02. December 7, 2011

Potential US El Sistema Association Conference Call
(Wednesday December 7, 2011 – 11:30am EST)

Call Participants:
Anne Henry: Soundscapes (Newport News, VA)
Rey Ramirez: Soundscapes (Newport News, VA)
Loiuse Ghandi: Verdugo Young Musicians Association (Pasadena, CA)
Dan Berkowitz: LA Philharmonic; YOLA (Los Angeles, CA)
Mark Churchill: El Sistema USA (Boston, MA)
Dan Trahey: Orchkids (Baltimore, MD)
Talya Lieberman: Play On, Philly! (Philadelphia, PA)
Stanford Thompson: Play On, Philly! (Philadelphia, PA)
Elisabeth Babcock: Crittenton Women’s Union (Boston, MA)
Bob Fielder: People’s Music School; Yours Project (Chicago, IL)
Katie Wyatt: KidzNotes (Durham, NC)
Eric Booth (High Falls, NY)
Marie Montilla: Kids 4 Harmony (Pittsfield, MA)
Mark Sarich: Lemp Arts Center (St. Louis, MO)
Leni Boorstin: LA Philharmonic (Los Angeles, CA)
Christine Witkowski: LA Philharmonic; YOLA (Los Angeles, CA)
Jamie Droste: Foxborough Regional Charter School (Foxborough, MA)
Kelly Carter: Advocates for Community through Musical Excellence (Minneapolis, MN)
Patrick Slevin: Austin Soundwaves (Austin, TX)
Melissa Villareal: Austin Soundwaves/Southwest Key (Austin, TX)
Al Myers: Atlanta Music Project (Atlanta, GA)
Tricia Tunstall (New York, NY)
Margaret Martin: Harmony Project (Los Angeles, CA)
Steven Liu: El Sistema Allentown (Allentown, PA)
Jennifer Blank: KidzNotes (Durham, NC)
Charles Dickerson: Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
Elizabeth Youker: Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra (Kalamazoo, MI)
Harley Christensen: San Jose Jazz (San Jose, CA)
Elizabeth Schurgin: Abreu Fellow (Boston, MA)
Alysia Lee: Abreu Fellow (Boston, MA)
Dick Roberts: Sally and Dick Roberts Coyote Foundation (Los Angeles, CA)
Keith Marlow: Community MusicWorks (Providence, RI)
Jonie Chancer

Introductory Remarks – Stanford Thompson
This call was organized for Elisabeth Babcock, President and CEO of the Crittenton Women’s Union, to explain and answer questions concerning her “Developing an Association Briefing Paper” and describe the opportunities that programs working with “high at-risk youth” have. This was not a discussion about details of forming an association, rather a chance to gauge the interest of forming an association. A discuss took place last week with a smaller group of people to see if there was interest in moving the conversation of building an association forward. Some people from that call volunteered to moved things forward but more help will be needed; the reason for this “larger” call.

Elisabeth Babcock (Beth):
Introduced herself as volunteer with Abreu Fellows program, has been shaping developing and teaching their leadership strategy curriculum. She was recruited to do that because she’s spent her entire career in nonprofit leadership and strategy (teaches at Harvard and Brandeis, CEO of 3 nonprofit organizations). Served on six association boards, one on the national and five on the state level. She has seen how association function, how they set up, how they meet the needs of constituents and how effective associations capitalize on the “whole which is better than sum of the its parts”.  Volunteered to write the “Developing an Association Briefing Paper” (The Paper) because of background and respect/love for this movement.

The Paper outlines how organizations come together as a league, association, etc., to work with each other while bringing together individual organization into a combined whole so that the larger association can advocate for the individual organizations. The association is formed to benefit the members and the member organizations make the decisions on the work that it does.

  • Bring members together to solicit national level funding, solicit partnerships for education and training, shared opportunities for performance and learning, or on behalf of management and leadership.
  • Economies of Scale: a group that can purchase in bulk things that member organizations will find are more expensive to buy individually (e.g. equipment, insurance, start-up funds)
  • Work on branding, marketing tools/information/campaigns on behalf of members to improve public awareness and support
  • Help to establish standards, best practices, opportunities for shared learning, and libraries of resources
  • Serve as a way for different types of members to come together by having different categories of membership. The idea is that it affords a platform for different types of supporters of the work to come together
  • There are 74,000 of such organizations in the country. These associations just work, so they are commonplace. Started by members coming together to begin to define what they have in common, most important commonalities of purpose and business model that allow them to have a shared value in being together.
  • Definition of who/what organization is set very broadly to include as many people and organizations as possible, but the organizations need to have enough in common to work together effectively to set common priorities and goals, but inclusively enough to capture as many members as possible (It’s more powerful to be a membership of the largest numbers possible when going after big money)


  • Inclusive language, careful about nomenclature—inclusive as possible in the beginning
  • Transparency and openness of communication; trust is what binds members together


Margaret Martin
Confirmed Beth’s comments.

Charles Dickerson
What are the costs of starting and maintaining an association?

Beth: Cost is associated with the amount of work the association aspires to do…just like starting up a music program, you can start with few resources or many resources, the difference is in what can be accomplished…e.g. you can start with volunteers, or you can hire staff members; range of budgets and range of works is significant.  Usually it starts at a small level, with one paid staff member and a board

Charles Dickerson
We have boards that we need to talk to about whether this will be beneficial. What are the costs and benefits so I can bring argument to his board?

To formulate the argument, there needs to be a planning process where people begin to talk about the association they want to form (membership, mission, work to do), that discussion is followed up by feasibility evaluation (e.g. funding viability). Members need to decide what the association is before we can have that kind of discussion. Are there membership dues? Philanthropic support? Those answers are not available at this stage. Every association is made up of various 501C3, and they vary with board approval, which depends on individual organization’s relationship with their board.

Al Myers
From the perspective of board chair, approval is going to be based on what association charges its members. We need short term, immediate term, and long term goals. Every organization here [on the call] is young and needs to get on their feet.

It is up to the members if the association charges dues or not. I understand that the financial circumstances of the potential members are tight and the size of membership dues would need to be approved by the association board. The board would define 1) who are the members of the association 2) the mission of the association (what it hopes to achieve) 3) how governance will oversee to achieve that mission 4) details of the mission, priorities of work, and what it’s supposed to do. Time and finances for putting association together are hurdles; combination of time, talent, and treasure (as with any non-profit).

Al Meyers
The first order of business is to get a small subset of members to work with Beth; this should be a national movement, common philosophy, common vision of what El Sistema is, best practices should be shared, and members should get together to meet, cultivate relationships, and share resources.

Dick Roberts
The after school network in LA came into existence in not a structured way (funded privately), but it’s vital in helping new programs get off the ground. YOLA is another network that’s very helpful.

Mark Sarich
Programming for high-risk youth: His program is all volunteer, wants to maintain focus on the humane and social missions, communicative network that allows for open discourse, and thinks transparency is of ultimate importance.

Important to determine whether mission is arts focused or social change focused

Margaret Martin
Interested in an association/organization that promotes development of at-risk youth through music

Harley Christensen
Supports Margaret’s statement

Charles Dickerson
What is it that we gain by coming together? Many are involved in YOLA, so what’s the use of coming together nationally?

Margaret Martin
Thinks beth has already spoken to this. Once we determine what the smaller group [needed volunteers] is interested in hashing out details. The mission needs to come from us, so we can’t answer Charles’ question in detail at the moment. Strength in numbers.

Harley Christensen
Looking for sharing of best practices, coming together and sharing info about what works and what doesn’t work.

To Charles: You are already in a network, which is not the case across the country. For you and others who are already in those networks, you would be looking for information outside of your network. National level funding, national sets of partners, national opportunities for performances and music practice. There’s major funding that can only be accessed at the national level. This association would facilitate getting to that kind of scale.

Mark Sarich
Our youth could be an asset.

Margaret Martin
Harmony project is entering 11th year.

Kelly Carter
What is best way to bring up this idea with other nonprofit contacts?

Feel free to take anything from my documents and I am available to talk offline about specifics.This association could allow for these other contacts to be members in different categories (network member, corporate members)

Loiuse Ghandi
Offering her help to take the next step

If we’ve determined that this is something we’re looking to take to the next step, we would be calling for volunteers.

Stanford Thompson
There may be opportunity to talk more at the Take a Stand conference in Los Angeles next month. Minutes from this conversation will be sent to update everyone in the field about what was discussed. Several have stepped up to volunteer and we invite everyone that wants to participate in drafting the guiding principles for a proposed association to help. Developing a list of guiding principles will aid in figuring out if an associaition should be formed and what shape it would take. I thank you all for your time and energy today.

3 Responses to 02. December 7, 2011

  1. Who are the individuals who want to work together on next steps toward developing a national association? I would like to participate in this process.

    Dr. Margaret Martin
    Harmony Project Founder

  2. Beth Hayes says:

    I believe there’s little research on music training programs for high-risk youth and a lot of potential to improve best practices and share data to support grants. Currently, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME, formerly MENC) has no Special Research Interest Group (SRIG) for music education in urban schools; but NAfME does host the Urban Music Leadership Conference. Clearly NAfME is concerned about the needs of urban music education and has dedicated some resources to focus on this problem. Perhaps, in the future, a newly formed professional association for music for high risk youth could have its professional conference in conjunction with the Urban Music Leadership Conference. A joint conference could greatly increase the visibility and growth of the new professional organization. Additionally, a tie to NAfME could be beneficial. They are a 100 year old music education organization that has strong ties to music businesses, creates professional conferences, supports research in music education, trains music educators, communicates to thousands of music teachers, and focuses on music education advocacy. It could beneficial to tap into their existing infrastructure, so we don’t have to recreate all parts of the wheel.

    Please add me to your email list, if not your phone conversations.

    Beth Hayes, PhD
    Music Director, Youth Orchestra of the Lower 9th Ward
    Asst Prof of Music Education at the University of New Orleans
    Music Education Mentor, Artistcorps New Orleans

    • Stanford says:

      Dear Beth,
      Thank you for your message. You are welcome, and encouraged, to join our phone calls. All communication will take place through this website, so you can find all the minutes and conference call information here. Please let me know if you have any questions.

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