Mission/Vision Writing – April 3, 2012

Participants on the call:

Margaret Martin – Los Angeles
Kassie Lord – Baltimore
Nan Westervelt – Rochester, NY
Liz Schurgin – Ft. Worth
Mark Sarich – St. Louis
Steven Liu – Allentown Symphony
Mark Churchill – Boston

Call takes place between 9 AM and 10:15 AM (PST).

Margaret offers to take notes.

Mark C. mentions there is a diversity in definitions about what constitutes a Vision & Mission statement.  The first thing we have to do is to agree on a definition.

Nan agrees.

Mark C. says it’s about what we’re there for.

Margaret asks who wants to moderate – and offers to take notes.

Nan suggests we all co-moderate.

Mark C. suggests putting together an agenda to guide our discussion.

  1. Discussion about the Wednesday call in response to Vision and Mission statement that had already been written.
  2. Asks:  “Do we have to start from the beginning or should we build on what’s been done?”

Nan discusses mission of the steering committee for US El Sistema Nucleos.

Mark C. provides context about the Sudden Summit in San Antonio – and the mission developed at that time for that effort.

Nan asks if that mission is more for an organization or for the movement.

Mark C.  mentions there is a difference between coming up with a Vision for an organization – or a Vision for a movement.

Kassie suggests that we need to get an idea about the movement in general – and then go from there to the organization.

Nan says that she thought we were organized to develop the Vision for the organization.

Mark S. in St. Louis – mentions Starbucks Vision..  He is comfortable with developing a broad statement.

Nan asks to hear from Liz.

Liz is in agreement that the Mission should refer to the organization and the Vision should be more sweeping.  Wants to listen – and take a shot at a big sweeping Vision.  How do you crystalize this into one sentence?  Says that for her, it’s that every child, no matter their circumstances, should have the right to play an instrument.

Margaret agrees with Liz about taking a shot at a big sweeping Vision.

Nan talks about what makes an El Sistema program different from other music programs – and the material posted on the El Sistema USA website.

Mark C. says that material is an evolving document and that it is what the current El Sistema USA efforts have created – and says that the folks in Venezuela are also happy with it.

Nan finds that material helpful.  Reminds the group that core members are saying that the primary purpose is to create social change for children through music.  Refers to NY Times article that mentions that El Sistema accepts children from middle and upper income homes as well.  Mentions that “crucible for citizenship” is also a great phrase (from Venezuela).

Mark S. mentions Dr. Abreu’s TED remarks.  Agrees with Nan about what distinguishes El Sistema core values.  Remarks that 70 to 90% of students in Venezuela come from disadvantaged homes.

Mark C. says this has been a subject of conversation for years.  Part of why we focus on underserved children is that we HAVE an infrastructure for middle and upper income children in the U.S. but in the U.S. underserved children do NOT have access.  Affluent families HAVE access already.  By focusing on the underserved we have a kind of protection – and define our unique contribution.

Mark S. says we DO need to define ourselves in a way that distinguishes us.

Mark C. likes “access for all”.  Suggests we take a look at the Vision and Mission of El Sistema.

Mark S. says there’s not a clear enough difference between Vision and Mission of El Sistema (the Simon Bolivar Music Foundation) – and would reverse the two.

Mark C. says that it has been said that in Venezuela “we never think about what we are doing, we just DO it”.

Margaret says she wants to ensure, in the statements drafted, that in-school “Pied Pipers” will feel embraced and supported – and not feel excluded.

Mark C. talks about goals over the next five years.  This may help the process – the role of El Sistema USA as a powerful ally in the music education ecosystem, inclusion of arts learning as a core part of the curriculum – and how wonderful it would be if we were a model of how our individual organizations can work together to make music education accessible to all children.

Nan agrees, but mentions that the way to bring in the active music educators (in-school), is to include them in our conversations at this point.

Kassie believes that there is a wave of new music students.  We have an opportunity to work together.

Liz in Ft Worth.  says she has 12 people on staff and 6 are in-school music educators.  For her program, El Sistema gives teachers a chance to reinforce what happens in the school day, and is advocating for music education in a more intense manner.  Liz adds that the intensity in Venezuela comes, in part, from the fact that there isn’t anything else for children to do.

Mark C. mentions that in Katie Wyatt’s program in N. Carolina ALL the teachers are in-school music educators.

Mark S. agrees.  There is an unconscious use of “us” and “them”.  Questions if the time we are speaking about Vision and Mission is the time to visit this.

Mark C. mentions a convening in New York to address “push back” from a wide variety of music organizations that had felt somewhat excluded.  Out of that came a statement of intentionality.  El Sistema is not a franchise.  Not a “package thing”.  That calmed everyone right down.  Resonated hugely – and permitted a lively discussion about how we could all work together.  Then it was realized that it was too early – as we need to make the case and document impact in our own programs – THEN we can really have the conversation about how we can provide support to other existing music education programs.

Mark C. says at this point, the organization is really about how the member organizations can make the best case.  We need to develop our own programs so we CAN make the case.

Nan talks about the various organizations that provide testimonies – and that a national organization can help make the case.

Mark S. says that as we develop what is distinct, we can better make the case about how we can contribute.  Focusing on low income will help support that process.

Mark C. says the rest of the eco system is VERY concerned about underserved kids, but hasn’t figured out how to do it.  Mentions that Margaret’s program – and others – ARE doing this.  We should say that EVERYONE wants to serve every child – and that here is a way to do it.

Nan says we need to dive in.  Says what she means by distinct is that these children have music every day for hours.  The richest school districts don’t have that.

Mark C. says that the message IS that.  You have to give disadvantaged children the resources to DO it.  Economic and logistics… it’s just not going to happen unless you do THIS (the El Sistema model).

Liz thinks the fundamentals document is very helpful.  Consolidated into it are four classes of issues:  intensity, ensemble, access and performance.  Doesn’t want her kids to be labeled as underserved in a whole lot of public documents.  Perhaps we could think about crafting a Vision that mentions those four core issues.

Mark S. mentions the document just received from the League of American Orchestras that refers to the lack of access to music for students throughout the country – especially for children from low-income families.

Nan mentions that some of our programs ARE achieving visible academic and social benefits.  Mentions social change through music as a core issue.

Kathy says we have to claim – and prove — the outcomes we state.  Supports leaving things descriptive and open, so as not to limit us in the future.

Liz asks if the Simon Bolivar mission mentions achievement of a child’s whole potential, and positive development.  Thinks this is a more constructive phrase than “change”.  Parting words  (she has to leave the call)– what distinguishes El Sistema is access, intensity and ensemble-based learning.

Liz suggests:  “All children have the opportunity to achieve their full potential through an intense ensemble-based music program. “  She adds that we might want to include social elements.

Steven wants to support what Liz says.  We’re working for the same goal, but our vehicle looks different.  This has been a mainstay in Allentown – suggests we focus on what makes us unique – and what we actually DO.

Mark S. says that if we don’t set a high target, we won’t achieve it.

Steven says we have to point out the ways that our programs are different and unique from what has been done in the past.  The end goal is the same for us as for other educators, but the vehicle is unique.

Mark C. says we need to have a broad statement about every child fulfilling their capacity but describe how we get there.

Steven mentions theory of change and outcomes – but the outcomes come from a unique (different – El Sistema inspired) vehicle.  What we actually DO is different.  We’re talking about intensity, access, community development – we need to be talking about how what we do is different.

Nan agrees.  Refers to sample Visions as very broad.  The El Sistema USA Vision could be more similar to the goal of other organizations.

Steven mentions a Vision statement CAN be very broad.  What do we see as happening in the future?  That could be similar to that of other music organizations.  What is different is what is said in the Mission.

Margaret agrees and says that this is a structure that could help ensure El Sistema USA be inclusive and respectful, while the Mission statement would delineate what makes us different.

Steven agrees – but says he has to leave to work within his program.

Liz has already signed off.

Margaret suggests the group reconvenes on Friday at 11 AM (PST), which has already been designated as a time when the majority of participants can convene – in order to follow up and begin drafting.  The group agrees.

Margaret says she will send her notes from the call to all concerned, as well as to Beth and Stan, so they can be incorporated into the proceedings of the working group.

The call is ended.

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