Thursday, February 24, 2011

You don't know what you got til it's gone

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone…” Joni Mitchell

I apologize for the lack of fresh copy from this blog for the past two months, as it’s been a busy time at The Music Settlement, and other priorities have jumped up to crowd blog writing off of my to-do list. Curiously, my lack of output has not been greeted by a great wailing and gnashing of teeth from the ether-world demanding new posts, but I will soldier on nevertheless and attempt to get back on track with more regular entries.

This week I noticed a story on the website of Americans for the Arts - , a national association of organizations and individuals advocating for quality arts and culture throughout our society - concerning the relative vigor of the arts industry in the face of the recession from which we hope we will soon emerge. The article concerned an update to Americans for the Arts’ annual appraisal of the health and vitality of the arts industry in America, the National Arts Index. The NAI was designed to measure a variety of socio-economic factors that indicate the success of arts and culture as economic engines of vitality and innovation in relation to the greater economy. The headline of the story was “Vitality of the Arts Industry Hits 12-Year Low.” Uh-oh….

As I read the article, it became apparent that what many of us know to be true locally is certainly true nationally - that the past four years have been very difficult for the arts in general and nonprofit arts in particular. Several NAI findings jumped out at me: the vitality of the arts sector dropped 6.2 points since the onset of the current recession, cutting in half the gains made from 2003-2007 and dropping a record 3.6 points in 2009 alone. Some notable results of this drop are that in 2008, 41% of nonprofit arts organizations reporting to the IRS failed to achieve a balanced budget, and that total public spending on the arts dropped almost 5% in relation to all expenditures. In addition, overall philanthropic giving to the arts during this period was down in relation to the past by $2.5 billion nationally.

Conversely, the number of college arts degrees conferred annually over the past decade has risen steadily from 75,000 to 127,000, and the percentage of individuals personally participating in or volunteering to support the arts has jumped by 11.6 %. During that same period, SAT results indicate that the high school-aged population interested in pursuing employment in the arts has risen from 15% to 20%. One additional dynamic to consider is, paradoxically, that the number of nonprofit institutions grew by 3,000 over the period of 2007 to 2009.

What does all this mean? It means that nonprofit arts organizations are currently trying to meet equal or greater demand with fewer resources and, in some cases, greater competition. It means that the margin for error is much smaller than even five years ago and the sustainability gap for this sector is widening. At the same time, the NAI indicates that enthusiasm for employment and service in the arts is growing and, to me, it seems critical that this development should not be blunted. The nonprofit arts sector needs to be able to support the next generation of creative artists and administrators, especially in a time when innovation can be the difference between success and failure.

Yes, that’s a lot of statistics and scenarios, but in every community there are real stories and examples that illustrate this same situation in our backyard. We’ve certainly had our share in the Cleveland area. A significant number of valuable arts and culture organizations have folded up their tents and several appear on the verge of doing so. Many programs designed to deliver quality arts experiences to our community are being scaled-back or suspended, and many funding sources have had to reduce or redirect support away from arts and culture-related projects.

At The Music Settlement, we have remained active and committed to our community partners and outreach efforts by inviting independent arts organizations to share our campus and administrative resources, in an effort to provide a more comprehensive experience for our community and preserve grassroots creative assets. We’ve also worked hard to stay within our means while strengthening our offerings, which is not an easy thing to do when many of efforts involve ramping up technology and communication methods.

In the past three years, The Music Settlement has been a primary partner in the development of a new comprehensive online registration and operating system for community schools of the arts. We have created a flourishing new American music and jazz curriculum in our Department of Music that has been chosen as a featured partner of the Berklee College of Music’s City Music national network. We have added new program offerings, such as post-stroke rehabilitation services in Music Therapy, and “Music, Math, and Movement” and Mandarin Chinese studies in Early Childhood Education. We’ve continued our commitment to supporting and producing academic-level research in the departments of Music Therapy and Early Childhood. At the same time, we have nearly doubled our financial aid resources and introduced innovative service options to better meet the greater demands of our students and their families. During this time we have not only hosted a variety of interns and students who seek future employment in the arts, but we have also hired them and created opportunities for them to keep their innovative ideas and energy right here in our community.

I believe that when the dust clears from the economic downturn or the “great recession” (or whatever it is we are living through right now), one of Northeast Ohio’s strongest contributors to recovery will prove to be the arts and culture sector. The Music Settlement will continue to be a part of that story, as it has been for more than 98 years and running.

Monday, December 20, 2010

They roared their terrible roars

“…they roared their terrible roars, and gnashed their terrible teeth, and rolled their terrible eyes, and showed their terrible claws!” Maurice Sendak

Traveling for the holidays is just around the corner for many of us, and we all know what a joy that can be, but sometimes just getting there is the easy part. The fun starts when you decide to fill that holiday time away with as many “special” experiences as you can to make sure that this is the trip to top all trips - the one we’ll talk about for years to come…

Let’s face it, that’s a lot of pressure. Are you really going to outdo that first view of the Grand Canyon? Or the ride on the San Francisco cable car? Or even the visit to the world’s largest ball of twine? The chances are that you’re in for a disappointment, because in truth, the best memories are the ones that happen on the spur-of-the-moment, unplanned and unscripted. If you’re really lucky, you might be able to combine the search for the perfect moment with serendipity, which is what happened to my family this Thanksgiving.

First, a quantifier: I believe the search for the perfect moment differs exponentially depending on whether you’re traveling with kids or without. I suffer from the malady that strikes many people when they have kids - the need to overlay educational moments within any trip that is farther than, say, 20 blocks from your home. In the past I have been known to detour an otherwise straightforward zip down I-77 with a side venture to something like the final resting place of the dirigible “Shenandoah” or the “Big Musky Bucket” (whatever that is), even if it means driving two hours out of the way down the kind of unpaved and unmarked roads that send GPS into mute acquiescence. Is there a Civil War battlefield within 120 miles of our planned route? I’m there, baby, dragging catatonic kids to walk the rolling fields of Chickamauga, or climb the airless peaks of Kennesaw Mountain. On the other hand, if I’m traveling with just my wife, I can be perfectly happy to find a quiet retreat or expansive beach and just plop down and pull out my latest book. Bliss is often associated with inactivity in this case, and restfulness trumps revelation.

The challenge really comes when these two aspirations collide, hence Thanksgiving 2010. My little family decided to travel to the home of my sister and her husband outside of Lexington, Virginia, this November. They have a beautiful farm nestled between mountain ranges a good half an hour out into the wilderness from downtown Lexington. When I go there, I always think of one thing: relaxation. Sure, Lexington is a very historic town, the home of Stonewall Jackson, the final resting place of Robert E. Lee, home to two noted colleges (Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute). It also has a thriving music and arts subculture; with something for everyone, it’s an ideal family vacation. But my sister has lived there a long time, and eventually visiting the grave of Lee’s horse, “Traveler,” starts to lose its luster, and sitting by the wood stove, dreamily reading back issues of The New Yorker appears to be as close to paradise as one can hope for. But no sooner had I put my feet up and started to snore lightly than I was disturbed by my sister regaling the 9-year old with tales of the wild animal safari park a few miles down the road. Immediately alarm bells began to ring in my drooping head. Little girls and big fuzzy animals! Ix-nay on the ark-pay! We already have a full schedule planned for the week! This was not on the radar screen.

Too late… before I knew it, our trip was being extended an extra day and a “safari adventure” was being planned. I knew resistance was futile, but I demanded one concession - that my thoughtful sister must accompany us as penance for bringing the whole thing up in the first place. Soon we found ourselves packed in my new Rav4 and heading to the “other” Lexington, a land of fiberglass dinosaurs, wax museums, an art installation named “Foam-Henge” (don’t ask), and restaurants painted electric pink. We entered the animal park through its faux-tribal arch, where a nice young attendant collected buckets of cash from us in exchange for four buckets of animal feed and our admission fees. A tiny voice inside my head said, “Huh, so this place actually allows you to feed the animals; I wonder how that works….” Then before I knew it, a stronger voice inside my head said, “Wait, we’re not allowed out of the car, we will have to feed them through open windows…” Then a LOUD voice (apparently it was mine) hollered, “Hold the buckets OUTSIDE the windows! Oh my [bleep], where did all these llamas come from!?”

There are few moments in life that can compare to having a full grown bison stick its head inside your car from one side, while a naughty zebra goes for the feedbag from another. As I watched in abject horror, food pellets, clumps of fur, saliva, and other unidentifiable secretions were sprayed around, inside, and on top of my new car! Everyone else in our car laughed uproariously throughout the assault until they were gasping for breath and, if truth be told, being that up close and personal with a gnu was pretty fun. But my mind could only focus on one thought - escape! My initial reaction was to hit the gas and leave the llamas and other large mammals in the dust, but hitting a wildebeest full-on with my little car was an even less pleasant prospect than getting slimed, so I soldiered on. As we moved further into the park I tried to hide my glee as the feed buckets were snatched away or dumped one-by-one (all over my seats, of course) by the wily critters until there was no more reason for them to hang around.

If you ask my family members, the hour or so we spent on safari that day was one of the most memorable ever. The photos and movies seem to back this up, as we created our own version of Where the Wild Things Are. And as for me, well, I’ll have the memories for a good, long, time; food pellets fermenting in my window wells, unaccounted-for stains and stickiness throughout my leather interior, and a nice little scratch in my car’s roof line from one very aggressive elk! Who was the one getting educated by this “special” travel experience anyway???

May you and yours have a warm and wonderful holiday season!

Monday, December 6, 2010

We make a living by what we get.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. Winston Churchill

When an organization is more than 98 years old as ours is, conventional wisdom calls it a treasure of the community that should be held in the highest esteem. But in truth, the real measure of The Music Settlement’s worth after so many years is not the organization itself, but rather the people who have worked here day after day to manifest its mission. I would like to tell you about two such people who made a difference in the lives of so many others that their impact is really pretty hard to quantify in concrete terms. Let’s just say they affected generations of people in our community for the better, in very meaningful ways. We are all deeply saddened to have lost both of these people within the last 10 days, but the stories of Richard Kauffman and Jocelyn Chang are about so much more than their passing; they are about lives lived heroically and selflessly.

Dick and Jocelyn represent two different eras at The Music Settlement. Jocelyn began teaching harp with us in 1991 and continued right up until her untimely passing on November 19th, while Dick was the legendary founder and director of the Extensions Division of The Music Settlement from 1953 to 1986. We learned this week of Dick’s passing on November 27th at the age of 94. Even though Jocelyn and Dick’s eras at The Music Settlement were five years apart, they clearly were contemporaries in their spirited and generous approach to music and music education.

I’m not exaggerating when I refer to Dick as “legendary,” for he was a highly respected, admired, and honored member of the arts community in Cleveland for many years. He had the foresight to develop and lead a department that provided outreach efforts in many of the communities that defined The Music Settlement for 30 years and beyond. These efforts included the organization’s first forays into Music Therapy, and Dick is credited with being one of the strongest advocates for the establishment of this prestigious department. But the one thing I hear consistently from his colleagues about Dick is his truly joyful approach to his job and his life. Dick brought people together and inspired them to go beyond themselves and their limitations, from which great things resulted. I understand he particularly enjoyed hosting gatherings for the staff and faculty that still evoke warm memories and big smiles from those who attended them. Sometimes it’s rare that individuals with great vision also possess great compassion and understand that motivation is much more effective when it’s delivered by someone who so obviously cares about others. Dick was a perfect fit for The Music Settlement for that reason, where caring and responsiveness to our community is our reason for being.

“Caring” and “compassion” are two words that defined Jocelyn Chang as well. Her important legacy as a musician and a teacher is a reflection of that, and she was instrumental in the renaissance of the harp in our community in the last twenty five years. As a high profile performer of both traditional and nontraditional music and instruments, Jocelyn’s efforts inspired countless young people who might not otherwise have discovered the harp’s lyrical allure to consider it in a new light and turn to it as an instrument of choice. She took teaching very seriously and expected her students to do so as well, and as a result there is a generation of musicians out there who honed their talents under her watchful eye.

Jocelyn also championed the performance of works by new composers at the regional and international level, and helped to keep original composition vital in the eyes and ears of our community. This dedication led her to be a founding member of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, a resident partner program of The Music Settlement and an award-winning professional ensemble dedicated to music by 20th century and living composers. Efforts like hers have helped keep classical music alive and thriving in a time of great competition and concern, which is of true benefit to all us. I had the great fortune to work with Jocelyn during my time at The Music Settlement, and I can personally attest to her impact as an artist and as a person. She was fearless artistically, stretching herself and her instrument beyond the boundaries of what is considered safe and traditional. She even redefined our perceptions of the harp when she fell in love with the sound of the Dilling Harp, an instrument on which she performed in numerous concerts and original works. She had great emotional strength and a depth of feeling that was evident in everything she did, and teamed with her husband and a fellow Department of Music instructor, Michael Leese, to be one of the most sought after performing duos in the region.

It is a frustrating exercise to try to distill a life of artistry, generosity, and humanity into a paragraph or two. I understand that I cannot begin to do justice to Dick and Jocelyn’s respective legacies, but I can tell you this: they courageously shared their gifts with others without a concern for any personal gain. They directly influenced thousands of others for the better during their lives and into the foreseeable future. They made this world a better place, and it is a bit less bright now because they have left us. Whether you knew them or not, celebrate their lives by living yours with the same attitude and you will light their way on the path to their next adventures.

Thank you, Dick and Jocelyn.

Have a great week!

Monday, November 8, 2010

I like to walk about amidst the beautiful things that adorn the world

There are a lot of reasons why it’s cool to work at The Music Settlement, and one of them is our health maintenance program. You might be surprised to learn that a community center for the arts even has a health maintenance program; it probably seems a better fit for some large for-profit corporation, where you’d find an on-site gym and maybe even exercise classes, but we do our part. We provide incentives and encouragement throughout the year to our employees to help them adopt better habits and make better choices for their health and the health of their families. Not surprisingly, this practice also helps our business operation, as it has been a proven link to keeping our overall healthcare costs down while they are spiraling up elsewhere. But what’s even more appealing about these efforts is that they can be fun - well, maybe not the Holiday Weight Maintenance Challenge - but in general, they help build a sense of community and camaraderie.

A perfect example is last month’s program, Walktober. All employees were encouraged to create a routine of regular daily walking for significant lengths of time as a form of overall exercise with a variety of benefits. This program was a perfect match for me, as I have always been a big fan of just throwing on a coat and letting my feet carry me away on a voyage of discovery. It was also fun because I am fortunate enough to work and live in two communities that seem designed for the walker: University Circle and Cleveland Heights. It’s odd to think that, conversely, there are communities that are not friendly to walking, but increasingly that is the case in our country. One of my favorite authors, the witty and acerbic Bill Bryson, has written of this same phenomenon in several of his books (most notably, his classic A Walk in the Woods) - American communities built for the automobile and not for the foot. I remember a particular passage in which he tries to take a walk from a hotel where he is staying and he quickly finds himself in a “Wal-Mart World”, where there are no sidewalks, no pedestrian amenities, and in which trying to walk from point A to point B is tantamount to suicide. This is by no means the only example, but one that is becoming more and more frequent as the sprawl of the suburbs continues unchecked. But really, when did we decide that sidewalks and crosswalks were unnecessary? When did it become acceptable that driving a quarter mile to the Get-Go for a slushy was the preferred way to go?

I know, I know, I’m slipping into curmudgeon mode again, mea culpa, but last month’s Walktober experience has only cemented this issue in my mind. There are few areas in our region that can be as stimulating to the eye and the mind as a mile or so trekked around University Circle! I’ve been taking a half-hour at midday every day to stride around our neighborhood, varying my course each day but always including a circuit of Wade Oval and the lagoon. These areas were designed for strolling, with unexpected sights, both natural and man-made, that catch the imagination and blend together seamlessly, even though they represent more than a 100-year span of development. How cool is it that you can walk by the John Hay house, now home to the Western Reserve Historical Society, and come across the brand new Stephanie Tubbs-Jones Community Plaza? Or that you can let your vision drift from the historic to the modern to the contemporary in just one building, The Cleveland Museum of Art? While you’re at it, shift your gaze 180 degrees from CMA and looming over the more traditional structures that line East Boulevard you’ll see the striking shapes of the Peter B. Lewis Building on the campus of Case Western Reserve University. And there’s so much more.

Similarly, I live in the Fairmount/Coventry section of Cleveland Heights, where a short walk affords me views of three of the most beautiful churches in the area, a nature area of surprising variety and drama, and the unique commercial districts of Coventry, Cedar Hill, and Lee Road. Every walk brings a new adventure and reminds me of the immeasurable value of a community that is planned on a human scale, regardless of the character of residence or business that is represented around me. One might argue that such neighborhoods and business districts are a hassle to negotiate and challenging to navigate, but that’s the beauty of the thing. They are not designed to help you pass through quickly while staring straight ahead and talking on your cell phone, they demand that you pay attention, take your time, and that you gain more than just speed by the experience. I think it’s critical that we all take time to walk the neighborhoods of our lives, literally and metaphorically. I don’t want to measure my life from the window of an automobile and the clock on the wall. How healthy can it be for any of us to sit in our workspace, car, and TV room all day? Let’s celebrate “Walktober” every month of the year, and wear out a few pairs of shoes in the process.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

None of us really understands what is going on with all these numbers…” David Stockman on the US budget, 1981

All of us are into numbers in one way or another; it’s unavoidable in our high tech world. We define ourselves by numbers: social security numbers, cell or home phone numbers (if anyone still has land lines these days), credit card numbers, lottery numbers….even the calendar seems to emphasize the issue, as we just passed October 10th, 2010 (10/10/10) on Sunday. We are surrounded by analog reminders of our daily life, and too many of us seem to think this is the only way we can effectively measure our impact and worth on this planet. What a sad commentary that is.

But don’t give up hope. There are ways to make numbers work for you and maybe even be your friends! You can start by finding real and redeeming value in numbers. Instead of starting each day with a roster of the challenges and expectations you’ll face in the race to 5:00 PM (another number!), take the time to count your blessings that make the whole thing worthwhile. When you calculate your relative success in a day or a year, don’t make the mistake of basing it only on dollars earned or items checked off your to-do list. Consider the people you’ve met and/or helped, and those who have helped you. I find it a telling sign of our times that people my age seem to be more and more obsessed with the count on their “bucket list”- the things they want to do before they kick the bucket. It seems to me that very few of those lists include items that focus on being of service to others, like “help a young person find their way in life”, or “build a home for someone who doesn’t have one.” Really, how many of us truly need to climb Kilimanjaro to feel fulfilled? Can we really”go gentle into that good night” only if we first visit every major league ballpark in America? I’m not knocking those things, I’m just saying that we should all be able to balance the need for racking up numbers of “thrills” with personal checklists of more altruistic goals. Maybe I’m just lucky because I work at The Music Settlement, where we strive every day to bring richness and impact to the lives of those we serve.

Let me cite some numbers for you that are really special: one instructor for every six children in our arts-enriched early childhood day school classrooms; four years of full scholarship to the Berklee College of Music for Jazz @ The Settlement student Jevaughn Bogard; 13 full-time Music Therapists on staff, making The Music Settlement the largest community-based music therapy program of its kind in the country; more than 40 years of bringing our community programs targeting the very young and people with special needs; 48 weeks of the year filled with activities on our Magnolia Drive campus for you to enjoy; more than 120 instructors and therapists ready and willing to bring you a life-changing experience in a one-on-one or group class format; more than 3,200 individuals directly served by The Music Settlement each year; over 50,000 square feet of building space on our campus to serve the needs of our students and clients in music therapy, early childhood education, and music instruction; more than $190,000 awarded by The Music Settlement in 2009-2010 in scholarships and financial aid to students and clients in all of its departments; and perhaps the most impressive number of them all: 98 consecutive years of bringing quality personal experiences in the musical arts to our region and beyond.

Of course, there are many more numbers associated with The Music Settlement than I can list within the confines of this blog, but you get the idea. There have been a lot of people doing a lot of things here for a lot of years to make a lot of folks' lives better - more than can be counted, actually. These are the kinds of numbers that really mean something. Numbers that you don’t mind be measured against. Numbers that tell a story that is worth paying attention to. The next time you’re stressing about the latest score of your sports team, or the numbers polled by your favorite contestant on a reality show, or the forecast for that Saturday on which you have plans; remind yourself of numbers that really do add up to something significant for you, in your own life and at places like The Music Settlement. I’m counting on you!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound

From where do we draw our strength? How do we hold ourselves up and stand tall when life is at its most challenging? A surprising number of people turn to the power of music.

For some, it’s a source of relaxation or stress reduction; for others, it improves focus and concentration. Many others find it to be a very personal pathway to a state of grace. You can find many instances in this world, both formal and informal, where music heightens enlightenment and steels resolve; where it acts as a channel to greater clarity and unlocks answers hidden to us by our everyday tunnel vision. We’ve all experienced it - music conjuring up a memory, or calming a case of late night insomnia, or helping you “rev up” for a sensitive or demanding undertaking. Music provides for many of us the frame in which we place cherished or unforgettable moments. Whose heart doesn’t beat a little faster at the opening notes of a favorite song from years ago, or smile doesn’t broaden when hearing a young person’s first recital? For many of us, it is now impossible to hear Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and not be reminded of the comfort and solemnity it provided following the terrible events of September 11th, 2001. I’m sure that each of you could add hundreds of examples to this list because, in one way or another, music frames the experiences of our lives.

This week, I wanted to share a story from one of our staff members that speaks to this issue in a very personal and moving way. It is a story that can be difficult to tell and difficult to read but, like the strains of Adagio for Strings, there is also great comfort amidst the pain.

The Department of Music Therapy here at The Music Settlement is staffed by an awesome group of individuals doing very important work in our community. We bring our programs to people through two main methods – in one-on-one or small group sessions at our Magnolia Drive campus, or more broadly-oriented outreach programs at a diverse group of partner agencies and locations throughout the region. We currently boast a staff of 13 therapists from a variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise who serve client needs ranging from post-stroke rehabilitation to autism spectrum diagnosis. Our therapists are involved in clinical research and publishing, medical, social, educational, and family services, and they develop and lead professional development efforts within the field of music therapy. But most of all, they are “angels” who provide critical help for people at all levels of need. Just such an angel is one of our newer therapists, Sarah Paczak Chappell.

Sarah actually rejoined us this year. She interned with us in 2008-09 during her last year of college, and when a position recently opened up in our department, we welcomed her to our professional staff with open arms. Like all of our therapists, her workload is made up of a combination of in-house clients and offsite agency assignments. Her story today concerns an agency assignment, Malachi House, which is a place that cares for patients with terminal illness and with limited family resources. Her story involves a resident client and the grace that music brought to both of them. But I’ll let her tell the story. The following is reprinted with permission from the Malachi House online newsletter.

As the music therapist for Malachi House, I have the privilege of sharing music with residents who are terminally ill. Music truly brings a sense of comfort, support and peace to those who are nearing the end of life. Nevertheless, I have come to realize that the residents at Malachi House bring the same types of feelings to my life, and Elizabeth was truly one of those residents.

When I first met Elizabeth, I knew she was coming to Malachi House with feelings of fear and anxiety. She was extremely tearful when I first met her but upon seeing my keyboard her tears quickly dried and an instant bond was created. She loved music, especially religious hymns. Elizabeth made an immediate request to hear the song, “Whatsoever You Do.” I knew the song well and was happy to sing it for her. Elizabeth expressed thankfulness for the song, as she felt that the song’s lyrics spoke to her in a special way.

As weeks and months passed, the song “Whatsoever You Do” became our theme song. It was played during every session along with Elizabeth’s other favorite hymns. Then, during one particular session, Elizabeth made a special request after the playing of her song. She reached out, held my hand and said, “When I die and have left his world, will you come back to my room, close the door and play me my song? Although you will not see me, I will be here listening to your music.” I immediately agreed to this request.

I continued seeing Elizabeth for several weeks after her request was made, and during each session we would sing “Whatsoever You Do” and she would remind me of her request. The day before she went to heaven, Elizabeth and I were able to sing her song together one last time. However, the following morning after her passing, I realized that Elizabeth and I still had one more song to sing. So I went into her room, closed the door and sang. As I sang and looked around the room, I felt such a sense of calmness and peace. Elizabeth was there. I kept my promise, and she kept hers.

By: Sarah Paczak Chappell,
Board Certified Music Therapist contracted from The Music Settlement to serve Malachi House through the generous support of the Kulas Foundation

Whatsoever You Do
Willard F. Jabusch

Whatsoever you do to the least of my people that you do unto me

When I was hungry, you gave me to eat
When I was thirsty, you gave me to drink
Now enter into the home of my father

Whatsoever you do to the least of my people that you do unto me

When I was homeless, you opened your door
When I was naked, you gave me your coat
Now enter into the home of my father

Whatsoever you do to the least of my people that you do unto me

When I was weary, you helped me find rest
When I was anxious, you calmed all my fears
Now enter into the home of my father

Whatsoever you do to the least of my people that you do unto me

When in a prison, you came to my cell
When on a sick-bed, you cared for my needs
Now enter into the home of my father

Whatsoever you do to the least of my people that you do unto me

When I was laughed at, you stood by my side
When I was happy you shared in my joy
Now enter into the home of my father

Whatsoever you do to the least of my people that you do unto me

Amen. Have a great week!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth

Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.” Carl Jung

As summer is ending, a new school year is beginning at The Music Settlement, and we are excited about all the great things that come with that. We have added new depth to our list of offerings in each department, including a Chinese language curriculum in the Early Childhood Department’s day school and preschool, World Music studies in the Department of Music, and expanded outreach and group opportunities in the Music Therapy Department, to name a few. We welcome new and returning faculty to upgraded facilities, including a new 10-station computer lab, a renovated room dedicated for Music and Movement classes, as well as a refurbished faculty lounge and expanded multipurpose studio in Music therapy, and brand new signage to help folks find their way around our Magnolia Drive campus. One look will tell returning students that we are dedicated to constant improvement in the on-campus experience, and that new students need not be concerned that their experience will be anything less than exceptional while they are with us.

Our faculty and therapists are returning after some much needed R & R during our brief slow period at the end of the summer, but we never really stop working to make things the very best they can be. Many of our teaching staff spent their time away in educational or performance pursuits, seeking to recharge their batteries and constantly grow in their ability to engage and involve their students and clients. Yes, you read that correctly - many of our music instructors went off to play music during their time away from the campus! In truth, so many of our instructors and therapists find themselves limited in their actual performance time during the year that they head off on vacation to play in a festival orchestra, to have an intensive study with a favorite teacher or take in a seminar or lecture, or just listen to live performances in as many places as possible.

A great example of this is Linda Miller, a Music and Movement specialist in the Early Childhood Department. She spent much of the last part of this summer preparing for a performance of a lifetime. She said to me the other day that, after years of teaching and performing music, “I finally am playing Severance Hall!” You can catch her special performance with the Ensemble du Monde in Reinberger Chamber Hall at Severance this Friday, September 10th at 8pm. They will be performing instrumental and vocal works by Mozart, Mahler, Dvořák, and Saint-Georges. Tickets are still available as of this writing.

That to me this is one of the things that make working in the arts so unique and special: you don’t necessarily want or need to get away from “the office” when your work is over. I also know that the same can be said for many of our students and clients, who spend significant portions of their summers in intensive education programs, camps, or continuing study. The arts truly feed the soul, to which anyone who has sat on the lawn at Blossom or Cain Park or numerous bandstands around the area can attest. At The Music Settlement we recognize that creative experiences should never be taken for granted and that a child given an opportunity to develop in a creative environment will more often than not carry that experience forward in life to their benefit.

Experts in the field of childhood development agree with this point of view as well. Here’s a brief excerpt from an online newsletter on the website that addresses the importance of a creative environment for childraising; I think you’ll agree that it presents reinforcement of the value of the environment we work so hard to provide to your family.

The Creativity Crisis

A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency of the future," reveals Po Branson in her Newsweek (July 16, 2010) article, “The Creativity Crisis”. However, she also reported research that revealed that "...creativity scores [for American children] had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward." Branson notes that one likely culprit to the declining creativity of our children " the number of hours kids now spend in front of TV and playing video games rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. In effect, it’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there's no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of children." Other interesting insights in the article:

"Preschool children, on average ask their parents about 100 questions a day. Why, why, why — sometimes parents just wish it'd stop. Tragically it does stop. By middle school they pretty much stopped asking. It's no coincidence that this same time is when student motivation and engagement plummet. They didn't stop asking questions because they lost interest: it's the other way around. They lost interest because they stopped asking questions."

At The Music Settlement, our core mission is to engage all ages through a life enriched by the joy of music and the arts. We focus on helping each individual find their own joy, in whatever method they identify it. As our 98th year of service to this community begins, we know that that the enrichment we offer makes a lifetime of difference to so many. Please join us for the fun of it!

Have a great week!