Category Archives: Nano-Interview

Nano Interview with Ashleigh Gordon of Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra

Ashleigh Gordon. Image by MBSchroederPhotography

Name: Ashleigh Gordon
Organization: BYSO Intensive Community Program
Title: Viola faculty
Music Genre: Classical
Years in the Field: 15

What do you do at Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Intensive Community Program?
I teach viola to beginner students, both privately and in groups, and even find myself teaching Kindergarteners violin as well.

Why do you do what you do?
My goals as an educator are to spark curiosity in the arts, foster necessary life skills through music, and serve as a mentor to each child. With each one of my students, I focus on establishing strong and healthy foundations while supporting them in their musical and life developments. Viewing education as an active process, I encourage all my students to learn how to be their own problem-solvers in and beyond the realm of music. I’m a firm believer in educating the entire person and view myself as a holistic mentor in my student’s growth as a musician and person.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Being silly and being honest. Teaching allows me to tap into my inner child where I’m not afraid to embarrass myself to make a point, sing, dance, or even pretend to act to show a musical phrase, or think up silly analogies to make my students think and connect to the music they’re making.

What do you do in your free time?
In my “free” time I’m running a concert and educational series dedicated to celebrating Black culture, history, and classical music. As Artistic/Executive Director and violist of Castle of our Skins, I’m either designing concert programs, writing grants, performing viola in an “edu-tainment” program or educational workshop, or doing any of the other myriad things involved with the leadership. I’m also an active freelance chamber music with a passion for contemporary music and play with my own string trio that specializes in new music (called Sound Energy) or other groups in town including BMOP, Callithumpian Consort, and ECCE Ensemble.

Seen any good movies lately?
I’m usually not a big movie goer but I’ve been floored on my most recent trips to see Moonlight, Fences, and I am Not Your Negro. Still itching to see Hidden Figures.

What are you currently reading?
The news. Lots of it.

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.

Nano Interview with Jane Money of Boston City Singers

Jane MoneyName: Jane Money
Organization: Boston City Singers
Title: Founding Artistic Director
Years in the Field: 30

What do you do at Boston City Singers?
I do pretty much everything! I conduct several of our choirs, including the most advanced, Tour Choir. I enjoy meeting with our donors, creating new arrangements of music with our outstanding staff (often based on folk songs or spirituals). I work on our grantwriting team, and conduct 5 of our 15 programs. And recommendations! Last year I wrote over 100 for our graduating seniors. We were delighted that they earned over $300,000 in scholarships.

Why do you do what you do?
At Boston City Singers we believe in supporting the upward trajectory of each of our singers.  There is nothing more rewarding than supporting the growth of a young person all the way through to college and beyond.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
I am passionate about excellent repertoire which speaks to the diversity of our singers and audiences.

What challenges you in this work?
As our work has continued to grow, we have been challenged to find rehearsal and performance space that is both safe and accessible in the communities we serve.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
We have always been based in Dorchester, MA. In our earliest years, potential partners, funders, and Board members would be turned off by that. Few would visit, and it was not always easy to be taken seriously. More than once we heard “You are from Dorchester? You can’t be any good…” Over time,  Dorchester has changed and continues to evolve into something far more positive. We like to think that we have been a part of that process.

How do you blow off steam?
Once a year, I go back home to New Zealand for a couple of weeks, where I walk the length of one local beach each day and cook for my brother and his family.

What do you create in your free time?
I am an avid knitter, home cook, and co-restorer of our Victorian home.

Whose work in the CYD field do you admire and why?
We have had a long relationship with the Corrymeela Centre in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. We led a choir project in Ireland in 2005 aimed at bringing children from both sides of the border together in song. One of the highlights was a residency at the Centre where I experienced first hand the power of creative youth development. We have worked closely with one of their volunteers ever since crafting leadership and youth development  programs across the organization.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
The Brazilian singers Marisa Monte, anything Ella Fitzgerald and the Canadian choir Elektra.

Do you live with any animals?
I am a foster parent for New England Brittany Rescue. We adopted our first dog, Brady, three years ago. He is 12 now, but very active and an awesome host dog to our fosters.

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
Let’s find a way to make this happen!

What’s next?
My husband and I are visiting Cuba in February, meeting with local choirs, musicians and teachers, then off to South Africa with 40 members of the Tour Choir in the summer.

Nano-Interview with Corey DePina of ZUMIX

Corey DePinaName: Corey DePina
Organization: ZUMIX
Title: Youth Development and Performance Manager
Genre: Hip Hop
Years in the Field: 17

What do you do at Zumix?
I plan and run creative writing and performance programs for teens. I also teach literature through creative writing for the 9th grade class at East Boston High School. I manage, support, and train ZUMIX performance instructors to be their best, so that they can offer the best learning experience for their students.

Why do you do what you do?
I feel like this is my calling. Through my love of hip hop, I was able to learn how to read and write. I help empower so many others though understanding their voice and expressing themselves.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Taking a boring subject or topic and finding a fun, engaging, and exciting way to introduce it to students.

What challenges you in this work?
Not being paid enough.  I wonder if we will have donors and the money to keep doing this work in the future. I also find it a challenge to continue to prove to the academic world that my spiritual and artistic approach is important, and in a lot of cases, is what’s missing.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
It means the world to me and to my community for everyone to have access to arts and education. In a city where our public schools have no music programs and youth are told to memorize facts like computer programming, it means so much to provide a creative outlet for expression – one that incorporates critical thinking, reflection and growth along with theory and practice.

How do you blow off steam?
Going on long drives.  Getting lost, either physically or with the paper, pen and a hip hop track.

What do you create in your free time?
In my free time I like to evolve my curriculum and create unique, fun approaches to writing and music making.

Whose work in the CYD field do you admire and why?
My homie, Eric Booth, and my big homie, Mo Barbosa. Eric is wicked smart and has a way with words. He takes this profession and validates it. Mo is super thoughtful and smart in his approach in youth work. It’s comforting every time to talk to these guys about the work. They are so confident in the field and it rubs off.

What music do you like to listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
No shame, I have been feeling the new Bruno Mars track 24KRT. I think I like it, because it’s pretty funky, and I’m sure I can bust like 95% of the dance moves I have to it.

Seen any good movies lately?
Movies, no. But that Netflix though… Black Mirror…

What are you currently reading?
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, by Beverly Daniel Tatum.

What’s next?
I want to write my own book and tell my story about how hip hop helped this young man go from being illiterate to becoming one of the best educators this city has.

Check out Corey’s tracks on SoundCloud.