SFLF is pleased to announce the appointment of a Fundraising Manager, Natalea Iskra, who will drive a number of income generation campaigns designed to ensure long-term viability for the organisation.
This appointment heralds a new era for Symphony For Life Foundation, as we move from the visionary through to the actualisation phase. Organisational sustainability is vital to ensure that SFLF can long transform the lives of young people, and the multi-faceted fundraising strategy will leverage support from the business and philanthropy sectors, local and state government as well as the broader community.
Natalea brings to the role over a decade of nonprofit fundraising and marketing experience, a keen love of music and a passion for opportunity-focused social change.
We don't mean to do it, but we do it every day and see it in all the papers and on the news.
We talk about disparity but then cloak it with low expectation. We reel off statistics about life expectancies of socioeconomically poor communities, children and racial groupings with a sad glint in our eyes. But what we fail to see it that these conditions and expected outcomes are to some extent governed by what we do, and what we think - both of ourselves and of others too.
In actuality this 'low expectation' extends to all children - so it becomes a limiting aspect for all Australian society.
What if we were able to turn that around and reset those 'expectations' - replacing that with
"I can do almost anything if I try and strive for it"? To a greater extent that is what Symphony For Life is all about: the resetting of these expectations; creating self-belief, and faith in determining one's future. We can build on our achievements by having a fearless attitude to challenging and difficult tasks - in whatever form they take.
For the children in the Symphony For Life program, it goes a little like this:
- Learning the violin is difficult.
- I am learning a difficult thing
- It's only difficult (not impossible)
- I am good at learning the violin
- I am good at playing the violin - a very difficult thing
- I am good at learning and playing difficult things
- I wonder what other difficult things I can do?
For many children, either low or no expectations have restricted them - held them back from achieving things that others seem to master. Too hard? No encouragement? They give up as they are not clever enough or smart enough or worse, not good enough.
Symphony For Life seeks to set big challenges up in the minds of children, but they are helped, encouraged, taught things in a way they can easily assimilate and gain knowledge from and then to practice their skills together - experientially.
But it doesn't stop there. Symphony For Life helps young people to work, think and act for themselves in a positive way - through a process of social learning. To be empowered to gradually take over responsibility for themselves musically, allows them to feel that they are responsible for their own destiny – musical, or otherwise. The child perceives this as analogous in the context of the wider life - to take responsibility (and feel empowered to do so) for their own circumstance in life. They are no longer a victim of disadvantaged circumstances, but can become masters of their own destiny - empowered and powerful.
And so the young person begins to see that self-reliance, responsibility for their own lives in the context of a wider community is a natural thing to do, as individuals working within a team, with parallel individual and collective goals.
To have true social change or transformation in children, and in communities, you must have social learning. It is an absolute; it enables the value from Symphony For Life's social action and the resulting transformation to be sustained for their entire lives.
We have a vision for Australia, where its children are empowered to believe in themselves, their dreams achievable, their imaginations fired, living in communities transformed and inspired by their achievements.
How do we intend to do this? We will do this through the power of music.
Music is a basic building block of humanity. It is something that intrinsically reaches into us and affects us at a very primal and often at a very private level. Our basic premise is that music, and its performance removes the differences between us – even music we have never heard, nor played before, and even music from another culture. When we participate – all playing or singing the same tune, we are drawn inexorably together. Witness a football crowd all singing the club theme song: all together as one – connected and equal at the moment of doing so; the same in a church congregation.
It is this ‘connection’ we seek to create in 60 children together, as one. At the moment they sing or play together, they automatically connect with each other and they are no longer isolates; no longer alone. Because we teach them together as one, they are generally at the same level as each other. They start as children with little or no knowledge of music and then journey together in its discovery and mastery through to adulthood. It’s a tremendous feeling for children: a belonging. And they will do pretty much anything to keep experiencing it; to keep that feeling of belonging, meaning and purpose. They even put effort into each other, teaching things on, to those who may not have mastered the knowledge.
Social Cohesion and Community
This is social cohesion and it happens not only to the children. Because this is very much a performance based process – with many concerts during the year, the parents and families of the children come along to these concerts and events, and instantly this creates a social belonging within the gathered community as well. This can be extended into the wider community, particularly as the children become very good at what they do and perform more widely.
Community building is everything in this process; to build and create this musical community, and extending the process into the wider community; this is the entire propose of our programs. It’s is a process of leverage; through the children, to their families and then into the community itself – using music as the catalyst for this.
What do we expect from this? We expect to see a process of emergence. Emergence is a process whereby the sum of the output or outcome is greater than simply the sum of the inputs or parts: other things happen and arise from this, including community-based subsidiary activity, friendships between cultures and different family groups, opportunities for organisation and collaboration between the communities and the wider community and the business community; between one community to another and between the community and sympathetic organisations – musical, social, charitable and educational benefits; and in the proliferation of hope.
Because the inputs are about positive values (children learning and growing through focused, supportive, encouraging, team-work and skill development), the output is likewise highly positive with musical happy children and then the community too, begins to take on these positive attributes. The more energy you pour into these children and their communities the more you will get back – in a social ‘fusion’ energy.
Measurable behavioural outcomes for the children include improvements in schoolwork, social attitude, self-respect, self-esteem, and discipline. In addition the children learn skills which a very transferable ongoing, such as: teamwork, problem solving, communication, time management, negotiation, and biomechanical co-ordination. All of these apply directly to academic performance, and then ongoing into the work environment.
Measurable neurological outcomes include increased linguistic proficiency, more emotional connection and empathy, enhanced manual dexterity, improved concentration and focus, increased sociability, better executive brain function, and the lowering of stress and anxiety in the participants.
Evidence for Vision Outcomes
There are certainly many hundreds if not thousands of examples where this process has been deployed in one fashion or another around the world. These are backed up with many studies, and considerable research on the processes and outcomes. It works.
We have studied the multifarious El Sistema-influenced and based programs, including the Venezuelan program and have taken the best of all that there is, endeavouring to create a superior program – one that addresses issues as well as successes experienced to create a purpose-built social enterprise, fit for purpose – socially, educationally and artistically.
We are also intending to incorporate values and processes from other proven music programs and structures and will deploy teachers trained in Orff Schulwerk, and other early music teaching programs of value, along with large ensemble teaching as in El Sistema.
Vision of Excellence
Most important of all, we have a vision of excellence – excellence in teaching, excellence in music, excellence in learning and an excellence in governance and administration – nothing less will suffice. Anything else would be to let the children and the communities down.
The process of excellence is very important in the music education sense especially as it is this that brings out the true worth of the programs. Much is expected of both the teaching artists and the children and young people. However all of this is through encouragement and the promotion of doing one’s best, difficult fun and the discovery of the beauty in music and its performance. Fearlessness is strongly supported, through tackling the difficult, and the extensive use of performance – it’s about ‘safe risk-taking’ so that the child can see the effects of trial and error, and learning though failing. This mimics the same process in computer games where to fail is the path to learning and success.
We are currently sending out invitations to prominent and amazing Australians - people with passion, creativity, business acumen, wide ranging experience, and fire in their corporate bellies about Australia and ways to make it the best it can be. People who believe that children are amazing and powerful if we can only give them the resources they need to grow into incredible grown-ups!
It is a bit brash of us to go out to such amazing people. We make no apologies however. We figured, the best people to govern the organisation are the best people there are. So we found over thirty amazing Australians we thought might be the ones!
Good Governance is the only way this will work; to have a board which gets the message and, has the power, imagination and business creativity to forge a real future for the children of Australia: that is how it will work. It's a big ask, and an even bigger task to deliver it to Australian children.
We hope they catch the fire we have started!
The famous Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra (as it was originally known) from Venezuela, became a symbol of everything "El Sistema". It was their pinnacle orchestra and the pride of their country.
We thought about that at the Symphony For Life Foundation... How many years would it take to develop such an orchestra made up from the students of the Symphony For Life programs - 5, 10 years? Probably. So we decided to do something a little different, and with a particular purpose or mission in mind: to create a demonstration youth orchestra made up of the collective of Symphony For Life Foundation teaching artists, and capable young musicians from the Symphony For Life programs as they developed into fine musicians.
We realised that there is going to be a very small few to start off with, so we have decided we will also recruit wonderful young musicians from the conservatoriums and music schools around Australia to work together with the teachers and rising stars, to build a big and wonderful youth orchestra together.
We envisage this as a sessionally paid orchestra, with rehearsals and concerts four times per year, and an engagement at the annual Symphony For Life Music Camps each year to work with the children and entertaining in public concerts.
All members of the Symphony For Life Orchestra will be encouraged (if not already doing so) to train to become teaching artists and music tutors within the Foundation - so we see this also as a training orchestra, as well as a practicing professional youth orchestra.
Professional visiting and Australian artists will be encouraged and invited to play with the Symphony For Life Orchestra, as guest conductors, as concerto soloists, and generally within the ensemble.
It will be a touring orchestra as well, and in time represent our Foundation as the flagship both here in Australia and overseas.
It will be supported as a fully functioning social enterprise, generating its own income as well as receiving a fee-for-service subsidy from the Symphony For Life Foundation. In this way it will serve as a fully functioning 'semi-commercial' orchestra, the net profits of which will go back to the Symphony For Life Foundation.
We hope this will be a way we can benefit not only the Foundation but also young musicians across Australia looking to start their musical career and also be engaged in a positive social benefit to Australian communities!
Welcome one and all to the blog for the Symphony For Life Foundation!
This is to enable stories to be told - both from within the organisation and from the outside. We will share insights about the programs we offer, the children, research in music education and its inclusion in social action. We will encourage outside contributions and hope to make this blog a site for all interested in social action through music. If you wish to contribute, please get in touch!
So stay tuned and enjoy our latest blogs!
20 January 2015
Social Action through music!
Following on from the successful piloting of Australia's first El Sistema-based social action music education program for children living in disadvantaged communities - via Sistema Australia - we have created the Symphony For Life Foundation.