Sunday, April 5, 2009

A little piece of americana

Our friend Tim holds concerts of local and visiting musicians in his home 4 times a year. The musicians usually play the didgeridoo, but occasionally they play other instruments associated with the aboriginal people of this continent. A couple of weeks ago we had the opportunity to see Tyler Spencer playing with Shireen Amini like they did in this video from the 2008 Seattle World Rhythm festival.

Shireen played a song that was inspired by watching her cousins as they were updating their social networking pages, text messaging and watching MTV all at the same time. She remarked at being both fascinated and horrified. They were consuming snippets of culture instead of participating in a sustained creative process. They lacked an outlet to guide and encourage inherent creativity.

Shireen highlighted a program called the Americana Project at the Sisters (OR) School District. Students learn to play, write, perform and record. To date, they have released 7 CDs of music created, performed and engineered by the students. I have to think that programs like the Americana Project encourage the passion for creativity while keeping students engaged in school.

In the book "First Break All the Rules" the authors tell us that the best managers don't focus on overcoming an employee's weaknesses, but instead maximizing their strengths and talents. We also learn that the best organizations have staff that consistently answers the question "Do I have an opportunity to do what I do best everyday" in the affirmative.

If it works for creating excellence in the workplace, why not the education setting? As we work to address a 30% high school drop out rate, we might want to ask ourselves if these types of programs will help students to get engaged and stay engaged in school? We might still further ask ourselves if we can expand these types of programs beyond just music or athletics? Other specialized programs, like those at the Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center, are seen as a place to go if you're not good at school (it's not true, but is the perspective of some). Why? Why is the desired to be a great gymnast or saxophonist a good thing and a great welder a bad thing? Some one's got to be the Wynton Marsalis of welding, why not your kid?

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