Happy Birthday Long Center

3/29/2010 Monday 9:40 pm

Matt-n-Glenda at the Long Center

Glenda and I had a blast Saturday night the the Long Center!  It was the second birthday celebration – Hall and Oates performed (who wouldn’t love that?) and afterward the Long Center (and generous sponsors) provided five stations of free food, booze and five different bands until about midnight.  It was a tremendous evening, kudos to our friends at the LC for putting it all together.  I left thoroughly inspired to be sure our fabulous international festival in June measures up!  The bar is set high.

Art and Community – KMFA 89.5

3/29/2010 Monday 9:32 pm

I spent 2 hours live on the radio today, with radio host Dianne Donovan, pitching for the spring fund drive for Austin’s classical music radio station KMFA 89.5.  It was a total blast!  For the last few years I’ve come on the radio during fund drive time, often my role has been to represent the Austin Classical Guitar Society, and to stay on the air for a “break” or two (a “break” is the time when people are talking – between pieces of music), so that I can encourage people to give while presiding over some kind of ticket donation (so that folks at a certain level of donation can be eligible to get the tickets).  This has always been something I’ve enjoyed.  In fact, when the station was being managed by Jack Allen (he was great, but since his departure, his fabulous replacement, Joan Kobayashi has taken over), he approached me after I did my stint and actually asked if I would consider doing some “swing announcing” for KMFA.  I told I’d be delighted – the idea was that I might fill in from time to time when the regular announcers were sick or taking a vacation.  I did a number of sessions and actually had a lot of fun (when else do I get to sit and do nothing but listen to great music for four hours?) but ultimately finding 4-hour blocks of time became so difficult that we stopped trying!

The point is, I really enjoy being on the air.  So it was with great enthusiasm that I accepted the invitation from Joan, last week, to come on the air today not for two breaks but, instead, for two hours, to help with the fund drive!  And this brings me to the point of today’s post: Art and Community.

I suppose there’s no coincidence that this post title is also the title of my new book manuscript on nonprof management!  “Art and Community” is what its all about.  On the air today we talked about connections.  We talked about middle school and high school education programs in the arts and we got calls from parents, we got calls from people in surrounding areas, and the more we got them, the more we talked about surrounding areas – and the more calls came in.  I challenged friends of mine, folks interested in classical guitar, folks interested in dance, in our new performing arts center, in small arts organizations in general, etc.  KMFA is the radio station at the center of so much of this arts activity, and our job was to stay on the air making connections with peoples’ interests be they personal, artistic or geographic!

I think many “responsible adults” have difficulty understanding the role of the arts in our communities.  I think this is one of the chief reasons why folks tend to believe that the arts are a relatively unstable professional course to take.  Its not like police officers, or firemen, or architects, or teachers, or doctors, where we can easily quantify their societal contribution and imagine why people will pay for it.  The arts are ephemeral, and they enhance our spirit, or soul, or mood, or just give us something to apply ourselves to, or give us something to express ourselves with, or give us a way to connect with others, or give us a way to understand other cultures, or give us a window and connection to history… Wait a minute – that’s starting to sound like a lot of stuff!

The truth is that there are vast, vast applications for arts in our communities.  There are many ways to connect people of all ages with art in meaningful ways.  If its classes for seniors, classes for kids, lessons, performances, guest artists, exhibits, amateur performance and rehearsal opportunities, you name it!

So our task on the radio today was to make explicit the importance of the arts to the folks listening, and therefore the importance of the radio station at the center of the arts scene here in Austin.  And this brings me to my conclusion:

In my experience, it appears to be arts organizations (not artists, teachers, universities or anything else) that are the key ingredient in connecting communities with art.  The organizations are the ones dreaming up the visions for community engagement and raising the money to support it.  We have no shortage of artists, and we have no shortage of places in our communities in need of art, what we need are more, or better, arts organizations, to make the connections, and keep our communities recognizing the value of the arts, paying for them, and thereby supporting the artists.

Back in Action

3/24/2010 Wednesday 9:30 pm

Glenda and I enjoyed a marvelous spring break last week.  We spent one relaxing night with our friends Mike and Linda on Lake Travis, we cooked Veggie Korma with Manjula on You Tube (I highly recommend cooking with Manjula), we made a vegan meal for our friends Gordon and Charmaine, and generally enjoyed our home, each other, and our wonderful city.

I don’t sit still very well, so there was work – to be sure – but it was at my own pace.  The biggest news is that I completed a draft of the Strategic Plan I’ve been guiding Texas Choral Consort on.  Its a process we began in October: prelim meetings, a board retreat, a series of constituent surveys, and now the draft and approval process.  I’m extremely pleased with how its turned out and I’ve gotten great feedback from the team.  One of the critical things that we’ve heard, that might be of interest to someone who has not done strategic planing before, or who is considering doing it, is how much people appreciate being asked what they think.  People have been really pleased to be included in the planning process – even the groups we talked to who are former participants, were delighted to be asked for their input.

I also made some headway in my research, preparation and broadcast of my book proposal to prospective literary agents.  This is the book I wrote last year called “Art and Community: How to Build Nonprofit Arts Organizations.”  Speaking of books, though, my children’s guitar book sold 14 copies to the Cosgrove Guitar Studio today!  Here’s a video Matt Cosgrove made last fall of his young daughter playing an early duet (Nocturne) from the book on you tube!  Matt does fantastic work.

And while I’m on videos, I was tickled to see this video of a group of university students performing Waverunner, also from the book, last fall as well.  They are under the direction of Sabine Madriguerra who is a terrific and dedicated educator north of us here in Texas at Collin County Community College.

So, we’re just under 3 months away from our giant international music festival.  Its nuts and bolts time.  This week April and I have been busy assigning volunteers to tasks, defining what those tasks are, taking a hard look at logistics and going over end-game PR strategies. In short, we’re firing on all cylinders!  We’re looking at everything from dates to play for kids at the Austin Children’s Museum in June to promote the festival kids’ show, to hanging banners and planning a manned welcome kiosk at the airport for travelers.  We are planning five huge receptions, countless other events.  The GFA just shipped the first draft of the 104 page program guide for the convention for proofing (Kim Kanoy is their graphics person, and she’s fabulous to work with).  I’m thrilled to announce that our youthfest, which suffered from some sluggish early registration, is up well beyond 150 kids now.  So they, along with parents and chaperones, will be present Tuesday through Thursday of festival week.  It seems as though everything is coming together!

Plenty of News

3/12/2010 Friday 5:45 pm

Today was a race to the finish line indeed.  I think the excitement packed into today was a result, at least in part, of being out sick from Monday through Wednesday of this week, combined with the fact that we’ve decided to take spring break (next week) very seriously this year!  I have a full morning and early afternoon of teaching tomorrow, a special event tomorrow night, and then, apart from one lesson scheduled Sunday afternoon, I am checking out of the usual business obligations for a full week.

Today began on the tennis court at 7:15.  On the way home from tennis, I typically stop by Taco Deli on Spy Glass on the way home on Fridays to grab breakfast tacos for Glenda and I.  Today I had scheduled a meeting with William Gold, co-programming manager for the Alamo Drafthouse’s Dionysium (“get your THINK on”), for 9am at Taco Deli.  How convenient!  So after great tennis (Austin’s spring arrived this week bringing beautiful blue skies and great tennis weather!) I met up with William for breakfast tacos.  As an aside, breakfast tacos in Austin are getting big press this week, including a New York Times article on the subject that my dad emailed me.

William works with Dionysium at the Alamo which is a monthly variety show consisting of a debate, a presentation, live music, and maybe something else – or some combination of those things.  I had mistakenly assumed that we got connected because of our relationship with the Alamo and Master Pancake Theater developed for our giant international festival in June.  It turns out, however, that William has a 14 year daughter at one of the High Schools where our educational outreach program operates and one day, when he was visiting the school, he bumped into Travis Marcum, our director of education, and he became intrigued by the guitar playing that travis was directing.  So he quizzed Travis a bit about the program, learned about ACGS and our big festival, and that’s when he called to see if we might consider getting involved as musical guests on the variety show!

So, to cut to the chase, on Wednesday, May 5th, I’ll be the musical guest at Alamo South for Dionysium!  I’ll play, maybe rope another player in playing with me, and I’ll get to say a few words about ACGS, our festival, and, of course, the Alamo’s involvement!

I should also mention that, while we were having breakfast, Eric Wilkerson – co-owner of Taco Deli – happened to walk by.  I’ve been working with Eric to get Taco Deli involved  in lunch for our convention goers (we’re going to have mobile food vendors pull into the Long Center traffic circle to bring some of culinary Austin to our festival goers for lunch each day).  It was great to see Eric, and I got to introduce him to William.

After a quick trip home to clean up and answer something like 57 emails that had arrived overnight and that morning (alright, it wasn’t as quick a trip as I was hoping it would be – more like a mad fit of constant typing for an hour) it was back on the road to deliver prepared TV spots to our two TV media sponsors: KLRU and News 8 Austin.  At KLRU I met with development ace Chris Collins who gave me the big news of the day: KLRU has secured the funding to go ahead with our plans to make a 1 hour “In Context” documentary feature surrounding our international festival this summer!  I’m absolutely thrilled.

Then I shot down to the Long Center to deliver 3,000 festival brochures that the Austin Symphony Orchestra is stuffing into tonight’s and tomorrow’s programs!  Hooray.  Glenda and I are actually going to the symphony tonight.  Douglas Harvey is the cello soloist tonight – he’s amazing.

Back at the office April and I, along with our Friday (and any critical time we need him) volunteer Lloyd Pond put together the elements we need for tomorrow’s special event.  It will be a concert and reception at the lovely west Austin (Rob Roy) home of Lynn and Wayne Morgan featuring Adam Holzman – my mentor from UT!  Thales will also play a few tunes to start us off and I’ll do my usual routine of talking about ACGS and the upcoming festival.

Lot’s more is happening, but I can’t report news until its finalized!  Some great media contact is going on right now, though, which is just what we want in the last three months of our prep for the fest.  I completed an interview and submitted photos for an Austin area magazine this week for their May-June issue, among other things.

…so, now it’s off to the symphony, one more day of activity, and then we’ll buzz out to our friends who have a lovely home on Lake Travis and have drinks on the deck by Sunday before sundown.  No firm plans to come back just yet…

New Texas Young Master

3/9/2010 Tuesday 10:39 am

I’m extremely proud to announce that Vincent Turner, a 16 year old student of mine, has just become a Texas Young Master.  The Texas Young Masters Awards are given as a collaboration between the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Texas Cultural Trust and they award students in the arts who are in high school, up to $2500 every summer for three summers to advance their artistic study through travel, registration and equipment purchases.  The competition is very stiff and the awards are given to students throughout Texas in all disciplines: sculptors, dancers, musicians of different genres, etc.  The competition takes place every two years.  I’m extremely proud of Vincent, who has been working very hard and is a truly extraordinary talent.  Vincent has twice been in the international finals of the Youth Division of the Guitar Foundation of America competition and will be going out for it again in June.

I should say that two years ago I had another student win a Texas Young masters award: Thales Smith.  Its been a tremendous prize for him that he has really taken advantage of.  Not only has the money been helpful, he has also had chances to meet some really neat people and perform for great audiences in the course of the award.  While we’re at it, Thales won the GFA youth division in 2006, was on From the Top and, most recently, won the juniors of the American String Teachers Association National Competition, Guitar Division!

Its an amazing gift to work with such talented young people.  Congratulations to Vincent and family!