Nano Interview with Rodrigo Guerrero of MCC

Rodrigo GuerreroName: Rodrigo Guerrero
Organization: Massachusetts Cultural Council
Title: Creative Youth Development Program Manager
Years in the Field: 17

What do you do at the Massachusetts Cultural Council?
I collaborate with my colleagues in the department in supervising the grant programs and providing applicants with technical assistance. Due to my background with El Sistema inspired initiatives around the world, I also manage the SerHacer Program which supports the growing number of intensive, ensemble-based music programs that use music as a vehicle for social change.

Why do you do what you do?
I had a very rocky schooling experience in my native Venezuela, typical education was not cutting it for me. Thanks to an attentive high school principal that helped me focus on the arts and humanities, I was able to find my way in life into a creative career. I want to make it easier on young people to find that principal, teacher, or mentor.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
There’s a lot of numbers attached to this work, attendance, retention, demographics, dosage, etc. Because I’m usually quite bad with numbers, I tend to look for what’s the story behind them and pull them together into a story that can be retold easily, so I guess translating data into compelling stories…

What challenges you in this work?
Preconceptions regarding artists, audiences, individual growth, and public benefit.  So much of our work balances on challenging these, so that more support is gathered and more communities are benefited. It’s always difficult to understand how different people or positions simply have a very different perspective on what they consider to be valuable, so one always needs to take a couple of steps back and try to realize where the other person or group comes from. This process can happen quickly, but sometimes requires considerable thought and conversation before reaching common ground, and typically time is working against everyone… Sometimes it’s exhausting, but it is always quite rewarding.

How do you blow off steam?
I’m an avid board and strategy gamer. I find games to be an excellent exercise in management and creativity within set boundaries. Winning or losing is not as relevant to me as the actual social experience.

What do you create in your free time?
I’m a very curious cook and foodie, so I’m always keen on creating and participating in exciting culinary experiences and experiments…I also paint miniatures and components for my gaming hobby.

Whose work in the CYD field do you admire and why?
I had the privilege of working for many years with the founder of El Sistema, Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu, and I find his work falls completely in line with the principles of Creative Youth Development.  Maestro Abreu’s dedication in creating a national network of music education caused dramatic change in the professional landscape in Venezuela, one where the arts and the artist are integral to the communities they exist in.

As much as I realize that this was possible in part to the very peculiar historical moment of El Sistema’s birth, I see much of Abreu’s drive, creativity, and passion in many CYD organizations in Massachusetts, which is why I took this job in the first place!

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I’m an eclectic mess… my old iPod classic can go from Progressive Rock’s Yes and Rush to Tango all stars like Piazzola and Gardel, Dvorak’s American Quartet or Romero’s Venezuelan Onda Nueva, Tom Jobim’s Bossa with Elis Regina, or Argentinean Rock with Soda Stereo and Andres Calamaro, oh I love Regina Spektor. This is a  a complicated question…

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
“Taking joy in discreetly making things happen”

What’s next?
Learning to deal with four seasons instead of two, hitting the road to all corners of Massachusetts to meet and support amazing programs and young artists, but most of all to keep working to support and showcase the amazing field of practice that is Creative Youth Development, not only to our constituents and legislators, but to the world at large.

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