16. April 18, 2012

Association Working Group Conference Call
Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Remember to follow all results at musicassociation.wordpress.com. The minutes are posted pretty quickly after each call – please post any corrections that you might have. Also. Please let Stan know by email that you were on the call if you’re not on the list below.

ROLL CALL: Beth Babcock, Stanford Thompson, Louise King Lanzilotti, Mark Sarich, Mark Churchill, Margaret Montgomery, Louise Ghandi, Mary Wurtz, Louise Ghandi, Steven Liu, Katie Wyatt, Dan Trahey, Kassie LordMarie Montilla, Delia Raab-Snyder, Bob Fieldler

Please let Beth know you were here, if not listed.

Stan began the call by saying that he’s finished the document of the 57 programs and the list of who is coming to Chicago so far. He asked for a few people to call or mail those who aren’t coming with a personal summary or message – Louise Ghandi, Mary, Delia, Margaret, Louise Lanzilotti,

About 26 are already attending. Perhaps a few more will attend. There is a wide representation of talent and geography.  Bob Fiedler has made a packet of information – many have not yet received it. Stan will send it out this evening.

Three basic areas will be covered today – the draft Vision Statement, the draft Mission Statement and the draft El Sistema Values Statement. Many people, including Venezuelan leaders, have heavily vetted the Values Statement. Beth is grateful to the team of Mark Sarich, Mark Churchill, Patrick Slevin, Steven Liu, Elizabeth Schurgin, Marie Montilla, Nan Westervelt, Dalouge Smith, and Margaret Martin.

Margaret Martin summarized the work of the group. The mission statement is designed to be acceptable to a wide variety of people, while the vision statement is meant to more clearly state how our group is different from others in the music/ social change world.

Draft Vision Statement – A world where learning to make music together is widely championed as an effective way to help children, families and communities thrive.

Dalouge wrote that making the vision more specific to our individual group might make us less effective.

Mark Sarich has some concerns about making the vision statement too broad.

Mark Churchill commented that Abreu focuses on the underserved population always and that it would be unfortunate not to focus on it. Mark said that Margaret has done a wonderful job summarizing the work of the group.

There was discussion about whether the vision statement was so general that it didn’t stay with our core focus on children without access.

Beth suggested that we not wordsmith over the phone, but rather collect comments that might help us get to Chicago with some ideas to help us finalize the statements there.

Steve commented on Liz’s thoughts – she talked about social change or action being important to the vision statement. Transforming children and uniting to create social change.

Louise Ghandi said that her first reaction to the two statements was very good. She feels we are not the only music organization in the musical landscape. She said that other groups asks what the ES movement in America would bring that is different from what those groups have been doing for many years. How are we looking at music done on a mass scale. Are we now to turn the task of music education to non-profits outside of the school systems? This vision statement shows a willingness to work with the entire social landscape instead of going off on our own. She feels that the vision statement needs to show what the world would look like if we were successful.

Margaret said she recently had a conversation with a Dean from Eastman who’s looking to get an El Sistema program into schools in Rochester. He is also concerned with keeping music within a school context. There is a huge fear that our work will take the responsibility off of schools.

Mark Sarich said that while there may be some areas with music in the public schools in the US, there is a complete lack of music in many areas and that has been true for years. He said that we make more enemies by not being clear about our specific purpose.

Somebody said that we need to state somewhere that we will work with other groups. In her community, the El Sistema programs are welcomed as after school programs.

Louise Lanzilotti said that social action through music, a statement widely used in Venezuela, seems to be missing from the statements. She is worried that our statements are too general and don’t get to the core reasons for this work. She said that there are existing programs in the US that work well with existing public school programs. Delia agreed.

Someone asked why we left out the word classical.

Some people are worried about “social action”, “social change” maybe preferring other less controversial words.

Stan likes that in this conversation there is more attention being paid to the social action aspects of the movement, and that is what makes our movement unique.

Mark Churchill said that on one hand this is a distinctive program doing a specific kind of work, and that we do want to work well with others. He said that we not only want underserved children to have opportunity, but we want to see them thrive in the work. There has been a lot of work in America over time, but it has not been transformative enough for all children so far. How do we communicate our mission thoughtfully yet clearly? We do want to support the entire ecosystem of music education.

Mary said that it would be helpful to comment that the children are learning life skills that are the foundation for building a strong society.

Louise Lanzilotti suggested having others bring some phrasing that they might have used in their own statements.

Beth summarized that for the vision statement we strengthen the concepts of ensemble music, social transformation through music, access, and life skills to build stronger communities. The group seems to want to make the statement a little stronger, “slightly less vanilla.”

Margaret said that she will take the ideas back to the working group for one more iteration before we get to Chicago, if they can get a call scheduled.

Someone asked why we aren’t including the word classical.

Draft Mission Statement – El Sistema USA promotes access to intensive ensemble music learning and performance for all children, particularly those with the greatest needs and the fewest resources.

Louise Ghandi asked for a clarification between vision and mission – a vision statement is supposed to be an inspiring summary of what we hope our impact to be, while a mission statement is supposed to be a statement of purpose – how and why do we do our work.

Mark Churchill feels comfortable with the mission statement.

Mary asked why the group left out “classical.” Margaret said that the term is open to interpretation, and that various groups are doing various kinds of music other than classical music.

Why did we leave out “orchestra”? Mark said that in Venezuela the relationship to classical music is closer than in America. Margaret said that “ensemble music learning” covers the work clearly.

Louise is Pasadena supports Mary’s comments about using “orchestra.” She suggested saying “orchestral and choral ensembles” are essential to the programming. Margaret agreed that choral work is central.

Mark in St. Louis said that there is one group is a mariachi group.

Katie said that orchestra is the model in Venezuela, as did someone else. Steve said that Abreu states that it’s orchestra and choir, and that it could have been other groupings as well. Steve said that the ensemble is the central focus.

Mary agrees that there can be many kinds of ensembles within a nucleo, but feels that it is important to expose children to classical music – that is doesn’t belong to the elite, but is for everyone. Beth said that some of this is covered in the values.

Louise Ghandi appreciates Mary’s comments. She said that “access and excellence” might be missing from the mission statement.

Core Values of El Sistema (as vetted by many people from US and Venezuela)

  • Every human being has the right to a life of dignity and contribution.
  • Every child can learn to experience and express music and art deeply and receive its many benefits.
  • Overcoming poverty and adversity is best done by first strengthening the spirit, creating, as Dr. Abreu puts it: “an affluence of the spirit.”
  • 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.
  • 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.

Manner in which the Core Values are Demonstrated

1. Mission of social change. [Tocar y Luchar; To Play and To Struggle]

El Sistema is a social change/youth development program that uses music to enable every child to feel like an asset within her or his community, inside and outside the “nucleo.” Students feel an ownership of the music making process, taking responsibility for both individual and group improvement. For example,

they often take on teaching roles themselves starting at an early age.  

2. Access and excellence. 

El Sistema includes as many children as it can, bringing young people into its community whenever possible, as young as possible, for as long as possible, whatever their background or abilities. As El Sistema strives single-mindedly toward musical excellence for all students, it also provides intensive training at “Academies” for the most committed and gifted, preparing them for the highest-level national orchestras and cultivating them as leaders in their own communities. In this way and others, the ideals of access and excellence are maintained in a productive balance that maximizes both the fullest success for all and highest accomplishment for some.

3. The nucleo environment.

The nucleo is a physical location, within the students’ neighborhood where students live, that embodies the values and goals of El Sistema. It is a haven of safety, fun, joy, and friendship, with an ethos of positivity and aspiration, where all students are encouraged to explore their potential. The nucleo’s doors are always open, and community members convene in its hallways.

4. Intensity.

Students spend a large amount of time at the nucleo, many hours per day, and almost all days of the week, often building up to four hours per day, six days per week. Rehearsals are fast paced and rigorous, demanding a durable commitment, personal responsibility, and a strong work ethic. Through frequent performances, students have many opportunities to excel and to share their accomplishments with their peers, family and community.

5. The use of ensemble.

The learning in El Sistema is based in ensemble experience in which group achievement is balanced with individualized attention. The orchestra acts as a model society in which an atmosphere of competition between individuals is replaced by shared struggle. [Dr. Abreu: “The orchestra is the only group that comes together with the sole purpose of agreement.”] Smaller ensembles and choruses adopt the same ethos.

6. The CATS teacher model: Citizen/Artist/Teacher/Scholar.

Those who work at the nucleo take on many jobs and multiple roles in relationship to the students. By acting as citizens, artists, teachers and scholars, these adults encourage their students to develop holistically: as active musicians, helpful educators, inquisitive learners and responsible civic contributors.

7. The multi-year continuum.

El Sistema provides a “conveyor belt” of services, supporting its students from early childhood into adulthood. Despite variation in resources and practices, all nucleos work toward a full program. The “Academies” and other national teams have formed lists of sequential repertoire, orchestral levels, and pedagogical practices that create a through line for every child’s learning. Although each nucleo is encouraged to develop programs that suit its community, shared practices and unified vision allow El Sistema to provide its students with a continuous musical experience. The learning process develops the ear as the fundamental tool before the visual.

8. Family and community inclusion.

Family participation is an essential aspiration of El Sistema. Siblings often go to the same nucleo, parents attend classes with the youngest students, and families form the bulk of the audience at orchestra concerts. Many sites have parent musical ensembles, and all actively work to involve the community at large through outreach concerts.

9. Connections and network.

Although nucleos run independently and customize their programs, they are strongly connected to the national leadership organization, which provides financial resources but more importantly gives the network a unified vision. Additionally, each nucleo is indispensably tied to the many other nucleos that form the El Sistema network. These interdependent relationships are manifested through events such as “seminarios,” which are intensive, project-based musical retreats where orchestras share repertoire, streamline technique, and build personal and institutional relationships. By uniting students and teachers from disparate parts of the country, the nucleo network embodies the El Sistema ideals of sharing and learning.

Reactions from the group

Margaret didn’t see the word “mentor.” She would also like to see “community collaboration.” Her understanding about the difference between El Sistema and Batuta is that Batuta encourages collaborations with existing organizations, while El Sistema is independent. Mary agrees – building strong relationships with schools, organizations, etc.

Beth said that it is vital for us to have a document that clearly states our values, so this will be an important one. Beth and Stan will circulate this document to the group for comment.

Beth urges us all to look at the cumulative decisions document before we go to Chicago.

Beth has been discussing our process with people in her field, and it has garnered a great deal of interest among them.

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