“There is nothing deader or of more questionable value than facts in isolation.” — Wendell Berry (2004) 

I recently attended the Missouri Music Educators Association (MMEA) state conference in Tan-Tar-A, Missouri. My mission was to help spread the word about Mizzou’s community programs, get a sense of the event’s scope, and to become acquainted with Missouri’s network of educators who convene there every year. But what I came away with was a reminder of how community illustrates a broader picture of the value in making music.

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As a YOLA Ambassador, we started the day with a session led by Eric Booth. Getting teachers together and communicating stories and experiences was a missing aspect in the Sistema movement, he felt, and this opening session was about collaborating and networking and getting to know one another through those stories and experiences as well as fun ice-breaker activities. During the session, I appreciated a comment from Dan Berkowitz of YOLA that seemed to sum up how to keep things fresh, engaged and full of high expectations. He feels that  a constant state of crisis is vital and spontaneous and frequent performance are commonplace and necessary. I love the idea of keeping a state of crisis, in the positive sense, and keeping it positive to help nurture the young musicians we are encouraging.

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Greetings from LA!

Monday through Wednesday of this week I am on assignment in LA at the 2012 Take a Stand symposium on El Sistema. I’m thrilled to be here as a YOLA Fellow, one of 25 music educators across the US chosen for a fellowship to be able to attend. I will be sharing reflections, experiences, etc over the next three days.

Travels went ok except for a slight fear in Chicago when they couldn’t open the luggage compartment under the plane (seriously!) and my connecting flight to LA was dangerously getting close to leaving. Reward on the plane was getting free red wine and sitting next to three Australians with lovely accents!

I’ve just arrived in Los Angeles, buzzing and alive.  The first thing I see upon leaving the airport are these gigantic other-worldly neon lit columns with palm trees dancing almost with them. The city is alive even at 10pm, a good sign. There is a sense of life in the center, another good sign..and the warm breeze is giving quite the welcome, reminding me of my old home of Rome.

Tomorrow morning at 10am the YOLA Ambassadors meet with the amazing Eric Booth. On the flight from Chicago I read his essay on Sistema’s Open Secrets which I think is the best summary I’ve read so far about El Sistema. His description of the nuturing, spiritual side of Sistema and the passion, dedication and love that he saw while in Venezuela is so inspiring. I can’t wait to meet him. Then another highlight tomorrow will be to hear the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra which is as good as it gets……


Downtown LA, Map

Museum of Contemporary Art, LA

There is a thread on the FLUTE discussion list right now about a student who prefers to play pop rather than classical. A flute teacher wrote asking for advice about what to do with this particular student, wondering if she should drop the student or if others could offer advice about how to deal with this student.  This student, mind you, LOVES (this is the teacher’s description) the flute and practices/plays a ton. So what is the problem? Read the rest of this entry »

As we make our way deeper into 2012–the year some believe will be mark the end of the world or a worldwide spiritual transformation–I’m thinking about the markers of evolution and revolution we saw in 2011.

In the world of business innovation we distinguish between incremental and breakthrough innovation. The holy grail is the breakthrough, the game changer, some new invention or idea that fundamentally shifts or creates an industry or changes the way we think or interact.

But the truth is most innovations are incremental, a small adjustment, a change in design, a few new technological improvements.  We shouldn’t poo-poo the incremental.  Embracing any kind of change and being proactive are the hallmarks of innovation. But I think this year we may be ready for some real breakthroughs, globally, nationally, locally, personally and internally. Don’t you think?

In 2011 we saw the birth of the seven billionth person and the passing of great innovators like Apple founder Steve Jobs, breakthrough political candidate Geraldine Ferraro, Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver, and civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth.

We saw sclerotic gridlock in the U.S. Congress–where incremental evolution would be a godsend–contrasted with a revitalized form of revolution on the streets of Egypt and the Middle East spreading all over the world, including Occupy Chicago in my own city.

For ongoing readers of this blog, you might remember I took on a personal quest for reinvention in 2011. While I haven’t reported on it in a while, I’m still actively engaged in reinvention, challenging myself to think differently, let go of the way-I-thought-it-was-supposed-to-be, and follow my true callings and passions. I did make breakthroughs in 2011 in addition to my ongoing speaking/consulting practice, which included the groundbreaking nonprofit I now direct (Poetry Pals) and writing a full script and developing a musical/theatrical project (Malaise County Fair). More to come.

It’s not too late to hatch up some breakthroughs you’d like to make in 2012.  You got any?  Let’s all take this distinctive leap year as an opportunity for both evolution and revolution, both culturally and personally, so that we can engage in the world most fully ourselves and most fully alive.  I’m starting the year off by shedding my hair and heading off for some travel.

Want more from Adam?  Check out his Innovation On My Mind blog.

The improv game, AMAPFALAP = “as much as possible from as little as possible,” invented by W. A. Matthieu in The Listening Book

NEC and the Firing of Benjamin Zander

Sweden’s School Without Walls

Harmony Project gets featured on ABC news

An ArtsJournal Discussion | Jan. 23-27, 2012, on Audience Engagement

Rather than losing his temper, this musician adapted the notorious Nokia theme, much to the delight of his audience

Bill T. Jones does John Cage

Q2 Interview:  Composer-Performer Du Yun Talks Chinese Opera and Electronic Music

Great advice on writing cover letters and why it is essential to think and act entrepreneurially

The 3 Levels of Effective Practice

The Case for Active Practicing

Become a confident performer

Seth Godin says it’s completely up to you

And start singing!

Celtic music fans! Boxwood Canada 2012 registration is now open

Final note:  Next week in LA, the Take a Stand 2012 Symposium takes place, and I will be going as a YOLA Ambassador.  The Weekly Digest will be off next week, and look for blog posts about El Sistema and my experiences there when I return!

In the meantime have a listen to this radio program from WHYY Radio Times from 1/23/12 featuring Stanford Thompson, Executive Director of Play On Philly, Jamie Bernstein, who is working on a new documentary on El Sistema, and Tricia Tunstall, the author of the new book, Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformatiive Power of Music. Go to: http://whyy.org/cms/radiotimes/2012/01/24/15442/

The Savvy Musician’s best reads of 2011

The 10 Craziest Kickstarter Projects of 2011

How to cultivate originality

Attentive Collaboration by the Audience:  Essential but Not Easy

Jazz’s encroachment on classical station upsets some

The future of classical radio?

Learn about SOPA and Wikipedia’s Blackout Page

Practice with your head, perform from your heart

So you think you know? Discovery in Alexander Technique

The three roots of Performance Anxiety

Making a good first impression

Financial Freedom for Music Entrepreneurs

The day one very determined teacher and The Philadelphia Orchestra changed a little boy’s life

In Philly, Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 7:30PM , a free talk by Eric Booth, Tricia Tunstall, and Stanford Thompson discussing El Sistema: Social Innovation Through Music Education

Wynton Marsalis:  My relationship to MLK

Edna Landau’s popular career advice blog for Musical America, Ask Ednais celebrating its first anniversary with a contest. Music career-related questions must be submitted by January 31 in order to be eligible for the prizes, which include a free career consultation with Edna. Those submitting questions have the option to remain anonymous on Edna’s blog. Just send your questions to AskEdna@MusicalAmerica.com

Quotes of the week:
You don’t have to practice boring exercises, but you have to practice something. If you find the practice boring, you don’t run away from it, but don’t tolerate it either. Transform it into something that suits you. If you are bored playing a scale, play the same eight tones but change the order. Then change the rhythm. Then change the tone color. Presto, you have just improvised. If you don’t think the result is very good, you have the power to change it- now there is both a supply of raw material and some judgment to feed back the process. This is especially effective with classically trained musicians who think they can’t play without a score or develop technique without exact repetition of some exercises in a book. –Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play

From Martin Luther King, Jr.–Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.
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