05. January 25, 2012

ES Association Conference Call #3

January 25, 2012

Results of most recent survey (28 people filled it out) – Beth Babcock 

Again, there was remarkable cohesion among respondents.

(1 – Strongly agree to 5 – Strongly disagree)

Question 1 – importance of creating a definition/standard of program quality (1.59)

Very strongly affirmative. No one disagreed with the statement.

Question 2 – are hours of programming per week an important measure of quality (1.63) Also strongly affirmative.

Question 3 – is ratio of paid staff to volunteers an important measure of quality (2.89) This leans toward not agreeing with the question – not as good a measure of quality.

Delia (Philly) asked a question about number of hours and ratio of staff in relation to the level of funding that a particular group might have – for smaller organizations it’s more difficult to get enough money for a lot of paid staff. Other comments were made about sustainability (Margaret, Mark). Beth agreed that funding would come up as a big issue in regard to sustainability and limits of programs.

Question 4 – core members’ programs built upon the values or inspiration of El Sistema (1.7) Strong agreement with this idea.

Margaret – Dr. Abreu created El Sistema as a social program – that music is a means toward positive youth development. Healthy development of kids is the target. The stronger the program quality, the more apt we are to achieve the social ends. Mark agrees. Mark Churchill also. Margaret said that this goal gives El Sistema the greatest traction with funders.

Scott (Seattle) asked who would then be excluded. Stan said that it is a goal not to exclude people or groups, but groups that aren’t inspired by El Sistema would not be core members. The results that the Abreu Fellows share at the meeting next week may show where the line can be drawn.

Beth feels that there will be other categories of membership. We will need to decide on what they are and how they will be involved in the larger structure.

Margaret added that one way of looking at program is related to the number of students from low-income families involved. Mark Churchill clarified that saying that the goals reflect the values of El Sistema might be more clear than saying they are inspired by El Sistema, since some programs were already working effectively before El Sistema became so well-known.

Question 5 – importance of identifying publicly as an association of programs identifying itself with the values of El Sistema (2.08) Fairly good agreement)

Question 6 – preferred name (18 responses)

14 wanted the association to be called El Sistema USA; 3 more wanted a name that included “El Sistema”

Beth said that this raises questions such as what happens to the original El Sistema USA.

Bob offered some recent historical perspective – Mark Churchill convened the groups doing work a few years ago formed El Sistema USA – that moved on to create the Fellows Program. Then the Nucleo Network was formed as a loose communication group leading toward an association. He feels there needs to be a group that does the central work. Stan added that the name could be El Sistema USA without having the same structure as El Sistema in Venezuela. He asked Mark Churchill about his reaction.

Mark is thrilled by this conversation. His thoughts – El Sistema USA was thought of mistakenly as an umbrella group for programs, which it hasn’t been. It is now separated from New England Conservatory. Mark looked for another place for the organization to call home – none has come through at this time. He feels that the new association needs an identity free from a larger institution. In the Fall he began working on the formation of a new non-profit. When this discussion arose, he put his efforts on hold. He is willing to freely release the name if the association moves forward in the way it seems to be.

Margaret has found there to be no pushback in regard to the mission, but she has seen pushback about the idea of El Sistema being in Venezuela. Do we care about this in relation to the name of the association? Discussion ensued about whether this is a political problem for different areas of the country.

Mark (St. Louis) pointed out that El Sistema predates the current political structure of Venezuela. Mark Churchill added that on the other hand the term inspires a lot of people. The greatest liability may be with the Federal government. Keeping this at the level of ideals is important. Bob said that this work is a beautiful example of how music bridges differences.

Beth was surprised to see how strong the voting was for the name El Sistema USA. There were some other good names as well, and they will be brought forward in LA.


20 respondents wrote mission statements. They will be shared.

These are some of the themes –

• Music as a transformative tool, tool for social change, vehicle for creating a better world.
• High Quality, rigorous, excellent programs
• Target population – at risk children, underserve children or all children

Margaret prefers a lean mission statement. She wouldn’t want the term classical music in the statement. She also does not like the term “at risk” – it offends students. Mark (St. Louis) agrees and prefers “underserved”.

Louise added that she likes the tag line – “Social action through music”. Margaret likes the term “healthy communities”.

Bob asks whether we would want anything that ties back to the El Sistema phenomenon and spreading it to the US. Beth said that that may be a consideration in the future discussion.

Mark Churchill said that working with underserved children is central to our work. Also, integrating with all children is a positive goal as well, allowing children to bridge differences of social status, etc.

Roll call: Stanford Thompson, Beth Babcock, Margaret Martin, Mark Sarich, Bob Fiedler, Laura Jekel, Laura Lentz, Jennifer (KidzNotes), Lindsey Meyers, Louise King Lanzilotti, Mark Churchill

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