Saturday, January 29, 2011

A day at Community Music Works

On January 24th the Abreu Fellows went on a road trip to visit Community Music Works in Providence Rhode Island. This is a trip we have been anxiously anticipating. Last semester we spent a day of seminars with Chloe Kline (Education Director for CMW) and Sebastian Ruth (CMW's Founder and Artistic Director). You may remember me blogging about their advice on building an organization based on your beliefs.

Our day trip started early in Boston on what seems to have been the coldest day this winter so far. Our train to Providence was late due to tracks freezing. Nevertheless, we arrived safely and were greeted by Stephanie Fortunato who is a Special Projects Manager for the City of Providence's Department of Art, Culture, and Tourism. Stephanie gave us a warm welcome and spoke to us about the City's dedicated efforts to promoting Arts and Culture. She emphasized to us Providence's goal of being a model and resource to the rest of the nation's cities who are looking to strengthen their community based cultural plans.
Stephanie and Sebastian welcoming us to Providence
We spent some time touring Providence by van. Our first stop was at AS220 which is a non-profit community arts space in downtown Providence.
While at AS220 we got a chance to hear from Humberto Crenca who is the Artistic Director.
Chloe and Sebastian then took us to visit a site that is very special to Community Music Works. A lovely community center where they got their start. Although CMW is housed at a different site today, they continue to offer concerts here.

Liz at the West End Community Center

After our wonderful tour, we arrived at the home of CMW where we received a warm welcome by several of their staff and musicians....and pastries! As we have been learning throughout this Fellowship, food is an important part of community and fellowship. Thanks CMW for such a warm and yummy welcome!

Steven excited about the pastries

While at CMW we talked about a lot of things. It would take me weeks to properly blog and cover all the topics we covered. I want to give you an idea of some of the conversations that happened between the Abreu Fellows and CMW. We talked about the importance of acknowledging the challenges the communities we intend to serve are facing. We have to have patience when young people, we are working with, exemplify these challenges.

We discussed the very complex topic of why people come to concerts and all the different concert experiences that exist today. We took special time to discuss our role as teaching artists and the example we provide to our students all the while acknowledging how their experience going to concerts can and is so different to ours.

We talked about ways to create government supported avenues to help support our projects, whether this is possible or not. CMW's approach to this should be modeled everywhere. They ask themselves: 'how can we support our city in its agenda as much as it can support us?'

We finished our day thinking of "Fellowships for the 21st century musician" which was perfect because we started our discussions at CMW listing words that we associate with "Residency".

Liz, David, Andrea, and Laura on the cold train heading to Providence
I wish I could have recorded the whole day and been able to share it with you, but these pictures will have to be it for now. Enjoy!

Andrea, Liz, and David at Community Music Works

Community Music Works staff and musicians
Walking into the West End Community Center where CMW got its start
Bert, Steven, and Sebastian at AS220
Liz and Laura taking a break at Community Music Works

Andrea, Liz, and I at Community Music Works

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

FUNdraising is FUN

Yes, that's right. Fundraising is fun. At least that is what all the wonderfully talented and creative development staff at NEC paint it to be. We've had a number of information-packed seminars with them, but the last one was just a hoot! NEC is a performing arts institution, and artists are creative and that includes the development office. In order to give us a 'real world' feel of what it will be like out there in the scary world of asking people for money, we did something a little different last seminar: role-playing! It's amazing how this falls right into place in our musician's's like practicing. We know all about practicing, that's how we ended up so skilled at playing our instruments, right? So why not do the same with fundraising? So we practiced asking people for donations or pledges.

For me it was an eye-opening experience. I think we were all a little apprehensive about the part we will have to play as individual and potentially sole fundraisers to start-up our future projects. The whole thing put me completely at ease, so thank you Gardiner, Marian, Don and Katie for putting the FUN into fundraising!!

This is a big week for us in our continued applications of everything we are learning. We are writing appeal letters and correcting proposals. Today, I met with Eva in the Entrepreneurial Musicianship department at NEC to go over a grant proposal that I am writing for our Abreu Fellows CATS in CONCERT coming up on Feb. 8th. 

I wish I could say that I've learned everything I need to know about fundraising and development, but I can't, yet!.....we still have 5 months to go in the Fellowship....he he he. I do feel very lucky though that my staff mentor is Gardiner Hartmann, Director of Institutional Support for NEC. Every conversation I have with him is filled with invaluable lessons about this part of our field that is necessary and crucial. For many of us, we will not only have to wear the hat of program directors, but also of principal advocates for our programs. I am grateful to NEC and the Abreu Fellows Program for taking such care in ensuring that we feel completely prepared and comfortable in this line of work.

When I first came to the Fellowship Program I felt I came with many strengths. Teaching being one of those. But fundraising? Well....I had my doubts. Mostly because I was unfamiliar with what fundraising entailed and completely unaware of what resources were out there to tap into. It turns out that development is something that I have great interest in and hope to do well in for years to come.

Since everything we are learning at NEC ties together neatly and perfectly, I have to mention that one of the keys to success in fundraising is developing trust based relationships with people and institutions that you will rely on to be partners in your success. This leads beautifully to my next upcoming blog which will be all about our amazing and inspiring day trip to Community Music Works in Providence Rhode Island (pictures included). But since it's past midnight and I have to be alert during our fundraising seminar in the morning, I will leave you with one thought:

What reasons would anyone have for refusing to invest in teaching at-risk youth values that will help them become engaged and contributing members of our society?

If you have any thoughts, please share them with me because they will help me convince potential donors to give me gobs and gobs of run music education programs of course!

Until next time....let's share 'notes'

Thursday, January 6, 2011

First photo-blog!

2011 is a new year and I am trying something new: inserting pictures in my blog! Here is a photo-blog for your enjoyment, a trip down memory lane of my time working in Venezuela for El Sistema (FESNOJIV).

Stephani Morales and Daniella Villaroel, two of my first students in Venezuela (2008)

Students in San Antonio de los Altos warming up for their
first concert for the city mayor (2008)

Nucleo "Valera" (Sept. 09)

In September 2009 I went to work with students at several Nucleos in the state of Trujillo. It was an amazing trip. I met and worked with dozens of students and visited many different nucleos. Although each nucleo was different, the enthusiasm of the students was always the same. Here are some snapshots of students from nucleo Valera, La Puerta and Sabana de Mendoza.

Nucleo "Sabana de Mendoza" (Sept. 09)

  The nucleo Sabana de Mendoza is located in one of the hottest parts of Venezuela. I remember the airconditioner barely cooled the room which was packed full of young violinists and violists, all eager for me to hear them perform.

Students at Nucleo "La Puerta"

Entrance to Nucleo "La Puerta" The man in the background
is the Director of the Nucleo.

La Puerta is a beatiful city nestled high in the mountains of the state of Trujillo. It is always chilly and the fog makes it feel like you are in another world.

La Puerta

Cellists from San Antonio de los Altos warming up for their
performance for Venezuela's Supreme Court (Dec. 08)

Students from nucleo "San Antonio de los Altos" warming up
to perform for Venezuela's Supreme Court (Dec. 08)

My student Daniella Villaroel and my daughter Lilian Montilla accepting a
Plate from the president of "La Corte Suprema de Justicia de Venezuela"
The orchestra and choir from nucleo "San Antonio de los Altos" in the background
after a successful performance for the Supreme Court!
December 2008

 I hope you have enjoyed this picture-blog. I wanted to share with you some pictures from my time working in Venezuela pre-fellowship, especially since I am home and have access to my home computer.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The year of changes!

A new year is upon us, a year of big changes!

In my last blog of 2010, I mentioned to you our seminar with Ellen Pfeifer, public relations manager for the New England Conservatory. We ended the year talking about press releases and learning a bit about managing the media, both good and bad. You may or may not be aware that El Sistema USA is starting 2011 facing some big changes, especially regarding its partnership with NEC.  I want to share with you an article published in today's Boston Globe where Ellen Pfeifer attempts to clear up some of the doubts that always accompany change : “We are not abandoning our commitment to El Sistema USA or the Abreu Fellows".

 I encourage you to read the full Globe article: El Sistema USA may have to leave NEC, Boston.

2011 is a new year, and for me it's a year of changes. This year, I will be a graduate of the Abreu Fellowship Program. This year I will be starting a new chapter in my life, an exciting one. I know some people are always apprehensive about change, but this year I welcome change. With change comes new beginnings, new adventures and new triumphs. I am starting this year in the best place possible, in Venezuela with my husband and daughter. I can't think of a better way to start a new year.

Our schedule from January to May will be packed. We start back with seminars on the 18th and will be preparing for our concert wich will be a collaboration between NEC faculty, Abreu Fellows, and students from the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton. I am especially excited about this concert because I get to play Brahms G major sextet with Fellows Isabel Trautwein, Laura Jekel, Adrienne Taylor, and NEC faculty.  I will keep you posted on the time and date later. We are scheduled to fly to Venezuela on Feb. 14th. We will spend two months in Venezuela, traveling, observing, writting case studies, and learning everything we can on how El Sistema works in Venezuela.
Upon our return to the U.S. we will be heading out on our individual three-week long internships in cities all across the States, from New York City to Los Angeles CA. It's going to be a packed semester!

2011, the year of changes. I am ready, are you?

If you have any questions please contact me or leave a comment so let's share 'Notes'

"A la gente le incomodan los cambios pero es atraves de los cambios que se han logrado cosas maravillosas en la historia de la humanidad" JAM