The BEAUTIFUL folks from TED wrote us an e-mail and asked us to answer a couple of questions that will go up on their blog about our experiences in the Abreu Fellows program so far. They wanted us to answer these questions candidly and my answers simply reflect what I feel so far. So to preserve the candid feeling, please excuse my typos. Since the BEAUTIFUL folks from TED will put up highlights of all ten of our answers, I thought posting my responses would be a great way to share with you how our first ten weeks have gone so far:
How has this semester affected you? Has it changed or solidified any of your ideas, thoughts, plans and why?
The semester has been full of hope and possibilities for the future of the music education in the United States and beyond. The fellowship has solidified my passion for bringing music education to children (especially those in need), help to focus my thoughts about what an ideal music program could look like, and directed those thoughts into theories of action that I am working to implement in Reading and Philadelphia, PA, Atlanta, GA and Meru, KENYA.
Who has been your favorite guest lecturer over the semester? Why?
Ben Cameron, Program Director for the Arts of the Doris Duke Foundation, was simultaneously the most depressing and inspirational lecturer of the semester. He talked to us about the state of the arts in the United States with shocking statistics that would make any arts leader run to another profession. He also shared his four major issues that he felt was eroding our effectiveness with the arts: 1) Non-profit organizations are simply not "worth it", 2) Impending generational change of leadership will answer if these organizations can embrace change, 3) Audience erosion, 4) Impact of technology. On the flip side, he feels that the arts are currently in a renaissance period as people have 24/7 access to arts in various forms. He is impressed with El Sistema and feels that we can have a exponential impact on how our country views music. He encouraged us to have our day-to-day mission defined, our vision of the future solid and life in what we think our core values are.
What do you plan to do during your break?
I will spend two weeks in the Philadelphia region finishing proposals for nucleos that will open in Philly and Reading, PA, meeting with the entire Reading musical community to put the proposal into an action plan, and working with the chosen site in Philly to plan their nucleo. I will also spend three days in Atlanta following up with contacts that I made during my 5-day trip this month to present at TEDx Peachtree and I will spend 11 days throughout four cities in Germany with my girlfriend trying not to think about my work.
What are you most looking forward to about your time in Venezuela? What are you hoping to experience while there?
I am simply looking forward being immersed in what they do for two months. I want to experience life as the kids, teachers, administrators and Abreu see it in El Sistema.
What's one thing you hope to accomplish by spreading the El Sistema program? What impact do you see it having on young lives and/or communities in the US?
I want to get communities fired up about life and possibilities by spreading the "El Sistema" program. If music can change a person on an individual basis, I know that music can change a community. If music can change a community, I know it can change a city. If music can change a city, I know it can change a state... and you know the rest. In the cities I bring El Sistema models to, I want to see "El Sistema USA" bumper-stickers on cars, "El Sistema USA" banners in windows, signs on the road that mention their community is protected by "El Sistema USA" and most importantly, an unstoppable force of advocacy for the immensely important work we do as music educators and performers.