Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Build with vision

We got to spend the afternoon with Sebastian Ruth today. He came to talk to us about "how to build an organization based on what you believe". Sebastian Ruth is founder and artistic director of Community Music Works in Rhode Island and a 2010 MacArthur Fellow.

Sebastian talked to us about what it means to try and engage in social change. We discussed the idea of musicians being social advocates and the role music educators have in influencing their student's participation in a wider civic and cultural world. Sebastian talked about listening to students and really trying to engage their ideas. He made reference to Paulo Freire's book Pedagogy of the Oppressed calling on us to craft our own pedagogy of music.

Sebastian Ruth built Community Music Works based on a servant-leader model. He went into Providence and said "I am here to respect and fundamentally become part of the community" and that's just what he did. He built his organization on a vision that has three important pillars:

1) Reciprocal interaction
2) New Idea or re-imagination of service
3) Teaching and performance are mutually supportive

Community Music Works was founded in 1997. In 2010, thirteen years later, it is a vibrant part of the cultural community in Providence. This year the students of CMW got to meet the first lady Michelle Obama and Sebastian has won the MacArthur Genius grant which is a $500,000 'no strings attached' grant dispersed over a period of 5 years. They serve 110 kids in a three phase program which not only teaches music but also civic values. CMW is a great example of an organization built on vision, and if we learn anything from Sebastian's example it is this:

"It can take a long time to see your vision become reality, but you can have an operational program long before achieving your vision".

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