April 21, 2015

I stumbled across a TED talk that got me thinking about how much we need to do in regards to learning and teaching opportunities.  I had considered Steiner/Waldorf models of outdoor gardens and outdoor teaching, but hadn’t given thought to the shape, size and design of schools.  This kindergarden school in Japan bursts the four-wall model we have all become familiar with.  It nurtures activity, fitness, community, nature, play and fun!  A circular environment brings children back to learning and follows their “play activities” running in circles.  Tree climbing and exploration are also natural to children and can be found throughout this amazing facility.  The designer makes the case for children taking risks, falling down and hurting themselves as a natural and good phenomenon!

March 28, 2015

Last weekend, The Aeolian and The Ontario Registered Music Teachers Assocation ran a weekend of concerts and pedagogy presentations.  André Laplante and Sara Davis Buechner gave stunning performances with a vast array of repertoire.  The presentations focused on bringing back an “authentic” focus for music making in a community context.  André spoke about his early studies and the horrors of his early experiences with teachers trying to live vicariously through him.  I gave a presentation on Emotional Intelligence and building a conscious focus of teaching “EQ” to our students.  D&S Pianos presented the latest technology of “hybrid pianos” which are transforming the ability to practise creatively and do so in apartments and condos.  Joel Faflak from the “Advanced Studies in Arts and Humanities” from Western University talked about fear, failure and making space for the creative process.  He asked the question “Are we too busy doing and not taking enough time to waste time and get ready to create?”.  Sara gave practical presentation on piano technique where she focused on methods from the past.  We concluded with a stunning presentation by David Visentin from El Sistema Toronto.  He asked the question “Are we living up to the promise of social outcomes in our teaching?”.

Although there were thematic links to many of the presentations, there were also contridictory ideas.  I was happy with this!  It is in this tension of contradictions that we become creative!

March 16, 2015

We are now beginning to connect with higher purpose, looking for “happiness” or “wellbeing”. Seligman defines wellbeing as embracing the following five footprints:

  1. Positive Emotions
  2. Engagement with life
  3. Relationships; positive ones
  4. Meaning; a sense of purpose or beliefs
  5. Accomplishment: we feel good when we accomplish something

With this new emerging awareness of “who” we are, the types of jobs and education systems we have had don’t make sense. They aren’t valid or relevant anymore. Perhaps one could say that their validity is fading away. There are still some jobs which require “widget making” or clerical “pencil pushing”, but these are diminishing. Along with these diminishing jobs are their false sense of security and predictability. After all, there has never been anything secure in life except the knowledge that there is going to be an exit point!

March 10, 2013

“I won’t come if you have cabaret-style seating”.  How many times have I hear this from professors and others entrenched in the formalities of the classical music culture.  At Aeolian Hall, we’ve tried to make changes in how people engage with classical music.  Cabaret-style seating, food and drinks at your seat and more interaction with the performers throughout the program are offered to give a less “formalized” atmosphere.  Socialization is encouraged at intermission and after the concert to discuss the performance or whatever else brings joy to meeting in community.   We’ve even run a “Classical-Jazz” series where classical music is paired with jazz-not fused. These changes are met by enthusiam by most, but there is still a group of people who cling to tradition.  In my opinion, these are the same people who are preventing new audiences from engaging in classical music.  Many of these people believe that we must keep a “wall” up between classical music and other forms.  They fear that classical music will get “contaminated” if we don’t keep this wall up.  The greatest musicians I have met believe otherwise.

Every day I contemplate the revolution which needs to happen in our society.  At the foundation of this revolution is a completely different education system, one based on Seligman’s PERMA:

Positive Emotions

These five pillars nuture “well-being” in all of us.  If we can find ways in whatever we teach to implement this PERMA foundation, we will have the kind of citizen we need to change the world.  Why change the world?  Well, it’s getting warmer….

Please read Seligman’s “Flouish” and see if you can find ways to build well-being in your own life and those around you.  Advocate for the change in education we need to ‘save this world”.

February 23, 2015

Emotional Intelligence is one of many human capacities we can train and develop.  Researchers are discovering that high Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has a profound effect on business success, employee satisfaction, income levels and helps the individual flouish in life.

Can we find ways to incorporate the training of emotional intelligence in our teaching and learning.  What about leadership?  Here’s an example related to music:

Music students often have to practise technique (scales, chords etc).  What if we introduced emotional states (known or unknown to the participant) and got them to play that scale “angry” or “red”?  What about “blue” or “sad”?  Can we introduce more vocabulary for emotional states (high, medium and low states) such as “elated” or melancholy to young people?  Increasing the understanding of the states and the vocabulary can help us improve both internal EQ and better read external EQ.

Let’s all think about the many and varied ways we can learn more about EQ and nurture and develop it within ourselves and others.  Let’s proactively add EQ education into the many daily activities we do and the learning environments we have.  The end result will be a a citizen equiped for our rapidly changing world and one who can enjoy all of the subtlties of self-development and community interaction.

February 15, 2015

The Leadingnote Foundation in Ottawa hosted a “Symposium on Instrumental Change” which centred around the El Sistema movement.  Keynote speakers included Simon Brault, Director and CEO Canada Council for the Arts and Richard Hallam, Chair of the music Education Council, England.  I was asked to co-present “The Fundraising Challenge” with Ken MacLeod, President & CEO, New Brunswick Youth Orchestra.  I also gave a talk about Emotional Intelligence.  It was an incredibly inspiring two days.  Highlights included meeting colleagues from Europe and North America and chatting about our ideals to change the world.  My colleague Minerva Figueroa and I are committed to assessing and implementing the best ideas we heard.  We are also going to reconsider many of the strategies we have in place.  Peer Leadership strategies presented by Marcus Patterson from Sistema Norwich was particularly telling.  Jeannie Hunter also gave an inspiring interactive presentation about browing creativity and engagement in the music class.

The power and potential of harnessing the energy of these like-minded people is astonishing!  The willingness to share ideas and build together is a great example of the world change we need.

January 5, 2015

I’m excited about returning to my work at the Aeolian.  It’s been about a month since my partner Bryan and I left the country to visit Australia and New Zealand.  We are two of the fortunate few who get to travel frequently, se other parts of the world and bring home these experiences.  One of the experiences which has left a strong impression is the tour of the Sidney Opera House.  More astonishing than the beauty and miracle of this UNESCO Heritage Site is the story of its construction.  It was suppossed to take 3 years and took 14.  It was suppossed to cost six million Australian dollars and cost one hundred and thirteen million Australian dollars.  How did they keep this project going when public opinion was against it?  This is something I am going to explore with more research.  It is a place of great pride with Australians today but was scorned during its development by a majority of the general public.  What can this story teach us?

January 4, 2015

A book I read recently is having a profound influence on the way I am deciding to map out my future.  The title is “Become a Key Person of Influence” by Daniel Priestley.  I believe that everyone should give this a read and think about how much our world has changed and how we need to also change.  Developing a “niche” entrepreneurial approach to our career pathways is the only way to be noticed in our world.  Daniel’s five steps are as follows:  1.  Pitch  2.  Publish   3.  Product   4.  Profile   5.  Partnership.

Have a look at his site:  www.keypersonofinfluence.com.au

November 11, 2014

It is a day to reflect on how lucky I am to live in this amazing country.  I have been really fortunate to have been given a great start in life.  I had all the lessons and two very caring parents who believed education was of primary importance in terms of setting up the possibilities of a meaningful and rich life.  I am committed to making sure our young participants in the El Sistema Aeolian Program also get the greatest access to education and the investment and nuturing of their full potential.