Monday, January 31, 2011

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”


Thursday, January 27, 2011


This is what most of Boston and the street we live in looks like. I remember Jamie Bernstein saying how much she loved snow in NY: because the city never looks that clean - until you get all that slush!
I have never seen so much snow in my life! Thanks Marie for the pic. She was brave enough to go out this morning.

Last week we had to go get our shots. Not at the bar, but the doctor - no need to explain the pain some fellows were experiencing. Ah, sacrifices. So here are some of this weeks highlights.

Monday we went to Community Music Works and it was inspiring to see all these human beings come together for a collective purpose. Thank you so much for opening your doors and showing us some CMW hospitality.
So here are some of the things I got out of our visit:
  • open lines of communication in the community you are planning to move into (through some type of survey) in order to see the needs and challenges that community might be facing
  • the hardest job is to manage people - and it is a skill that is learned
  • Create a process so that you know what you want to get out of the applicant (clear job description), know what they are about.
  • Looking at CV = Sebastian equated it to being INTEL. Check for references, but also relevant work experienced that are not mentioned as references
  • During the interview create a scenario relevant to the work they will be doing to see how they respond to pressure
  • Hire on strengths of individuals, and assign them on tasks that emphasize those areas
  • create a learning organization
  • are you creating space to learn? (teachers, students, staff)
  • conflict is inevitable - train staff to resolve conflicts. This, in my opinion, is vital to the success of the organization
  • share leadership - be clear about the role and job assigned
Something our educator director Erik has always emphasized when making decisions in the fellowship is reaching consensus, not voting for ideas. We move slow, but that is the way CMW operates in some organizational decisions and I think that's why they are successful at what they do.

Another organization that Adrianne pointed out to me was AS220, which is also in Providence. I am interested to see how they are applying the juvie hall detention art programs, so I am looking forward do doing an internship at AS220 and CMW.

On some other news... our trip to Venezuela has been postponed but we are still definitely going. I was hoping not having to deal with any more mountains of snow, but oh well - regla venezolana numero uno: ser flexible ;)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

your brain on improv

So I am a super dork - but one of the areas that has always fascinated me is the brain and music. Charles gave this TED talk about using technology to see the difference of a brain when it is improvising and compare it to your brain when it has learned/memorized something.

"The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader"

How to make a movement in under 3 minutes

It takes guts to follow and stand out! Nurture your first follower as equal.

A movement must be public, you must show the followers.

Leadership is over glorified!!

The force is within us

At-risk populations move around a lot. If current/future fellows align locally with other nucleos, it would create higher possibility of success, because we would be able to reach that population regardless of were they go and remain connected with them over time.

Similar to an epidemic spreads, El Sistema will be more effectively “contagious” by conglomerating in highly populated areas, rather than sporadic segregated growth throughout the country. Maybe comparing ES to an epidemic is not an elegant analogy, but both operate socially. That is, we look at our surroundings and follow trends. The perfect example: Facebook began by connecting a community of students, enabling instant communication between friends, leading folks to acquaintances, mutual friends, and total strangers. Your friends have it, and so do you in order to keep up with them. Like Ben Zander would say: This opens a world of possibilities.

I am excited that some of the fellows and myself are thinking of staying in Boston. The communication between CLCS, Zumix and others would become more fluid, perhaps sharing venues (a particular hall). Seemingly small things like these could really start a movement.

Initial conversations were of starting ES Boston, however the amount of capital necessary would have been enormous. No one has forbidden us from settling where other programs have settled, and perhaps we can think of the proximity of other programs as an advantage that can help narrow the search for a location.

One of the reasons El Sistema works is that it has created a continuum. Programs in Venezuela are coordinated through FESNOJIV, at local, state, and national levels. If a child moves, there is a nucleo accessible to them. This is how they created perpetuity - starting locally. This has to be our long-term goal as an ES community.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Here is a video of my time in Argentina these past weeks. The first clip is from a tango show, the second is jam session in a conventillo of la Boca, Bs. As. Guillermo (bass) called me and said, how would you like to go to a jam session of candombe and tango? I said I’m there. Mamma, nos metimos en la boca del lobo!! We got there with my mum, and my uncles and they said, we should go back! But, for some reason we decided to go in - as scary as the neighborhood looked, the hosts of the house were wonderful!

I also made a contact of a bandoneón player called Bruno Ferreccio, a wonderful teacher and performer. I took a couple of lessons and got excited about learning bandoneon seriously, however they are a wee expensive (US$4,000), and I don’t really have the commitment to change profession. The bandoneón is a magnificent instrument, and tough to play! Maybe I will - when I am 64!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Apply Now!

Please allow me to share information about the Abreu Fellows Program, based at New England Conservatory.

The Abreu Fellows Program provides tuition-free instruction and a needs-based living stipend for outstanding, young postgraduate musicians and music educators,passionate for their art and for social justice,” who seek to guide the development of El Sistema programs in the U.S. El Sistema is Venezuela's celebrated youth orchestra program that has given us Gustavo Dudamel and the amazing Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra.

The academic year-long program provides Fellows with in-depth knowledge of the mission and musical methodology of the El Sistema vision, so brilliantly pioneered in Venezuela. In addition, the Fellows are instructed in music education methodologies, leadership, organizational development and management, fundraising and working with underserved youth and communities. The program includes a three-week U.S. internship as well as shorter visits to U.S. El Sistema-inspired programs, and a two-month residency in Venezuela.

Pending confirmation of funding, the program will start August 29, 2011. We would appreciate it if you would distribute the information
below to Advisors, Faculty members, Career Services personnel, Deans, Alumni Officers, and anyone else who has direct contact with graduating seniors, graduate students who are completing their degrees this year, and alumni who graduated approximately ten years ago or fewer. We are looking for only ten Fellows, but we want to publicize the opportunity widely so as to attract those individuals most suited to our program. The Application Deadline is February 14, 2011.

If you would like more information about the Abreu Fellows Program, please email me at Thank you for your collaboration.

Best wishes,


Erik Holmgren

Education Director

Abreu Fellows Program

New England Conservatory

Monday, January 3, 2011

Harmony Program

Here is a video of our visit to the Harmony Program Christmas Concert in NY. Thank you so much to Anne and the staff for opening the doors of the program!

The Abreu 401 Corp. is the NY headquarter - where the Fellows go to debrief over cold beer & sodas, cigarettes, ice cream, and candy.

Jamie Bernstein, Anne, fellows, and Erik