Monday, December 31, 2012

OSL in October – With Sistema Fellows, and a Revelation

October at OSL

More planning Soldier’s Tale, more wondering how on earth this production was going to happen. And we were one staff member short. More looking through resumes and interviewing. More strategic planning.

Two highlights in October:

Sistema Fellows Sessions with OSL
Visit by Sistema Fellows during their residency. I invited them to spend 2 days with members of our staff and orchestra to explore questions about concert planning, invigorating communities around music, and thinking through questions that might be helpful for us to answer as we plan new programs. The Fellows were a tremendous resource to us in generating new ideas and questions that we'll most certainly integrate into our planning. Thanks, Fellows! We were particularly grateful for Elaine Sandoval’s help in doing a community map for us. Thanks, Elaine!

Different Direction for Soldier’s Tale
It took one of my TEDxNewYork salons to make me realize that the theatrical direction was not working, nor was it going to work until I developed my own vision for the production. I wrote a letter about this in December, focused more on the power of the TEDxNewYork community, but I’m re-posting it here because this was a huge lesson for me: whenever possible, develop your own vision and stick with it.

Dear members of TEDxNewYork,
We know that many of you miss the TEDxNewYork salons, and we’re working hard to bring them back and make them better than ever. In the meantime, I want to share a story with you about the power of this community, and why I’m personally looking so forward to starting up again in January.
A couple of months ago, I arrived to facilitate the TEDxNewYork salon, and I was having a really hard week. A project I’d been working on wasn’t going well, and despite all my best efforts, I felt at a loss as to how to move it forward.  I didn’t really want to be at TEDxNewYork that evening, but I went, showed an uplifting TED talk, and began to ask guided questions of the group to trigger a discussion. 
Sometimes a person will say something that irrevocably changes your perception, and sticks. I called on a woman to share her thoughts about the talk, and she said this:
“You’re either a warrior or a victim. The difference is that a warrior is a person who has a vision, and any obstacle is simply a hurdle on the way toward realizing that vision. A victim is one who does not have a vision, and any obstacle is a barrier that diverts you toward a path you may have no control over.”
This completely changed the way I thought about the project I was working on, and it was also a lesson to me about life. I realized I didn’t have a vision for the project: it was someone else’s vision that I was trying to implement, and it wasn’t working at all. So I went home, spent all Friday night imagining what I wanted the project to be, and two months later, it turned into a successful series of orchestral performances for 4,500 NYC school children.
It’s now December, and we haven’t had a TEDxNewYork salon since our sponsorship with Saatchi&Saatchi ended in November. I get emails from regular TEDxNewYork attendees asking when it will start up again, and while my team and I are working hard to find a new location, I personally feel stretched for time. I find myself asking, “Is this unintended break a sign that you should maybe walk away? You have so much on your plate right now—shouldn't you consider moving on from TEDxNewYork?” And yet there’s always a nagging suspicion that being a part of the TEDxNewYork community is really important, that exchanging ideas weekly with people we don’t usually have a chance to meet is essential to feeding our mind and spirit amidst all of the other things we do in our busy New York City lives.
Cut to Monday night. I find myself at an after-party of a film screening (how I ended up at said party is its own bizarre story for another time). I know the hosts, and I know my friends who scored the film. It should be noted that I am in the music field, and have very few connections to the film world. As I start to look around, I notice that several people in the room look familiar. I instantly think they’re friends of the host I’d met at other parties. Finally, I’m standing face to face with one of them: a beautiful woman in a large-brimmed hat, and we both say, “I know you, but from where?” We quickly established that there was no way we could have met through the host. And then it hit me: this was the woman at TEDxNewYork who told the group about the warrior and the victim. We both couldn’t believe it, and of course I gave her a big hug and thanked her for her wisdom, which spurred me on to discovering my own vision.
As we stood in the hallway, I began to see many other familiar faces of people who had come to TEDxNewYork. Each of them has shared a story or an idea that resonated with me and that I still think about today. We all came to this party completely by chance, and through the ideas we’ve shared at TEDxNewYork, we felt instantly more connected than we may have had we just been discussing the film screening over the cheese table. All of the people I saw that night from TEDxNewYork asked me when it would start up again, and explained what an important role the salons have played in their own lives: that hearing ideas from a diverse network of people opened them up to new ways of thinking and gave them courage in their lives they hadn’t realized before.
It’s for these moments that we all keep coming back to TEDxNewYork. It’s a community of people from a myriad of different backgrounds, and in the spirit of ideas worth spreading, we watch thought-provoking TED talks and share what they ignited for us. To stay open to hearing others’ opinions, and to learn more creative, courageous ways to relate to people and situations in our lives, makes us all richer human beings.

And so I am once again inspired  by the TEDxNewYork community to make sure we find a home and get the salons up and running as soon as possible.
We wish you a healthy and peaceful New Year. Thanks to all of you for bringing your honesty, your ears, and your enthusiasm to our TEDxNewYork community. We look forward to sharing a happier year in 2013 with you all at our TEDxNewYork salons.

With best wishes,

Jennifer Kessler and the TEDxNewYork team

Special thanks to our 2012 curators, designers, and connectors: Gina Bria, Christine Hart, Stacy Mar, Mark Monchek, Bobbi Van, and Parris Whittingham

To reach us, please do NOT reply to this email, but write to and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

This independent TEDx event is operated under license from TED. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At our TEDxNewYork salons, TEDTalks video and discussion will combine to spark deep connection in a small group.

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