaching. Thus, flexibility, experimentation and risk-taking are inherent and desirable aspects of every program.

These core values are demonstrated in the following manner:

  1. A mission of social change through youth development programs that use music to enable every child to feel like an asset within his or her community.
  2. Access for all children, particularly those from underserved areas. (all children, every child, etc.)
  3. Striving for musical excellence for all children served through intensive, neighborhood, ensemble based programs with a multi-year continuum.
  4. Using a model of citizen-artist-teacher scholars to encourage the development of the whole child, supplemented by the development of peer-to-peer support.
  5. Family and community inclusion.
  6. A network formed by a strong connection between individual organizations and a national leadership organization.

Open Source Network

1. The Network will maintain a Communication System.

2. The network will serve as a Resource/Research Center, with the following elements (and others to be added as needed)

  • resource library (including repertoire, curriculum, research, etc.)
  • records of best practices
  • assessment models – development and sharing

3.The Network will participate in National Advocacy of El Sistema inspired programs.

4. The network will maintain a list of Mentors/Resource People, who are willing to be available to help others with various areas of questions, according to their expertise.

5. A group of interested parties will continue to develop the next level of Organization/Alliance.

The Network will support regional and national gatherings (although these will probably be done by specific organizations or partnerships)

  • general meetings
  • teacher training
  • seminarios

End of document

Katie said that it may be a time for a pause to hear the voices of the rest of the network.

Delia said that bringing other voices in is important, even if they haven’t spoken up yet. Some of those who aren’t necessarily speaking up are central to the work in the trenches.

Maria said that we need patience. Some of the best partnerships in Venezuela began with doors closing. Programs that are not participating in the conversation need an entry point where they have a say in molding this process. She’d rather see everyone at the table than a few pushing the agenda forward.

Laura said that she reached out and got a spectrum of responses before the meeting. She feels we need to continue to reach out – spread our tentacles.

Jennifer said that something that resonates from people she’s spoken to is the need for sharing of resources. How would Louise’s version of this be implemented? Through various people taking on individual roles.

Katie said there have only been two ways to be involved in this process so far – through Wednesday calls and the surveys. How do we open doors to the conversation as we go forward? There need to be lots of avenues.

Rey said that there are other ways that we’ve been able to be involved. He feels most people should have known about this. He sees no problem with branding. We’re part of something larger that we can identify with. He’s very much for establishing the platform and then opening it back up to criticism. Lots of people wait until that time to respond.

Laura said that if the Venezuelans are against El Sistema USA as a name, she’s against it. She wants to make a strong case for going forward with the imperfect platform. As far as voices not being heard, a first step might be having people reaching out to everyone in the network and getting their reactions and wishes about the potential platform. When she started her program in October it was very scary, but she did it anyway. People might always feel they’re not ready. She feels the need to move forward.

Kassie said that this process will take a long time and could go in different ways – some people are hesitant about getting involved in something that might not happen. She does feel that it’s going to happen now that she’s been at the meeting. A structure has begun to be shaped. It’s not too detailed yet. She wants us to set up a structure to get input from the field.

Joel added that there will always be critics and bystanders. He’d like to understand what about the proposed structure worries people. He doesn’t find anything wrong with what Louise proposed.

Louise Lanzilotti said that the concerns she has include, among others, using the El Sistema name and imposing a structure for the network before we know what we actually need.

Jennifer – when the name El Sistema USA was put forward as the best name for this group, that was a red flag for her. The Fellows just got back from an amazing time in Venezuela. She wouldn’t want to be associated with something that hurt our relationship with Venezuela.

Louise L. is asking us to formalize what we ARE doing and what we can do moving forward while working to formalize the structure of an alliance/association.

Albert – the idea of adopting Louise’s document helps us to formalize as a sponge, not a rock. We could now move to regional meetings and more discussions always with a central clearinghouse.

Leni – again thanked Beth for her work. She acknowledged the various stops and starts of the process. She appreciates our work of the past few days. Some of the concerns she brought into the room on Friday have been resolved. She’s happy with moving away from the certification idea. Moving away from the formality of the name is helpful. Leni wants us to be strong and keep moving forward independently. As Louise has outlined. we don’t want to move away from the sharing of resources and research. Moving forward as an Alliance is important and is included in Louise’s document. We need to add something else – a timeline. Formalizing an Alliance takes a long time. Louise is asking us to keep moving in the meantime. She thanked everybody for this hard work.

Mark Sarich – responding to Joel. He loves his draperies but has not washed them for three years, which shows that they’re not that important to him. His sheets have, however, been washed. They are obviously more important to him. In terms of this meeting, it was vital to him to get here.

Stephanie – responding to Joel and Katie. She understands why we’re working to be inclusive. When she looks at things like shared resources, shared research, she knows those will benefit her organization, as will an organization. People judge returns on their investments in very different ways. We need to offer platforms that help people see the benefit to them and their organizations. She mentioned the four quadrant view of needing to do something Urgent Important Not Urgent Not Important Those things that are the most urgent and important are what we do.

Beth – in strategy, the hardest place is the place where you go from idea to delivery. How will we move to the tangible, to delivery. How will this process be implemented?

Bob – how will we know when we’ve gathered enough feedback and who will decide that?

Louisa Ghandi – there is a lot of information that she has just found out this weekend (like the resistance to the name El Sistema USA). She knows that some people are just waiting for a proposal to react to. Others disagree with the way they feel the process has been pushed – why didn’t she know about the disagreements? In America, the Federalists got their way because the anti-Federalists weren’t there.

Liz – when she needs help, she calls someone from the network for help. She sends arrangements back and forth between groups often. However, others don’t have access to people in the network and resource sharing is challenging for them.

Marie – we all want to get to the finish line, whatever that is. We need to forgive those who aren’t here. We need to create entry points for everyone. We need a leap of faith. We all need this. She’s glad we got the email from Venezuela. She’s also glad that we will move the work forward.

Jackie – so glad she’s here. She likes Louise’s document and the concrete things we can do to move the network forward.

Louise volunteers to work with others to get this proposal moved forward.

Mark Churchill is delighted with the process and the work we’ve done. He created ES USA to help all of us do the work from the platform of New England Conservatory. The National Advisory Board ran the committee. NEC decided that it was too big for their mission and let it go. The San Antonio meeting happened and the nucleo network created some actions, including a map and a vision/mission statement. Mark said that he personally spent $10,000 to get the put up on his website, for the network. Dalouge was maintaining the network and sending out communications regularly. He then became excited about working with the League on its software, so he set up a communication system through that network. It hasn’t been used much. But, what happened after the website was built and the network was built was that everything “fizzled.”  Mark is okay with not using the name. The use of the term El Sistema in any way claiming to be THE group in the US is the biggest issue. At this point, he feels that going with Louise’s proposal instead of the Alliance/Association idea would stop forward movement.

It’s not an either/or decision. The work of the movement needs not to stop while waiting for this proposal to move forward either.

Ben – It’s seems we’re trying to create a stew so we can do a lot of individual tasks. What we don’t have is a pot to cook it in. How do we get a pot and get someone to stir it. He wants to buy the pot. He feels Louise’s idea is something we already have.

Someone said that most of us don’t actually have access to a lot of what was suggested in the document – it occurs on an informal basis between a few individuals who have access and contacts now.

Patrick appreciated Mark’s history. He thinks the network will continue to exist. The only complaints he’s heard are about the name and about how people will be included in the association. He wants us to create something loose that will develop in time. He call people in the network all the time and gets all the resources he needs.

Beth said that a lot of the leaders aren’t connected to many others.

Craig (Dean of North Park) – as a newcomer, his perspective was that it’s very exciting because they might become more of a corporate partner to the group. As a partner and not a sponsoring organization, it would be great to know more as they go forward. They’re very interested in being much more involved.

Going forward

What are we going to bring back to the network?

Rey – We won’t have a document today – he want there to be a date specified for when the work in each group is date. He likes the title Music for Social Change Alliance.

Laura asked for a show of hands on whether to move the Alliance/Association platform forward. The group decided to do so.

Kassie said that this needs to remain a grass roots effort, with regional work done on the formation of the final plan. Committees can stay the same, but the defining has to be done by the network, the people doing the work in the field.

Jennifer thinks there is huge potential do so some actions now.

Beth clarified that this is an alliance of individual programs working for social change through music. Once there’s a structure, there will be tangible resources to help.

Ben asked about Beth’s time over the next period. She will keep helping while we are moving forward with the process. She thinks the documents made by the working group will lead to some funding.

Marie pointed out that we need to continue to communicate clearly with the people in Venezuela, some of whom have direct communication with individuals here. We definitely want to do so, and are working to be better at it. We need to communicate clearly and consciously with Venezuela in a way that is transparent to the group, on an individual level. They will continue to receive all of the emails of the working group.

Leni reminded us that these meetings are internal and should not have anything to do with the press and the public until we want to do that. None of us are official spokespeople for this group.

Bob asked how we manage potential funding opportunities. As this process takes form, funders will have clear aspects of it to fund.


  • Bylaws – mission/vision/values/name
  • Process of ratifying them
  • Initial business plan

Next Steps –

  1. Louise will work with a volunteer group to implement the steps of the document through the existing network. The work of the Alliance formation will be under another group.
  2. Beth will send out a list of tasks for the working groups
  3. The three working groups will continue working virtually, with a deadline.
  4. Once the document is done, reach out to the entire network for input to bring back to the central working group.
    1. Regional input
      1. Two months from now with live streaming for those who can’t travel
  5. Groups get together again after the input and share, continue developing the documents. These groups will have regional reps and drafting reps.
  6. Put out the vetted documents for open public comment.
  7. Start a ratification process once the documents are finalized. The entire network will respond.
  8. Activate Incubator search committee within implementation committee
  9. Beth will manage the process with help. She will communicate with the heads of the drafting groups

All of the actions were carried by a show of hands.

Other Ideas

Suggested Names – Music for Social Change Alliance

Regions –

West –Leni and Louisa Ghandi

Northwest – Stephanie

South – Katie, Liz, Ben, Patrick

Northeast – Rey, Greg, Kassie, Delia, Marie

Midwest – Bob and Bob

Leads for Drafting Groups –

Bylaws – Jackie

Ratification – Louisa Ghandi

Implementation – Patrick

Beth will make overtures to some potential funders for help with the process of moving forward.

Rey asked if it is ok to solicit and accept money on behalf of the work (e.g. regional travel costs) and group approved.


Beth stated that the goals the group had established Friday night for a successful Drafting Convention were to conclude the weekend with a tangible and descriptive product that could be shared with others and a plan for how to move it forward.  She then asked, “Have we been successful? Has it been worth our time?” Each person reflected quietly on those questions.

Louise Ghandi said that some of us came with skepticism and lots of questions. She feels that at least three of those people have come around to a more positive view of the process.

Leni said that moving away from a service organization helped her.

Patrick said we still need to reach out to those who did not come.

Many thanks to Beth. She asks only that we carry forth the work.

There was applause and agreement that it had been a successful Drafting Convention.


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