Saturday, October 24, 2009

Week 2: Key of C's or Knowing Your Core Values

How does one synthesize a week filled with such diverse topics as leadership, community partnerships and the inner-workings of a successful El Sistema initiative in Baltimore?  Two Words: Core Values

In the spirit of the Harlem Children’s Zone where organizations are “creating an interlocking web of services” to meet the needs of all of its children, Ben Cameron, Program Director of Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; Daphne Griffin, Executive Director of the Boston Centers for Youth & Families; and Tanya Maggi, Director of Performance Outreach at New England Conservatory; all stressed how important it is for an organization to define its core values and then seek partnerships whose values intersect.

These are the value-based questions that Ben (in photo left with Ben Zander and Mark Churchill) asks arts organizations to help them better define their role in their communities:
  1. What is the value of my program to the community?
  2. What is the value my program alone brings better than anyone else?
  3. How will my community be affected if it is deprived of music tomorrow?
  4. How does my organization optimally structure itself and its behavior to become the best conduit of music education and social change for my community?                
Ben drives home the point that people are not asking about the quality of the arts, they are asking about its value. Value precedes quality and drives funding priorities.

Dan Trahey who helped start an El Sistema initiative in Baltimore, called the ORCHKids program, proves Ben's point. His program provides snacks, academic tutoring and instrumental music for children Pre-K through 2nd grades.  The program has a successful partnership with the Baltimore School District because their values intersect and are expressed in this ORCHKids mission statement:

“Create an after-school program devoted to music appreciation, academics, citizenship, community awareness, family and health (emotional, social and physical).”

ORCHKids takes place during and after school and continues to expand:  testimony of how much the program is valued by the community.  Orchestra is seen as a metaphor for an ideal society – each member is valued, strives together through teamwork and beautifully communicate a shared vision through diverse voices.  Watch a short video about the ORCHKids program and its accomplishments.

As I looked over the key elements of the El Sistema program and reflected on the values of my own community of Juneau, I began developing a list of core values or “Key of C’s”:
  • Child First, Music Second: every child is an asset and deserves access to the lifelong social, emotional and academic benefits that music provides, regardless of their financial means.
  • Community Building through ensemble, peer mentoring and community partnerships to help students reach their potential and become contributing members of society.
  • Consistency of Program: start early and everyday so that students have a daily haven of safety, joy and sense of value.
  • Challenge: through discipline and teamwork, students strive together to master difficult works.
  • Classical and Culturally Relevant Repertoire is emphasized to respect the contributions of a diversely rich community.
  • Child-Centered: instruction engages the whole child through movement and joyful music-making.
This is still a work in progress, but certainly one I hope to develop in collaboration with the folks and organizations in Juneau.  Together, we can create an "interlocking web of services" to meet the needs of our children.


  1. Dear Lorrie:
    What a really cool thing you did with the Library Thing. Those are all book that I have heard reviews on that I would like to get on my reading list in one place. Thank you so much.
    I'm so glad that the Abreu Fellows are musicians who like to write about their experiences. I wrongly assumed that you would all be spending your free time hiding out in a practice room.

    Its an inspiration to read everyones blogs. It reminds me of being in Japan with Dr. Suzuki 17 years ago when he had summer institutes and people from all over the world came to our research student community. I miss the dialogue about the potential of music to change the world.
    I am currently in the trenches, teaching an urban Suzuki program in Santa Ana, CA. (one of the most densly populated cities in America) You might have seen the story about this community on Bill Moyers who did a piece on Dr. Bracho. and her work to organize mothers to build a park for their children.
    I would love to be a mouse in your shirt pockets when you debate strategies and possibilities with one another in the Fellowship. I wish you were not so far away. Your thoughts and revelations give me hope.
    Ms. Cynthia

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and the work YOU are doing in Santa Ana. I will definitely search for the Bill Moyers piece and learn more about the community with whom you are working. It sounds like you are doing amazing work there. El Sistema USA hopes to create a network of people who can support each other in endeavors like yours, so I'm glad to hear my blog is reaching folks. I'll continue to document the work we are doing in the program as best I can. Thank you again for your comments. Lorrie

  3. I'm so glad you are having a good time. It sounds so exciting. You deserve it.
    Juneau is wet, foggy, drizzly and well....normal.
    Halloween carnival was nice. Take care and keep enjoying.
    fondly, destiny