Monday, November 2, 2009

Leadership, Front Page News and...Socialism?

Leaders, leaders and more leaders.

Everyday in this program we have seminars led by fabulous people who are experts in their respective fields. While they inspire with their credentials, what I especially admire about them is that they are leaders. They support what the Abreu Fellows Program is about and I believe they have come to speak to us in part because they have taken it upon themselves to see that this whole thing succeeds. Let me tell you about some of these guys.

One of our first seminars was on leadership, with Michael Melcher, who is a leader in the field of human talent development as well as a speaker and author. He helped us to define what kind of leaders we are and what our leadership style is. He then challenged us with a final assignment that is to guide us throughout the year as our leadership brand develops.

Mr. Melcher and I:

If you haven't heard of the Baltimore Symphony ORCHkids program you must know about it. It is directed by Dan Trahey with Nick Skinner as the site co-ordinator. These guys are leaders. With support from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and their conductor Maestra Marin Alsop, they have established a stellar music education program for pre-K to third graders at Lockerman-Bundy Elementary School, in a city where 33% of residents don't finish high school. These guys are tireless workers. In an effort to get their program to where it is today they've done everything from boardroom presentations to re-painting the name of the school themselves. I highly recommend you check out this short video about ORCHkids. We will be visiting their site in two weeks and I am slated to do some playing and speaking while I'm there. More on my visit to Baltimore soon.

During seminar from left to right: Garett, Dan Trahey, Roberto Zambrano and Abreu Fellow Alvaro Rodas:

Roberto Zambrano is a leader. A member of the first generation of musicians in El Sistema, Maestro Zambrano is now Music Director of the Acarigua-Araure Youth Symphony Orchestra and Regional Coordinator of El Sistema in Venezuela. He was with us during all of week two as a mentor and resource for basically everything we were studying. He started off the week by giving each fellow the medal that kids in El Sistema receive after playing their first concert. Folks, this medal is a big deal in Venezuela, so I'm honored to have received one. On the back of the medal is engraved "Tocar y Luchar" which means "to play and to struggle". You can imagine how a kid feels receiving it for the first time...

Mr. Zambrano and I, "Tocar y Luchar"

Ben Cameron and Greg Kandel were also with us. Ben, who is Program Director for the Arts for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation gave us a sobering talk on the state of the arts in the USA, but then also gave us some of the tools needed to help art regain a more prominent role in society. Greg Kandel is a partner in the consulting firm Management Consultants for the Arts and instructed us on strategic planning and dynamics on founding an organization. The assignment he gave us is not an easy one, but I feel it will benefit it me in the long run because it will be applicable in the real world.

On the musical side of things we've explored four music education methods for young children: Dalcroze Eurythmics, Kodaly Method, Orff and Suzuki. These classes were all important because next year when working in our programs we may have to decide what our curriculum will look like. For young children this is very delicate and important. I went through Suzuki growing up so I knew about it already. The other three were somewhat newer to me. The Kodaly Method videos of 1st graders sight-singing better than I can was definitely food for thought...

We're also learning a little about all the other instruments. Here's me (photo only ;)) playing Don Juan on viola on my first day of lessons:

Since we're going to Venezuela for two months next semester I've been learning as much as possible about the culture while in Boston. This includes Spanish lessons at ridiculous hours of the morning, learning salsa and eating arepas, a staple of Venezuelan cuisine.

Week two was capped off with the Boston Globe featuring the Abreu Fellows Program on their front page. Here's the article. The article is very nice and I was happy that we were front page news; my roommate Stan "The Man" was in the front page picture! I did find some of the readers' comments a little interesting, although the vast majority were positive. I find it puzzling that one would politicize a program that encourages kids to play music by calling it socialism or affirmative action. But that's just me. I think it's simply an investment in youth through music. In Texas the law says (click on Resource Center then Legislative Updates then "What the Law Says") fine arts must be offered in all public schools from kindergarten to grade 12. They believe it should be that way in order for a child to receive a "well-balanced and meaningful education."

Well duh. What's the big deal?

Calling all leaders, let's get on with this movement.


  1. That's awesome, Dantes! It's great to see that the program is inspiring you so... Keep it up.

  2. dude... dantes this sounds so sweet! It took me a few days to get the internet again but I think I've found a place I can consistently upload my stuff and read your stuff AND facebook stalk all at once! My man it sounds like you are a part of something pretty big happening. I totally agree that kids should be brought up on music and my mom made sure I had a good knowledge of classical composers and pieces as well as hitting up the musicals every summer in the park. Music is definitely a special thing and I wish I woulda stuck with it! Piano and guitar lessons are tougher to do as you get older. Also we can work on our spanish together cuz I am working on my rosetta stone game at obnoxious hours of the day too. Hope all is well man and looking forward to the next post!

  3. Dames,

    I'm definitely inspired, but then again, that's why I'm here. So the question is, am I inspiring you and others? This work will take more than musicians' backing it. Thanks for reading.

  4. Mr. Gonzalez,

    Como estas kid?!

    Thanks for reading my blog. I hope to keep everyone coming back for more. Look out for the next blog where I'll be uploading videos from my time in Baltimore next week with a stellar music ed program.

    I'm not surprised you dig the arts, sports and academics. They're doing something right down in Texas and they have something to show for it. One of the best places to study music in the USA, as you might know, is Rice University.

    We'll chat in espagnol on the fbook sometime! I'm off to catch up on your blog!

  5. Hello Dantes. My name is Lara O'Brien and i'm a producer with CBC Radio in Toronto. I'm looking to get in touch with you about an interview request. Is there a # or email i could reach you at?

    Kindest Regards
    Producer, The Current
    CBC Radio,
    + 001 416 205 3056 - office
    + 001 416 909 4447 - mobile