The start of September was exciting for a couple of reasons: it was the beginning of the season, Katy had returned from her sabbatical so it was great to be able to bounce ideas off her, and we had a new member join the OSL team as Vice President of Artists and Programs: the legendary Charlie Hamlen, founder of IMG Artists and Classical Action. The moment I met him and he said, “We have a friend in common: Fred Hersch!” I was instantly struck by his warm demeanor, and that admirable ability to connect with almost anyone and make you feel like a fast friend. I knew instantly that I’d have much to learn from this music industry giant (and he is, actually, a giant: he’s well over 6 feet), and that I was looking so forward to working with him everyday.
Professional Development Sessions
With our Teaching Artists, led by Tom Cabaniss
In our first PD of the year, I finally got to meet our rock-star team of teaching artists. They’re truly an awesome bunch of seasoned musician and dancer TAs, and as I observed and participated in the session led by Tom Cabaniss about concepts around the Soldier’s Tale story, and ornamentation, I wished I had seen these people in action back when I had started at Carnegie Hall and we were launching the Teaching Artists Collaborative. Hearing their approach to delving into new concepts and ideas with Tom highlighted how ingrained “inquiry-based learning” was to them.
With the Longy School of Music of Bard College, led by Lorrie Heagy
Early in September, Erik Holmgren (former Program Director of Sistema Fellows, when I was in it, and now Director of Teaching and Learning at the Longy School of Music of Bard College) called me and asked one of his very earnest-sounding questions: how does offering a Professional Development session in collaboration with Longy at The DiMenna Center support the mission of your organization? When I answered, “The vision for our Education and Community programs is to connect people with and through music, and by utilizing the DMC. A PD across programs in New York City is exactly the kind of activity we’re positioned to offer and it will also help support the teachers in our current programs." Erik replied, “Good, that’s what I was hoping you’d say. Now, let’s plan a PD.”
It went enormously well. Lorrie shined in inviting us into learning about concepts of student engagement from many different angles, and we all got to learn alongside each other, teachers and nucleo directors from UpBeatNYC, Corona Youth Music Project, Union City Music Project, and Washington Heights Inwood program, not to mention a couple of musicians who would be teaching in our violin program. We finished each of the intensive 2 days by traveling out to Corona Youth Music Project to watch Lorrie in action with Alvaro Rodas’ students. I very much hope this collaboration becomes a tradition and a staple in New York City.
I did wonder, though, about our teaching artists. Were we missing an opportunity to broaden the conversation about student engagement by not having them there? It seems that we could connect our teaching artists with the events that we’re offering other teachers in Sistema programs, and those teachers’ opportunities to learn from the experience of our teaching artists.
Planning Soldier’s Tale
There was a lot of back and forth about how to put on a theatrical production of Soldier’s Tale with the orchestra. But it was sometime in September when Katy or Valerie said to me, “Well, this is why we stopped doing theatrical productions. We’re not exactly equipped to do a fully staged production, so we’ve instead focused on dance and other productions. But if you can do it on a small scale, go for it.” Something was beginning to dawn on me that the theatrical focus might not be the right focus. By this point we were so far along in the conceptualizing, though, that it didn’t make sense to re-think the vision for the production.
The more we started having to deal with questions about actors equity, set design, casting, and space for a costume designer to work, the more I became aware that this was a far greater challenge for us as an organization than perhaps I had initially realized. Still, we soldiered on. I was hell-bent on making this production successful.