Monday, December 31, 2012

The first three months at OSL: June


Today marks 3 months since the Sistema Fellowship ended, and 2 months since I started my position as Director of Education at Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Before the year takes over and we become absorbed in planning and running programs, I want to take some time to honor the process. It is such a sweet time, to indulge in planning, to ask the hard questions about why we do what we do, and what our vision is that will guide our future decisions. I think it may be interesting to look back one day on how we arrived at our decisions.

As an aside, today, the ten 2012-2012 Sistema Fellows organized a conference call to catch up, and I realized how valuable it is both to share ideas with brilliant people with similar passions, and to stay connected to and inspired by their great work.  

So, here’s a play-by-play of the highlights of the last two months of Education directorship at the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

Introduction to the orchestra
During my second week, I sit in on a rehearsal with Gil Shaham and the orchestra, conducted by Roberto Abbado. They sound gorgeous, and I’m overwhelmingly happy to be surrounded by an orchestra again. This is going to be a beautiful relationship. (The first time I met Gil Shaham was when he played with the Berlin Philharmonic when I moved to Berlin in 2003.)

Team-building meeting with the education team.
I wanted to get to know the team I’d be working with, to spend some time learning from them why they do what they do and what they believe has been successful in their past experiences with OSL. I realized that asking these questions may seem a bit contrived, but I genuinely believe that our learning about each others' motivations and perceptions of success will help us develop our future meetings to be as productive and open as possible. We started with these questions:

What inspires your work? Kids making instruments; creating opportunities for students to participate in music; discovering the work/play and aesthetic experience that kids are having; creating and becoming part of a culture of music; continuing to see how music can give a child or another person a broader world perspective through music.

How do you define success of the education department? Students articulating musical concepts that they weren’t able to articulate at the beginning of the year; students performing together; students and teachers walking away from concerts with a deeper understanding of and connection to music; a re-defined vision of the department and program plans that fit within that vision.

What would be your personal inquiry question for our work this year?
How can an orchestra connect with its community?
What are the best ways of inviting people to an orchestra’s activities?
How do we connect with our audiences?
How do we define the OSL community?
What is our role in arts education?
What are the differences between arts education organizations, performance organizations, and educational systems?

I'm looking forward to looking back on these questions at the end of the year (May 2013) and seeing how we answer them.

Getting to know the community—what is the need in this community?
As I learned from David France, you can never know a community unless you get out and talk to people. So, we did. And what we learned was so much more than we could have learned looking online in an office. Mark (as in Mark Caruso, Assistant Director of Education at OSL) and I created a list of questions to ask people and a list of people to ask. We went out talking to local business owners, local residents to let them know about The DiMenna Center (DMC) and OSL, and to ask what community organizations they know about in the neighborhood. We learned a great deal about the neighborhood, and also realized that this was just the beginning of our investigation. In short, two big themes kept coming up:
1. People felt that there aren't many activities that draw community members together, and that they'd like there to be more events that do this. The neighborhood is becoming rapidly affluent, but there are still many people living in shelters and transitional homes, and little is being done to make all residents feel a sense of neighborhood connection.
2. The schools reported that they felt there could be far more family involvement in the school activities.

Both of these things will help us to make a case for creating a youth orchestra with inter-generational opportunities. 

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