Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Chamber Music America Findings

The Chamber Music America conference was last week, January 11-14 in New York, NY. I went to several fabulous sessions. Here are two nuggets - findings if you will - from the conference.

When Ronald Crutcher from Wheaton College had to pull out last minute, I thought the "Leadership: Leading by Example" seminar might end up being a dud. Quite the contrary. The staff at Chamber Music America got Philip Coltoff to come in who has just finished a book titled, The Challenge of Change: Leadership Strategies for not-for-profit executives and boards. With over thirty years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Mr. Coltoff provided a wonderful seminar that dealt with the nuts and bolts of moving an organization forward. I bought the book and will bring it to the next board meeting. As Roxanne Spillett, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America says, "every not-for-profit executive director in the country needs to read this book. It's an indispensable guide to the complex art of leadership by a true expert in the field."

One of the ensembles honored at this year's conference was the Kronos Quartet. There was an hour and a half dedicated to a conversation with them conducted by the artistic director to Carnegie Hall, Ara Guzelimian. I came away realizing that every group has to start somewhere and that somewhere is usually close to the bottom of the "proverbial totem pole." The humble beginnings of Kronos (playing restaurants where no one listened; performing in prisons; partnering with colleges that had very different ideas of what is acceptable) gave me and others in the room the sense that going after what is important and meaningful to you is the way to go. They were articulate musicians with passionate perspectives on the world. As individuals and as an ensemble, they are trying - in their small way - to make the world a better place; a more tolerant one. While much of their music doesn't jive with me, I gained a huge amount of respect for the courage and tenacity they have shown to do what they wanted rather than play to the pundits.

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