a(nother) dream come true

7/29/2012 Sunday 4:53 pm

I think I’m most excited about the progress we’re making on the education front at ACGS.  Several years ago, as more and more teachers began using our online curriculum, we realized we would face a bottleneck when it came to training.  It’s one thing to try and support program here in Austin (we’ll be in more than 30 schools this coming fall), but it’s quite another when a teacher is in another state or another country.

We get calls and emails on a daily basis from all around the world seeking assistance with everything from starting for and advocating for new programs, to fundraising to, mostly, teaching assistance.  Each and every one of those calls we take as seriously as possible, and try to provide the best service we can.  Even so, a few years ago we realized that, with growth, it would be ultimately unsustainable.

So!  We started the process of developing an online training program that we first envisioned as a course that teachers could take, sort-of like defensive driving (but willingly, and hopefully more interesting).  It would be video-intensive with tutorials and benchmarks, testing, etc.  The first step was to write the training outline, then the script, and then we set about creating the video content itself.

Interestingly, we ultimately decided not to go with the full-on course approach.  After much thought we’ve decided to instead incorporate the video (and text) tutorials into the curriculum directly.  The plan is to create a tutorial library on everything from teaching values and general teaching assistance, to very specific level-by-level technical tutorials.  These would then not only live on the site in a library but, and this is the cool part, they would also be incorporated directly into each landing page of the music library.  This means that a teacher about to walk into a classroom to teach a certain piece, can get a quick tutorial on the piece he or she is about to walk in and teach!  It seemed like this would be far more useful, and used, than the stand-alone training model we began with.

What’s got me so excited is that two weeks ago the education team introduced me to the first batch of 45 training videos.  Since then we’ve made about 10 more to fill in some holes.  The web developers have just finished making the initial video repository and we’re starting to load up the tutorials.  I can’t believe it!   It’s really a(nother) dream come true.

In other ed news, my dear friend Matt Denman, dynamic leader of all great community ed guitar things in Oklahoma City, has decided that he is making work with us and GuitarCurriculum.com a core part of the syllabus requirements for all of his education majors at his university.  That means that we have eight talented undergraduate students that we’ll be directly engaged with, who will be learning all about the program and working actively to enhance it.

Tons of educators around the world are involved, but I just profiled some friends in Boston who used the curriculum to help them develop a youth workshop – here’s that story.

On the more immediate side of things, this Tuesday my dear friend – and phenomenal guitarist – Jorge Caballero comes back to Austin!  We’re reuniting him with the fabulous Miró Quartet at the Long Center for what will be a truly remarkable concert experience (info here).  I’ve also had some fun asking the five of them what their current favorite cocktails are.  I sent those over to Bill Norris, perhaps Austin’s most important bartender and Beverage Director for the Alamo Drafthouse, and he and his team are concocting his own amazing versions of the drinks for our patrons Saturday night (read the Alamo blog post on this).  It will be a phenomenal evening, and I hope it’s packed.  That will be the majority of my focus this week!

Yeah!

7/8/2012 Sunday 4:47 pm

The Brasil Guitar Duo was awesome Friday night.  Here’s a review with pics.  That concert was just two weeks after The Unknown silent movie and original film score extravaganza feast with live circus performers we put on with Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow and AMOA-Arthouse.  The artists were my dear, dear friends Randy Avers and Benoit Albert (AKA Les Freres Meduses) who wrote the score (150 pages!) and performed it with the fabulous Will FedkenheuerHere’s a wrap up of that event – complete with a link to a 2-minute video montage that the Alamo did about the whole schmear.

The night after the film deal, actually, Les Freres also played a house concert for us in the fabulous Commodore-Perry Estate.  We had about 80 at the house concert, 550 at the film deal, and 600 or so at the Brasil Duo concert.

And now.  There is just one event between today and September 6th (which begins a ridiculous schedule of total insanity for three months).  That one event?  The Miró Quartet with Jorge Caballero at the Long Center in Dell Hall on August 4th playing Mozart, Paganini, Bach and Castelnuovo-Tedesco with 3-time “best mixologist” of Austin, and current Alamo Drafhouse Beverage Director Bill Norris making 5 original cocktails – one for each of the performers!

But that isn’t the point.

The point is that for about two months, my schedule is incredibly, blessedly event-free.  I’m super excited.

What to do?  My new priorities have many faces.  Personally, I’ve been meditating a ton this whole year, and it’s paying off in unbelievable ways.  Ever since “Austin Pictures” last October I’ve been in a self-imposed introspection program.  I started it because I was trying to come up with an answer to the question: “what’s next?”

Funny enough, I never got an answer to that.  Though it would appear a few things have found me!  What I did get, was not so much of a “what”, but a “how”.  And that how included some really interesting revelations about my personal approach and mental state that I really wanted to, and still want to, improve upon.  That’s where the whole meditation thing entered (re-entered) my life.  It’s been amazing.  Happy to share more, but that’s probably best done in person.

On the concrete side – and this is going to sound like New Year’s Resolutions now – I’m exercising, practicing and writing much more.  And hope to keep it up.  There might even be a new book in the works.  We’ll see.  Coming up with the idea is the easy part!

At ACGS we’re as busy as ever, even without events.  This week’s board meeting will be a review and (I hope) adoption of our 12-13 proposed annual budget.  We just surpassed another really big financial milestone at end-of-June, and so the org continues to grow and carry with it all the challenges inherent in growth and change.  The main thing, however, is education.  We’ve got 8 amazing people working really hard on curriculum and training development as we speed toward another biggest-ever workload in the fall with over 30 local schools to support and over 300 curriculum users worldwide.  I’ve got the usual lofty goals for fundraising in order to keep the whole ship floating, and July-August will be the end of our 6-month Strategic Planning process out of which I hope to deliver a plan in September that’s involved a whole lot of voices in a wonderful way.

In personal news: Facebook has helped me connect with friends from childhood.  Very fun and kinda trippy!  Also, my grandfather turned an incredibly healthy and active 99 on June 21st.  He’s a man who is fond of cheddar cheese… and scotch.  Last month Glenda and I (in our Antonelli’s Cheese of the month club bag) got a delicious 10-year aged cheddar from Widmer in Wisconsin.  Happily, we were able to order it direct and have it shipped to grandpa for his big day.  I am diligently drinking scotch in his honor.  We’re all looking forward to the big party next June!  At home, Glenda has pulled out that green thumb and is making our place really shine.  Mornings in the back have been simply spectacular, but then again, so is every day that I’m lucky enough to be married to her!