Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Residency Part II: Ser Y No Ser

I truly understand what this means after my one week immersion with SDYS, especially thanks to conversations with Dalouge and Juan Palacios. For those of you who don't speak Spanish, the literal translation is being and not being, meaning always willing to adapt and change based off of what one continually seeks to learn and the sense of a constant inquiry. ES seems more and more perfect for me everyday ;p It is to this mentality and a constant sense of learning from others and then willing to adapt, change, and rethink a project that Dalouge claims has been his best resource and in turn, which palpates a constant sense of communication and understanding around the organization (and IMHO consequently what won them the 2012 Prudential Leadership award out of countless US nonprofits!!).

Erik said something at our first session this year about not putting stakes in the ground and I have now spent two posts on defining El Sistema, or attempting. This one is to update that and put a stake in a new ground: it really doesn't matter, and it truly is about meeting the needs of the community and following the organization's mission. SDYS could not be a better example of this as they strive to see how they are going to evoke "social change" in their already existing organization of 67 years and wanting to truly represent the demographics of San Diego. In doing this, Opus is molded.

Juan Palacios, a conductor of SDYS and a former nucleo leader of the infamous ES student that plays in the Berlin Philharmonic, made me also see ES leadership in a new light. His nucleo was incredibly unique in that it required the students to not only study in the typical orchestral setting, but also in a chamber music setting, and a conservatory setting-a bit more similar to a US university student. He didn't want to just develop musicians who could play, but could understand the music through its history, composition, and structure (theory). He also was the only nucleo that let the students not necessarily pursue music, but rather pursue the art of music at the highest level he/she could, and bring that excellence to whatever else he/she may do in life. As a result, only 1/3-1/2 of his students pursued music; however every single one that did, now plays in a professional orchestra and won a scholarship to study abroad. Dr. Abreu respects him and he respects Dr. Abreu; they are going about the same mission in a different way. He also told me about the incessant work ethic of Dr. Abreu's mind, calling him at 4:45 am asking him about measure 447 and him having to explain he slept until 6 am to which Dr. Abreu responded, "okay, I'll call you then." This is only one example of how this model cannot literally be transplanted here and needs to be adapted; I think we all recognize that. Rehearsals there can last 4-16 hour rehearsals, seven days a week. He claims the only place Sistema as it is, (ser) will permanently succeed is Venezuela due to this work ethic and exceptionally intelligent leader that is Dr. Abreu that cannot be replaced elsewhere.

Opus' model is very unique, bringing the music back into the schools, instead of having one central nucleo or the franchise model. Dalouge makes a good point: "What place is more accessible to children, has more resources, and IS the nucleo of children than their schools? All I'm doing is redirecting the allocation of resources." Would love to invite comments.

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