Tuesday 4 January 2011

Education, Innovation, Talents: Conference in Beijing. Part Two

Resumé from Part One
The High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China arranged a conference in Beijing as part of the school’s 60th Anniversary celebrations under the title: Education, Innovation, Talents: Common Focus in a Multinational Context.  The international forum, held  at the Beijing Friendship Palace conference centre in August 2010, was attended by 200 teachers from the school, 250 principals from Beijing, Shanghai and numerous provincial towns and cities, and 50 speakers from Asian and Western schools and universities. I was honoured to be invited to speak at the conference on the theme: Promoting Intercultural Dialogue through Performing Arts.

Vice Principal Zhai Xiaoning introduced the dignitaries, who included senior members of the Chinese Ministry of Education and other government figures, and leading figures of the city of Beijing. 
Photo: the platform party for the opening session, including senior figures in education  from the city of Beijing and the national government.

There were  numerous excellent  presentations by Western and Asian principals, and  I  hope the speakers will forgive these  briefest of summaries. I would highlight the following:
The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology, Washington DC., the first high school in USA to send a satellite into space, where students and parents built and installed a solar power system on the school roof and students are encouraged to take up research projects which local companies have passed on when they do not have the resources to continue their development.  Students carry out supervised science experiments in the environment off site and are allowed 15% of their week on individual projects: http://www.tjhsst.edu/
Daewon Middle School, Korea, where students spend up to 5 hours each evening in the study hall doing private study and where a record number of students achieved 100% scores in last year’s College Board SAT tests:  http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3933648923000670711#
Raffles Institution in Singapore, whose Principal spoke eloquently of the need to develop the whole person and to train students to approach the world with a global vision. The school has  an experiential learning camp on its own out of town premises and has implemented  a dedicated Leadership Training course built into the curriculum:   http://www.ri.edu.sg/ & http://www.ri.edu.sg/main/rafflesprog/studentdev
Trinity Grammar School in Sydney, Australia, which has its own activity centre in the outback where all Year 9 students spend a month without contact with home:  http://www.trinity.nsw.edu.au/
Punahou School in Hawai, whose most famous alumni is President Barrack Obama, where IT partners include Apple, IBM, Cisco Systems and Stanford University:  http://www.punahou.edu/
Shanghai Experimental School, where every lesson is filmed by permanently mounted cameras in all classrooms and all teachers are encouraged to complete on-line lesson observation forms anonymously. 500,000 observations have been generated on the school intranet. The school  aims to provide “Individualised teaching in accordance with students’ aptitude and to free up children’s instincts”:  http://www.pudong-edu.sh.cn/Web/PD/45196.htm

Photo: slides from the Shanghai school Principal's presentation.

Georgetown Day School, Washington DC, was founded as a racially  integrated school in 1945, and curently students from socially less privileged neighbourhoods are given scholarships to achieve a constant racial mix: http://www.gds.org/
Hana Academy in South Korea, a new school funded by the Hana Financial Group, which has excellent facilities and a growing intake with a multi-language focus:  http://eng.hana.hs.kr/
Mahidol Wittayanusorn School in Thailand, where, in addition to all other curriculum requirements, students are expect to read and comment on 50 books per year:  http://www.yishunjc.moe.edu.sg/
La Salle College in Hong Kong, a private Roman Catholic school with a particular emphasis on community service and social action:  http://stu.lasalle.edu.hk/
 Photo: the Principals of the La Salle College, Hong kong and  & Li Jing, organizing committee  leader, with this writer.

Ferdinand Porsche Gymnasium, Stuttgart, Germany, an inner city school which has a multi-cultural student body, has long standing arrangements for work experience with engineering companies including Porsche. In Germany, it is a requirement of government inspections to show evidence of partnerships with outside organisations, companies or institutions:  www.fpgz.de
Phillips Exeter Academy, USA, which follows the Harkness Discovery Teaching method and has an average class size of 12: http://www.exeter.edu/
Ressu Upper School, Finland, in common with all schools in the country, enjoys maximum autonomy in curriculum planning, and where student voice is involved in all major decisions in the school life. Ressu is an IB school.
Public school board of the district of Tarrytowns, USA, is working with the City University of New York Education department to improve teaching and learning in maths. Tarrytown is famous as the setting for the well known story Sleepy Hollow.
My first contact with the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China was at a conference in London when I met Vice Principal Zhai Xiaoning. It was clear from his description and from watching his dvd of the school’s achievements that this was an exceptional school in every way.
I am pleased to have been able to play a part in arranging for students  from the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China to visit Spain each year since 2008, and I was happy to accompany a group of Spanish students to Beijing when they were hosted by Renmin school families in November 2008.
I would like to repeat my thanks to Madame Liu for her invitation to attend the conference, and congratulate her and the planning committee for their impeccable organisation.
May the school enjoy equal success, and more, during the coming 60 years.

Monday 3 January 2011

Education, Innovation, Talents: Conference in Beijing. Part One

The High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China arranged a conference in Beijing as part of the school’s 60th Anniversary celebrations under the title: Education, Innovation, Talents: Common Focus in a Multinational Context.  The international forum, held  at the Beijing Friendship Palace conference centre in August 2010, was attended by 200 teachers from the school, 250 principals from Beijing, Shanghai and numerous provincial towns and cities, and 50 speakers from Asian and Western schools and universities. I was honoured to be invited to speak at the conference on the theme: Promoting Intercultural Dialogue through Performing Arts.
The High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China is recognized as one of the leading schools in Asia. There are 4,000 students who are citizens of the People’s Republic of China, and approximately 200 short term international students. The school’s renowned Principal, Madame Liu Pengzhi, was recently inducted into the Chinese State Council: she is one of Asia’s leading experts in education and has been responsible in large part for the design and implementation of curriculum reform in China during the last ten years.

I would like to offer my congratulations to Madame Liu both for what has been achieved at this school during her time as Principal, and for this excellent conference. In every way it was yet another example of the levels of excellence we have all come to expect of the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China.
The opening ceremony was held at the Renmin University, with technical support and star presenters  provided by the China state television company. Senior members of the Chinese Ministry of Education and dignitaries of the city of Beijing were among the guests.
After a series of speeches there were outstanding performances in music, football, dance and martial arts.

There were moving speeches by teachers and workers from all areas of school life and from parents. Among the most inspiring speakers were a group of China’s team of astronauts. Senior students spoke fluently in various languages, including English, French, Spanish, German and Russian, and school leavers on the point of taking up places at Harvard and other leading Western universities spoke of their gratitude to their teachers and parents.
The High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China encourages its students to play a full part in social action projects, so it was fitting that the event finished with a presentation of students with limited means from outlying provinces who have been financially supported to study at High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China, and they were joined by their families in a moving celebration of achievement made possible by the school’s generosity. www.rdfz.cn

The Forum proper, under the title Education, Innovation, Talents: Common Focus in a Multinational Context, began the day after the opening ceremony.  After a welcome, Vice Principal Zhai Xiaoning introduced the dignitaries, who included senior members of the Chinese Ministry of Education and other government figures, and leading figures of the city of Beijing.
In her keynote address, Madame Liu spoke of the need to provide an education directed to the needs of individual students and to developing creativity and innovation. Madame Liu’s philosophy is that a one-size-fits-all education is not sufficient to meet the needs of today’s society. She insisted that as well as an academic curriculum of the highest standards, a school should develop the whole person and be attentive to special needs of individual students. Among her examples was a student who excelled in miniature sculptures: this young man was given special tuition by artists and encouraged to develop his skills, so much so that he later exhibited and was awarded national prizes recognizing his achievements.
Madame Liu  summed up by insisting that a good education is one which is good for the student, which helps the students make a contribution to society and which thereby makes a contribution to mankind. Love is at the heart of education: the natural flow of feelings enables students to respect those around them and leads to more creativity. This is at the heart of the medium to long term plan for education to which she has made a significant  contribution, and which the Chinese government has recently published. She closed by saying, “Our future depends on nurturing innovation and creativity”.   
Dr Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College, spoke on The New Role of Positive Psychology in Raising Pupil & School Achievement. He drew on the work of Martin Seeligman and the Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar, whose lectures on Happiness recently caused a furor and became the classes with the highest attendance record on the campus. He summarized by saying that education tends to focus narrowly on the logical and linguistic areas of intelligence, whereas we should be broadening our focus to include the other areas of intelligence identified by Howard  Gardener, among others.  http://www.wellingtoncollege.org.uk/
Dr. Seldon referred to the need for us to teach our students to be positive about life and society, to teach them to avoid the cynicism which is becoming so prevalent in the young, to understand the workings of local and regional governments, among others, so that they appreciate the positive achievements of these institutions. Through this understanding of the world around them, we give our students, in Dr Seldon’s  words, “Reasons to be grateful”.
Professor Fernando Reimers, the Ford Foundation Professor of International Education and Director of International Education at Harvard University, spoke on the Role of Education in Developing Global Competency.
Here is a brief summary of his presentation, in which he explained his view of Global Competencies which are necessary for all students:
A positive disposition towards cultural differences;
An ability to speak and to understand various languages;
A deep knowledge of world history and geography and the ability to think creatively based on this knowledge, together with a knowledge and understanding of global institutions.
Professor Reimers warned against the attitude which attempts to provide students with Global Competency by simply arranging a one-off international day per year: global issues need to be an integral part of students’ academic and social experience throughout their years in school. http://www.gse.harvard.edu/faculty_research/profiles/profile.shtml?vperson_id=252
 More to follow...

Sunday 2 January 2011

Social inclusion in Music Education

Quality at the heart of Spain's national conference on Social Inclusion in Music Education
Maybe it was the sheer number of green-shirted children on the Philharmonic Hall stage; perhaps it was their correct posture and the well-rounded arm movements which helped them make sense of the bars' rest; or was it the RLPO players' commitment, with a little help on open strings from Julian Lloyd Webber at the back of the cello section? In the end it was the overall musical quality in the video of the Liverpool In Harmony project performance which transformed the graveyard slot at the end of a long day conference into the day's crowning moment, perfectly summing up the message which one speaker after another had argued: that an experience of social inclusion in music education is no longer, if it ever was, a matter of being a passive recipient of therapy, but rather an active participant in a well-defined process which is driven towards a product of recognisable quality.
Spain's second national conference on Social Inclusion in Music Education was organised by Nicolas Jackson, Arts officer at the British Council's Madrid office, with the Ministry of Culture and the Dutch Embassy. Speakers included Richard Hallam and Peter Garden (RLPO) from the United Kingdom, and specialists from Spain and Holland, and approximately 200 sector professionals attended from around the country.
The conference was opened by Spain's most senior arts administrator, D. Félix Palomero, Director General of the Ministry of Culture's Instituto Nacional de las Artes Escenicas y de la Música. In his opening remarks, the DG stressed the important role of the arts in progress and social integration, the need to establish and maintain structures which are sustainable and free of political considerations, and the importance of achieving results rather than just filling in forms. It was D. Félix who instituted an innovative education programme at the national orchestra (OCNE) when his tenure as chief administrator there coincided with the arrival of Josep Pons as Principal Conductor and Musical Director, forming the basis of a sustained quality education programme. http://ocne.mcu.es/
Rod Pryde, British Council Director, Spain, explained how this conference is part of the Council's continued work to connect the United Kingdom with the rest of the world, and that it follows on from last year's event in Madrid which took a wider look at social inclusion in the arts, and from a recent conference on the same theme in Barcelona.http://www.britishcouncil.org/es/spain.htm
Jorge Fernández Guerra, Director of the Centro para la difusión de la música contemporánea was host for the day, as the conference facilities are part of the concert hall development built for the CDMC in the extension of the Reina Sofía art gallery. In his introduction he remarked that the expression music for all is widely used and there is a need to define who is included in this concept of all; he went on to talk about the vital part music can play in progress towards equality.http://cdmc.mcu.es/en/cdmc/
Richard Hallam, National Music Participation Director, was the first speaker. After a look back to a photo from 1895 showing hundreds of children taking part in music in a school hall, he summarised his presentation in three words: Quantity, Quality and Vision. He described the work of the three main actions in England: the inclusion of music as an obligatory subject in the National Curriculum; the Wider Opportunities initiative which is funded up to 82 million pounds per year, and the Sing Up! campaign, with funding up to 40 millions. For the Spanish listeners, the most striking part was certainly the explanation of the class teaching of instruments through Wider Opportunities, which was supported by a video excerpt. Over coffee my Spanish colleagues were interested to know whether classroom teachers were paid extra for participating, whether the teachers felt embarrassed at being beginners alongside their pupils, and how much other class teachers complained about the noise. There is considerable interest in hearing more about the Wider Opportunities provision.
In response to questions about how to win political support, Richard Hallam insisted that it is essential to demand high quality from providers and to provide evidence of high quality outcomes to funding bodies, and he cited recent research by Dean Susan Hallam and Professor Ann Bamford. He also made it clear that the timing of the end of Year of Music is geared to coincide with the expected arrival of a new government after the general election. This up-front campaigning spirit was unexpected in a Spanish context.
Richard Hallam finished by returning to the issue of quality: firstly, how studies have shown that poor quality provision is not better than nothing, it is actually worse that nothing, and secondly, the ongoing debate as to how to define what is good enough. www.dcsf.gov.uk/tunein
Janneke van der Wijk is Director of the Muziek Centrum Nederland, which was established to promote live music in all styles, to be a provider of information and documentation, and to attempt national synchronisation (her expression) in music education. Four areas of work in social inclusion in the Netherlands were covered in her presentation: the national orchestra's NedPhoGo! outreach programme, the Leerorkest, a Rotterdam cooperative venture, and music with deaf youth.
"A modern symphony orchestra wants to reach out, it is not just a duty", is a quote from one of the Netherland Philharmonic players, and they are seen at work in hospitals, schools and prisons. A video clip was shown of a string quartet performing to an audience at a Turkish cultural centre.
The Leerorkest is a training orchestra started in an area of social deprivation in south east Amsterdam in 2005, and which now has 600 young members. A video clip was shown with their parents' rapturous response.
In Rotterdam, the local symphony orchestra is cooperating with the city council and the conservatoire to develop their youth music participation.
Finally, a video clip was shown of provision for deaf youth, with extra loud dance music and specially prepared moving floors to allow the participants to feel the music.
The speaker explained that education in Holland is devolved to local government; there is no national curriculum and content is demand led. Every school receives a voucher of €20 per student to spend on music, but there is no prescription as to how it should be spent. As a national coordinator, Janneke van der Wijk is responsible for supervising the implementation of actions, but decisions are made locally. In the end, her criteria for accepting projects is not the musical style involved or even the project design, but the quality of the proposal and the quality of the final product seen over time.
Holland is modelling a campaign to gain extra support for music education based on the Music Manifesto with three strands: Music for every child, Sing Up and An instrument for every child. http://www.muziekcentrumnederland.nl/en/
Gloria Cid is in charge of the Departamento de actividades culturales de impacto social of the La Caixa bank's foundation. According to the bank's own figures, La Caixa is Spain's third largest banking group, and the annual budget for cultural activities with a social impact is 1.5 million euros.
Gloria Cid began her presentation with a quote from François Matarasso: "It is time to think of what culture can do for society and not what society can do for culture."
Four areas of La Caixa's work in social inclusion were described: Diversons, funding for performing groups made up of immigrants; large scale participative concerts; projects with the mentally challenged; and funding of social action arts projects. Participation is the key in all of these areas.
Selection for groups to be included in the Diversons project is based on several criteria, including the legal and residence status of the performers, the relevance of their music to immigrant groups established in Spain, and, above all, musical quality. Experience has shown that, thanks to professional advice on contracts, licensing and marketing, 70% of groups funded have continued to function after the bank's funding period has run its course.
The participative concerts have taken place in major cities around the country and have included repertoire such as The Messiah and Mozart's Requiem. Choir trainers and pianists work with large groups of volunteer singers in the weeks leading up to shared performances which are given in major venues with a professional orchestra. One of the main features of inclusion in this project is age: a large proportion of the participants are near retirement, and some of them have brought their grandchildren along to sing.
A video clip was shown of music workshops with mentally challenged adults. The power to choose  and make musical decisions and the sense of responsibility for the final group performance combine, according to the speaker, to take these actions beyond the level of therapy to genuine musical participation.
A video was shown of the fourth area of La Caixa's work: women prisoners who worked with a choreographer to create a dance piece. The process, according to the choreographer, gave the women a sense of ownership of their prison spaces, helping them to see the space and their relationship to it in a new way. With the help of a team of professionals, the women produced a video dance work, and the project has recently been awarded a national prize for its contribution to the place of arts in social inclusion.
The theoretical basis for La Caixa's practice was outlined with the help of various graphics: one of a triangle with Art for art's Sake, Culture as an educational force, at the top angles, and culture as an instrument of social impact at the third angle. Another graphic showed participative activities at the centre of a matrix including cultural professionals on one side, persons forming the target group for action on another, and the outcomes on yet another side: social inclusion and cohesion, social regeneration and personal development.
Lastly, a graphic which illustrated the important, but different roles of artists on one side and social agents on the other, both groups working towards the needs of the third element, the participants: an understanding of the difference between these roles, and the separation of their functions is crucial to any project's success.
Gloria Cid concluded her presentation with a quote from Vanessa, a participant in one of La Caixa's social impact projects: "I was never interested in art until art showed an interest in me". http://obrasocial.lacaixa.es/
The conference's fourth speaker was Rogelio Igualada Aragón, coordinator of the national choir & orchestra of Spain's education project (OCNE). The speaker outlined the history of educational work at the OCNE: until 2005 it consisted of open rehearsals and schools concerts. With the arrival of Josep Pons as Principal Conductor and Musical Director, the orchestra began a more ambitious education programme, including Mark Withers as composer/director. My students and colleagues were fortunate to be involved in two projects, one based on Beethoven's 9th Symphony and one on  de Falla's El Amor Brujo, which included working with orchestra players and performing on the national concert hall stage with orchestra players and children from a wide range of Madrid schools.
The speaker went on to explain how this project has been continued with local composer/directors, and how other actions have included performances by orchestra players in hospitals. He explained how participation of orchestra players in these activities is voluntary. When asked to clarify this point he explained that the musicians, civil servants with lifelong contracts, are paid extra when they take part: the voluntary element is that there is no obligation for players to take part.
Peter Garden's presentation followed on and confidence, passion, ambition and a sense of purpose flooded the lecture hall and swept everyone up in a wave of positive energy. Next to me were colleagues from a local authority education service, and in front of me were senior administrators from the Ministry of Culture and from Spain's leading conservatoire and the admiration towards the speaker and the project was palpable. Peter Garden is Executive Director (Learning & Engagement) at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and the theoretical basis and conviction for his work are as deep as the river Mersey and as solid as the Liver buildings.
I stopped taking notes as the list of initiatives went from one slide to another, looking back at the European City of Culture achievements (the RLPO was described as having "provided the soundtrack to the year"), taking in the collaboration with Liverpool Hope University in the European Opera Centre, and the 45,000 persons of all ages involved throughout the year, and looking forward to participating in the Shanghai Expo (Liverpool is the only English city to have a presence at Expo.) Peter Garden's plans for the RLPO include targets up to 2015, and nobody in the room doubted that they will be met.
Just when some were beginning to doubt that all this could really be true, along came the video clip of the green shirted children and we saw and heard what is being achieved in one of most socially disadvantaged areas of Europe. Peter Garden introduced the video: "On 13 July 2009, the children and staff from Faith School performed at Philharmonic Hall for their debut performance as West Everton Children’s Orchestra, barely 12 weeks after having picked up their instrument for the first time. They performed a programme of 10 pieces to demonstrate their music skills, with a special arrangement of Hey Jude as a finale, performed alongside musicians from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chair of In Harmony, Julian Lloyd Webber."
Peter Garden referred to one of the West Everton schoolchildren's father, who said that he never felt so proud of his child, and felt overwhelmed with pride seeing his child play in the Philharmonic Hall concert. The achievements in Liverpool are noteworthy in any context, but when seen against the backdrop of current provision in Spain, they are stunning, and this presentation made an excellent conclusion to the conference, reinforcing what other speakers from Spain, England, and Holland had referred to during the day, that quality in the process and in the product is achievable and is demonstrable.
This article has been published in Spanish at the British Council's Spain web  http://www.britishcouncil.org/jornada_de_inclusion_social_y_educacion_en_la_musica_articulo.pdf

Jornada sobre la inclusión Social y la educación en la música

Una versión de este artículo en Castellano aparece en la página web del British Council.
El artículo describe una conferencia que tuvo lugar el día 15 de febrero de 2010 en Madrid.

Amarillo Girls' Choir, Texas

The silent choir from Amarillo, Texas, USA
Up the stairs and along the corridor...silence.
Down the stairs and along the next corridor....silence.
Across the bridge, through the playground and up the staris to the next corridor...silence.
Can 100 persons move through an entire building in complete silence?
They can when they are the amazingly well disciplined Amarillo Girls' Choir from Texas, under the eagle eye of their Music Director Jerry Perales. When I say 100 persons, I mean 70 girls and their 30 chaperones.
Why were they being so silent?
In my school in Madrid, Spain, I offered them a tour of the building but asked them to be as quiet as possible, never thinking they would all follow in absolute silence. They visited recently to offer us a wonderful concert of American folk songs, some European songs, and, yes, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Jesu. What a lovely range of repertoire, what a fine control of tone quality, and what a beautiful blend these young singers have. It was a pleasure to listen and admire the fruits of all their hard work.
On top of that, they gave some really clear and well thought - out commentaries and snippets about life in Texas, in English, which were all really ueful for the local Madrid teens.
So, thank you to all the parent chaperones who made the trip possible, thank you to the wonderful Mr Jerry Perales, and, especially thank you to the singers of the Amarillo Girls' Choir from Texas.
And thanks to Wens Travel, in Holland, who made all the travel arrangements to make their experience so smooth.www.wens.nl
By the way, although I love it that you can all do a tour of the school building in absolute silence, I like it even more when you sing.
Please come back to Madrid soon.

From Potential to Playstation…YPD

I was talking to Miguel Montero, one of YPD’s directors yesterday and he said YPD is growing gradually, moving one step at a time, and he is pleased with progress.
Gradually is not a word I associate with the massive step the YPD team have taken after the huge success of their pilot summer course which you can find discussed in an earlier post. After only one summer school the team are not only filling up the limited number of places for next summer, but have embarked on a new version of the YPD credo which will see round the year coaching in state of the art facilities housed in a brand new building a stone’s throw from the Bernabeu stadium  at Paseo de la Habana number 63, the YPD Institute.
Among the courses on offer :
  • Junior Masters in Communication and Creativity –  twice weekly sessions for 15 to 18 year olds, designed to complement school  life
  • Mini-master Clik in Communication – also twice weekly sessions this time for 18 – 22 year olds, designed to add value and meaning to an undergraduate university experience
Impossible to explain all the facilities  YPD plan to offer , and to make available throughout the week to those who are signed up for courses: drop-in common rooms to chill creatively; gym and sports equipment and a multi-media production studio.
Parents are welcome to join their daughters and sons for two special event formats:
  • Coffee, cup cakes & communication
  • Breakfast with…
In the C C & C events Friday evenings will smooth their way into the weekend in the company of great speakers and like minded souls. At the breakfast events star speakers will share their thoughts up-close with a limited invitation only audience: among the first guest speakers are Alex Rovira and Mario Vargas Llosa.
There is a payment for parents for the special events, proceeds of which will go towards grant-aiding deserving candidates in YPD courses.
The emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility which was such a strong element in the YPD summer course   will feature again in the Institute: collaboration with Ashoka and other Citizen Sector Organisations will lead to social action project experience in Nepal as the final exercise of the course.
As Franco Soldi explained recently, the Institute will stand on the 4 pillars of YPD:
Energy, Creativity, Communication and Leadership.
Playstation? Sony Playstation will launch a game in modeled on the Clik for communication mind-set in the near future, and are working with YPD to develop the world’s first conference presentation simulator. Where will it be field tested? At the YPD institute in Madrid, of course.
See you there.
http://www.ypdcamp.com/ http://www.francosoldi.com/

Just another summer course for teens?

I know what you are thinking, they’re all the same these summer courses, lots of sports, late night discos and nobody there to check what’s really happening after lights out.
Last July I went to the closing event of a summer course near Toledo, just over an hour’s drive from Madrid. It was special for me because I know 4 of the teenagers who attended from another context, and it was really impressive to see how these teenagers had been challenged, and how they had obviously met the challenge and triumphed.  I’m talking advantage of the personal forum of my blog to write about this completely separately from the organization I work for.
YPD summer course, which stands for Young Potential Development, was brand new in July 2010, and the organisers claimed it would give teenagers training in leadership skills and creativity, along the lines a multinational company would arrange for its own staff. Most of the time you have to take this kind of claim with a pinch of salt, but in this case the camp delivered on its promises, and the luxury hotel setting, the mix of nationalities and the excellent crew lived up to the marketing blurb. http://www.ypdcamp.com/
The YPD summer camp is the brainchild of Franco Soldi, a specialist in company training and motivational-style conference speaker. I have met him several times, and after each meeting you leave the room pushed along by his incredible energy and positive attitude. You could see at the closing event of last July’s camp that he had communicated his perfectionism and energy to the YPD-ers, and they adored him. If you’re ready for a blast of energy, take a look at Franco at: http://www.francosoldi.com/
The YPD organisation are planning  additional activities during the year: I can’t wait to follow their progress.
If you want to find something for your teenage daughter or son for 2011 which is not just another summer course, and if your offspring are prepared to work hard for 16 hours a day, follow strict rules,  be denied their laptops and smartphones and be challenged in all their prejudices, look out for YPD. This is intercultural dialogue and education in action.
If you don’t believe me, watch the video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rkLLlVYRGQ

¿Quién necesita otro curso de verano? YPD

El curso de verano YPD.
Ya sé qué está  pensando: ¿para qué inventar  otro curso de verano más? Mi hijo ha asistido a cursos desde que tenía 6 años: el curso de pintura, lo de ajedrez, el campamento de fútbol un año y de baloncesto el año siguiente, o ¿ha sido al revés?….: mi hija ha ido ya al curso de hípica en la sierra, otro año lo de teatro, después eso de inglés en Irlanda y francés con deportes en Niza  ….¿para qué quieren inventar más cursos de verano? y, desde luego, ¿qué significa YPD?
Aprovecho toda la libertad del formato del blog para escribir a modo personal, no en nombre de la organización para qué trabajo, así que me siento libre de explicar cómo el curso de verano YPD no es lo mismo que los demás cursos en el mercado.
En primer lugar, YPD no se desarrolla en un campamento de tiendas ni en cabinas perdidas en medio del bosque: el cuartel general de YPD es un hotel de lujo un poco más allá de Toledo, a unos 70 minutos en coche de Madrid. El lugar es idóneo: apartado de todas las distracciones de la capital, la tranquilad se presta a apartarse de la moda, de los bares y de las discotecas y el régimen obliga a desconectarse de las redes sociales, del móvil y del correo electrónico. YPD trata a los jóvenes no como niños grandes sino como jóvenes adultos, y consigue inculcarles es a los participantes una actitud madura y la expectación de cumplir con los retos, de superarse.
En segundo lugar, el contenido de YPD está diseñado para ayudar a los jóvenes a reflexionar, a mirar al mundo con ojos críticos para ver en qué consisten los problemas más importantes de la sociedad actual e investigar dónde se encuentran las soluciones. Es un ejercicio en formación en liderazgo en un ambiente de solidaridad.
Yo tuvo la suerte de asistir al acto de clausura del primer curso de verano YPD en julio y pudo disfrutar del ambiento positivo, de ver un grupo de jóvenes privilegiados y no tan privilegiados presentando su propio trabajo en equipo en público. Durante las dos semanas del curso habían dedicado tiempo a contemplar un problema, imaginar una solución y diseñar una campaña para poner en práctica su teoría: una experiencia inolvidable.
Ha sido un placer ser testigo de la actuación de cuatro jóvenes que yo he conocido desde hace años en otro ambiente, y de ver cómo colaboraron  con los demás participantes, formando parte de un gran trabajo y superando los nervios para salir victoriosos.
El alma de YPD es Franco Soldi http://www.francosoldi.com/ . Hay que ver a Franco, es un torbellino de energía positiva: he coincidido con él en tres ocasiones, y cada vez me ha impresionado con su intensidad arrolladora y su afán de sacar el mejor de las personas que le rodean. Sólo había que ver la reacción de los jóvenes chicos y chicas de YPD  para saber que él es autentico, una fuente inagotable de inspiración.
El segundo curso de verano YPD está en fase de preparación y el equipo de Franco Soldi hablan de un nuevo proyecto, el Instituto YPD. No tengo idea de qué se trata, pero estoy seguro que me impresionará cuando llega el momento de su presentación en sociedad. Aquí mismo contaré los detalles…..
Supongo si realmente ya son demasiados cursos de verano podemos dejar a los chicos en paz, que descansen, que se tumben en la playa todo el día y salgan toda la noche a beber no-sé-qué y fumar con no-sé-quién, que merecen un descanso….o no.
YPD es Young Potential Develoment  http://www.ypdcamp.com/. Si no entiende aún lo que significa, inscriba a su hija/o en el curso de 2011 y todo se aclarará para Usted, y, más importante, para él/ella.

Can music save the world?: Julie's Bicycle

Imagine the scene: the great and the good of the rock world strutting their stuff on a mammoth stage in Hyde Park, campaigning for action against climate change; rock star of the moment, on the steps of his private jet gives the thumbs up sign with the sound bite Go green, be cool; rock star slightly over the hill but available for any cause you wish to mention grins from behind the wheel of his Hummer to say Let’s all be responsible consumers….
Alison Tickell only imagines scenes like this in her worst nightmares. The director of Julie’s Bicycle has much more responsible and practical ways for artists to make a real change in the way we care for our world. The need for this is impelling, she argues, because humans have a heavy responsibility from a practical point of view given the need to guarantee provision over time for our own species, but, more deeply, there is a moral and ethical obligation to:
  • Care for limited resources
  • Develop ideas for sustainability
  • Adapt our life styles in the light of new information
This moral and ethical obligation has to be seen against the background the questionable equity of a society of consumption continuing at the expense of exploited developing countries.
Grand ideas, big concepts, but Alison Tickell has some simple suggestions for practical action.
What could be more simple than for a singer to look ahead at the venues for an upcoming tour and ask the manager for a copy of their waste recycling policy.  Don’t have one? Please write one.
Or a band booked for a festival asking a simple question: What are your plans for sustainable generation of energy for the festival? Don’t have one? Please write one.
Or maybe a megaband booked for a megatour asking the simple question: What alternative forms of transport are being explored to reduce the tour band’s carbon footprint? No alternatives? Start searching.
These three examples were offered by Alison Tickell on 26th November during her appearances on Radio 3, the thinking musician’s channel on the state radio network Radio Nacional de España, and in a discussion at the Fundación BBVA ‘s magnificent complex in central Madrid, housed in a beautifully renovated palace, in an intriguing event organized by the Fundación BBVA and the British Council which included a concert of music/video art work.  http://www.fbbva.es/TLFU/tlfu/esp/agenda/eventos/index.jsp
Alison Tickell talked about the power of the green brand, and the  temptation for artists, with other commercial interests, to go for the easy and the superficial, the green wash rather than to take meaningful measures to promote sustainable use of resources.   She proposes that the arts culture should not be led by corporate culture and reminded us of how the arts have something unique to say. Here is a brief summary of her argument: The arts…
  • Shift perception
  • Transcend the here and now
  • Express complexity
  • Have an incredible reach to audiences
  • Do not rely on voracious consumption but do rely on an industrial infrastructure
  • Do make a carbon footprint.
Julie’s Bicycle, let’s get this over with, the name of the organisation comes from an occasion when Alison Tickell turned up at a fancy London restaurant, Julie’s,  on her bike and was drenched and looking ever so uncool. So, Julie’s Bicycle was set up under the auspices of the UK music industry as their response to Al Gore’s 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth. Initially the brief was to work with musicians, but the company nowalso works with artists in theatre, dance, visual arts and fashion. http://www.juliesbicycle.com/
From the beginning the strategy was to avoid using big stars to spread the word. Instead, there was a four point approach:
  • Focus on big issues
  • Initiate research projects so that subsequent actions were underpinned with accurate data
  • Focus on a small number of issues
  • Engage in partnerships where possible
Alison Tickell talked about buying cd’s, I didn’t know anyone still did that anymore, but her suggestion is to insist on producers using paper and card for packaging instead of plastic, which is much more difficult to recycle. Is digital the answer? Unfortunately not, because the energy required to maintain IT servers of huge organisations is a massive blot on the environment and a producer of damaging emissions. So all those iTunes downloads are in fact generating more, not less pollution.
It was a pleasure listening to Alson Tickell because she does not rant and her arguments are well founded in data and because she proposes direct action in measurable terms. But most of all, I loved her closing remarks on the morning radio programme. When asked, in essence, can music save the world? she replied that the essential characteristic of  creative artists is to be original and creative, their art is what comes first. Their attitude to, and actions in support of responsible care of our world is, in the end, a part of the practical organization of their working lives, not the first priority, and no more should be expected of workers in the arts than in other industries.

Arctic…nature through a tech filter

Arctic is a multimedia performance in which Max Eastley plays live along to a video art work by David Buckland, director of the Cape Farewell Project. I attended the concert on 26th November 2010 at the Fundación BBVA ‘s magnificent complex in central Madrid, housed in a beautifully renovated palace, in an intriguing event organized by the Fundación BBVA and the British Council with Ubik Europe as part of the Innovarte festival promoting sustainable culture. http://www.fbbva.es/TLFU/tlfu/esp/agenda/eventos/index.jsp
After the performance there was a discussion which included Max Eastley and Allison Tickell, moderated by Silvia Grijalba, which I have commented on in an earlier post Can Music Save the World?
The following is an almost unedited transcript of my reflections noted down during the performance, including the distractions which creep into mind when listening to music, at least into my mind. It is not meant to be a formal analysis and the division into movements may well be imperfect, as I was not following the score. The film is not a documentary, rather a piece of video art which uses techniques proper to the genre. There are reactions to the programme notes, which explain that the natural sounds of birds and other sea life were recorded from and on board ship during three journeys as part of the Cape Farewell expedition in the Arctic, and that the natural sounds are as important to the performance as the man made sounds.
First movement 4/4 at about 100bpm, regular rhythm, beat, action scenes, sailors hoist sails in hostile weather conditions, birds fly, but not over the rainbow and not the warrior, this is not Greenpeace. Deep deep sounds, animal, natural or studio?
Second movement sea of tranquillity, earth not moon, in any case, how long will that one last   if we ever get back there...long sustained notes, no definite pulse, whales, sunset reflections, blood red, glissandi. Live performer and soundtrack are difficult to distinguish, it all comes to me through a tech filter.
Segue to third movement white satellite radar dishes upturned on white snow, snow on snow, motorised sleighs, no santa here, laser green rays, even quaver beat, chimney stacks billowing dirty smoke, green lights natural or man-made, sea animal, is it the walrus, I am the walrus, they also used overdubbing, multi-tracking, only 8 track not digital, not let out of the Cage, musique concrète, no mention of maestro Karl,  images of entrance to underground tunnels, white slab  like tombstones, like Indiana Jones or pyramids  but no gold not all gold, prefer milk tray, all in white bleak yes, deep yes, don’t know if it’s midwinter she doesn’t say, now I long for yesterday...Electric snowball where is Snowman, walking in the air, crescendo molto, molto, too much, white noise, all white, white noise white screen not Christmas, could be no calendar, black screen, black hole. Silence.
Fourth movement, underwater gurgles oil or water, to dry land, abandoned hut ice pack collapses, contrast dramatic image/motionless music, repeat oil or water. Industrial image to views of ice flows, remains only really, leftovers after the sail after the sale, or sell out of our future, who was the buyer and who the seller, winner, loser, profit maker? Remains of ice flow, sea animal in water then on dry land, rocks where snow should be.
Fifth movement ice again, peace, gentle image gentle sounds, can sounds be gentle or induce gentle feelings, gentlemen, god rest ye merry – suddenly dark, foreboding, bird calls, no sign of the birds. Boat, red, pond still water, false calm there should be ice not water, easier for the boat to move, though, will use less fuel cause less damage to the environment, if ships can pass through the arctic it’s a shorter route, save millions of fuel costs I read it in the Economist, or was it Newsweek or Guardian on-line, no Times they charge, mean, could afford to pay for that, they think we remember which is which so long as they’re free what do I care?  Aerial photo images of sea, open sea, no ice.
Sixth movement up-tempo birds fly, still no rainbow, super fast moving, birds in a loop, birds like mini fighter planes – ice. Sound track is not synched, can’t hear the bird call, or was that it, just gone, are they gone forever those birds, next time we go back they will be extinct, cheated out of their habitat?
Seventh movement red boat, easily plying through soft ice, shouldn’t be that easy, snow/rock, snow/rock, too much melting, meltdown? Even quavers in  groups of 4, ice sculptures isolated mid sea, should be ice-scape not ice sculptures, red sky, is it night or morning, delight or sailor’s warning? Crescendo and accelerando, semiquaver groups, demisemiquaver groups, ice crash again, same as before, or was it bigger this time? Lots of lake like water, could be Windermere?
Eighth movement snow now by not much if this was a ski resort the papers would say poor conditions let get the snow machines out but that’s the problem, too many machines already, not here, but here there and everywhere. Rocks now, without snow. Ice flow crashes again, the same or a different one, is this a loop for dramatic effect or another one down. Ice flow, choppy weather, metallic sounds using a metal beater on the fretboard. Ice crash again, sheets of ice, ice crash again, loop definitely. Light glistening on water, should be blindingly white on ice. Tranquil or threatening, natural sounds or man-made sonics?  Aleatoric  sequences, oil or water, radiophoncs, distortions on screen, do not adjust your set, Dr Who when who he was was something special, scary daleks, who let them use that theme music when we were six? Two members of the audience sitting in front of me get up and leave, at least it’s not something I said, can’t ask for their money back it’s free, but there is a price if all the ice melts, that’s what we’re here for, or is it for the music?
Ninth movement, not ninth symphony but this could just as well be the call to arms the call signal. The cellist who is not a cellist taps on the fingerboard, triplet figures, ice at last, polar bear looks wistful, or is that so much Disney cheating me? Is that the call of a sea animal or music? Bowed sounds, lots and lots, repetitive, falling eerie sound, sounds like setting 84 mystrynte on my Kawai K1 synth from 1990’s. Polar bear runs, why is s/he alone? More Disney or disaster, is not Disney a disaster, they’re building one in China now. Squats down, cue voice over  gee guys, you’ve been kinda mean to the ice flows, can’t you them a break? But only in my mind, the movie in my mind, not on screen.
Cellist who is not a cellist plays while following images on the screen at his feet, like a rock start singing from autocue, why not just learn the words, people used to do that once. Fade into darkness, black screen, end of film, end of the world.
Epilogue ice sculpture in mid-water, water is eating away at the base, maybe next time I look up from writing it will have disappeared. Two ghost mountains in the background, long sustained sounds again, wind effect, more glissandi. Ice, still, timeless, dark screen, fade, applause.
See more on Max Eastley: http://www.myspace.com/maxeastley

You mean, they don’t all want to be my Facebook friends?????

Lady Gaga, yes, easy…
30%, ok we cheated a bit, but nearly right…
Yahoo, wrong,
Spain, no we didn’t get that, which is strange because we live there….
Here’s a room full of people who use social media for their professional contacts all day and Kathryn Corrick’s simple little quiz had us struggling. The questions which belong to the answers above are along the lines of … biggest number of Fb friends…. LG of course is ahead of Master Bieber, very just in… 30% is the extra time that females dedicate to social media compared to males…. Yahoo is not the second most used search engine, it’s actually YouTube…and the country in Europe with the second highest level of social media activity is Spain: the number one highest being Russia. You probably knew all that anyway, but between us we didn’t.
So it just goes to show that if we are using social media as a marketing tool we need to get our facts straight first, and not work on our assumptions. In fact, Kathryn Corrick made lots of great points in her recent training day which I was lucky enough to attend, although of course I’m writing here from a personal viewpoint and not on behalf of the organisation I work for….
I think the most important thing Kathryn said was that it must be your business strategy which drives your use of social media strategy. No amount of wittering on twitter will be worth a fig on Facebook if you have not got first principles right.
Second best thing I came away with was don’t ditch traditional marketing tools: that nice little printed flier that pops out of your pocket when you get home and reminds you to book those theatre tickets; that gloss colour brochure that is comforting and luxurious as you turn the pages and that business calendar that is held on the fridge door by magnet and takes you back to that friendly local shop just because, well, because it’s there every day in front of your nose. Not to mention emails, so uncool, but still boss.
Thanks you for the tip about hashtags on twitter, and for warning me against playing Mr Angry on that medium or risk landing on the go to jail square. Thanks also for the really useful list of search sites. Right, I know I should have found these for myself, but I hadn’t, and I now have lots of very useful research data by idling over brand visibility metrics at  http://www.howsociable.com/ and real time search at    http://www.socialmention.com/ .
Again, it’s a matter of having the facts and real data instead of hunches, assumptions and wishful thinking. These and similar sites provide the missing link. Talking of which, the most nuts and bolts fact of all is that if we set up a new blog, chat room, Facebook page or Twitter account, of course it’s free but not without cost: the time commitment to maintain any of these sites and anticipating answering our customers’ needs is considerable, and there is no point setting them up until we have first worked out who is going to support them.
When we looked at a few model company web sites we were impressed by some and disappointed by others, and we were interested that some big hitters seem to duplicate what’s on their different media instead of segmenting and differentiating. We were also a bit upset that persons who have become friends of a certain UK publisher on said publisher’s Facebook page led to all their friends’ photos being accessible by persons with no real business to see them… persons like us. No good blaming the persons for not nailing down their privacy settings, it’s the media designer’s fault for making the default settings what they are, too open.
Were we side tracked when we debated whether it really is the vast majority of everybodies who are superglued to their smartphones and will twit and text and mail until their fingers touch bone? What about this huge proportion of citizens even in developed countries whose lives are circumscribed by a limit of 10 kilometres of movement between places of home and work?
What about ethics? Just because a company has developed a feature where you can be irresponsible and have the potential to place yourself in danger by telling anyone who wants to know exactly where you are, and where your friends are, should we take part in marketing campaigns that encourage persons to use this feature, or should we be doing all we can to drive this feature  out of use?
Then came the day’s worst moment, the body blow, the merciless home truth. Kathryn had one of her many graphics with a huge number of different social network groups, Hi5, Linked-in, one after another, with a relative strength often dependent on language or geo location.  How much better it is, she said, to introduce ourselves into those networks where our clients and potential customers are already active rather than trying to create new groups, new Facebook pages, because, in the end people do have other things to do, some people even  like watching X-factor, sorry Elton,  and they also might regard their social network sites as their spare time hobby, strictly don’t make me think too much relaxation, and maybe your company’s messages and enticements will be nothing more than an intrusion, liable to be zapped into delete this comment oblivion.
When it comes down to it, it’s still a bit like when we were little kids in the playground: you have to stick close to a couple of good mates, because, for good reason or bad, not everyone is going to want to be your friend.

The band that grows my breakfast

If you imagine that this is where New York is, said Clifford N. Towner, holding up his left hand to about the 10 position on a clock face, and then if you imagine this is where Los Angeles is, stretching his right hand to around the 5 position, then where we all live is just around here!, this time left hand palm out right between the two.
Mr Clifford N. Towner is Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Morningside College, and he made this clear as a bell explanation of basic geography of the USA when he came to my school in 2009 to conduct a concert by the Morningside College Symphonic Wind Ensemble. I had explained to him that my students know pretty well where New York and Los Angeles are, and that many of the children in the audience have visited those cities, either with their parents or on trips organised by my school, but that the location of the band’s home town, Sioux City, Iowa, would be a mystery to most of us. http://www.morningside.edu/
Once we got over the geography, the concert started. I was really impressed by the selection the band played: at the core were the works of some great American composers, including John Philip Sousa and Scott Joplin, which were played with great flair and style and set a happy, festive tone to the concert. These works were played by the whole ensemble, 23 players in all. Then came the surprises as the concert included a series of works for small groups: Flute Trio, Clarinet Quartet, Woodwind Ensemble, Percussion Trio and Brass Ensemble. These chamber groups not only brought a delightful variety to the programme, but also gave an opportunity for us to hear works by a wide range of composers. These included some recent works by contemporary composers like  Jeff Smallman, really nifty percussion playing in a piece by Murray Houllif, and a clever nod to the host country in Caesar Giovannini‘s 1998 piece called Canción Española.
My personal favourite among the chamber items was the rendition of Frank Siekmann’s arrangement of Bela Bartók’s music in Bartók for Brass, from 1966. This music is very challenging, and the arrangement brings out the best of Bartók’s use of irregular rhythms and crunchy harmonies. It was a really great performance, and a unique chance for my students to hear this work.
So, congratulations to Mr Clifford N. Towner and his excellent Morningside College Symphonic Wind Ensemble, and thanks also to Wens Travel for making the arrangements so brilliantly for the group to arrive in perfect conditions.    http://www.wens.nl/index_en.html
And now I know, thanks to Mr. Towner, that when I eat my corn flakes every morning, the grain they are made from was sure as oats grown in the fields and prairies around the home town of  Morningside College, Sioux City, Iowa.