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Monthly Archives: May 2010

I’ve always considered music education a defining element of my youth that facilitated my success, although I chose a career path outside of music. Confidence, creativity, and teamwork were all outcomes of the music experience that served me well.

Those sentiments (the benefits of music education outside of music careers) were echoed with Ellis Marsalis, Jr., modern jazz pioneer, music educator, and the father of the first family of jazz in New Orleans and beyond, in an interview that I conducted in 2007. “To me there’s nothing wrong with somebody who has played a musical instrument and is not going to do it for a living becoming the CEO of a major corporation, and there’s a ton of that,” said Marsalis. “I met a guy at Merrill Lynch who’s a clarinet player. One of the best pianists we had, a young lady at NOCCA when I was teaching there – She’s a banker in New Jersey” (NOCCA refers to the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, an advanced program for young prodigies of music and the arts for high school-aged youths in New Orleans). As he explained, music education is an important element of a well-rounded education that prepares a student for a diversified world and uncertain times.

After that conversation, I became intrigued with this topic. For a period of 18 months, I discussed this subject with 32 CEO’s and business leaders from a cross-section of business who were influenced by music education as a child or adolescent and who viewed that experience as a defining one in preparing them for success in their business endeavors. I asked them to reflect and to articulate the lessons learned, attributes developed, and insights gained from their music experience that were highly correlative to success in the business world, “FROM THE BAND ROOM TO THE BOARDROOM,” so to speak.

The compilation of those interviews became the foundation of my book “Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music,” released in September, 2009.

An article that is a synopsis of the book entitled “FROM THE BAND ROOM TO THE BOARDROOM…The 9 Common Lessons of Music Education That Translate into Success” is available for reference.

Musically inspired,

Craig M. Cortello
“The Business Musician”


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I have many stories to tell about the power of art as I am now a music teacher but I was saved by art in Grade 9. I was completely, utterly un-interested in any academic pursuit and had pretty much resigned to the fact that I simply didn’t fit the system, when my English teacher commented to me that I was always doodling and scribbing. He asked me what I was writing and I told him “just poems and songs and stuff.” Since I was uninspired by anything else in the curriculum, he told me in private that if I filled up a binder full of songs, poems and drawings he would mark it equally as the other assignments. In that one moment I was given a gift. I was astounded, and felt like what I wanted to do had value. Not only that, but it gave me hope knowing that even in the rigid school system a teacher could be an individual and make personal judgement calls.

I wrote like mad and was critiqued, applauded, questioned and marked. It was our secret. It went on through grades 10 and 11. I went on to be a songwriter and musician performing with various groups and bands including the CBC Radio Orchestra. Years later I wrote that teacher a letter and told him how much his embracing my creative force inspired me and changed my life. He wrote back saying “I recognised your handwriting right away…”

I now hold sound and music workshops for kids, youth and adults with developmental issues. More than teach them how to make music, I try to give them the space and encouragement to appreciate the experience of being creative in the moment. To me music and art in general is a living space where we can try out new thoughts, put on boots bigger than our own, and write a letter across time. Taking music out of schools will hurt students chances in all other areas of learning.

Steve Wright
Sound and Music Educator

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Copyright © 1999 - 2010 KELOWNA ART GALLERY

Kelowna’s creative sector generates $37.8 million in wages annually and has an annual economic impact of $143.8 million. Those are just two of the key findings in a new economic impact study led by Bernard Momer, associate professor of geography at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

The Creative Sector in Kelowna, British Columbia: An Economic Impact Assessment follows up on a 1998 assessment of the contribution of arts and culture to the economy of the wider Central Okanagan region.

“As it was in 1998, Kelowna’s creative sector is an important contributor to the local economy,” says Momer. “This impact assessment demonstrates that the creative sector’s economic contribution to our community is significant and, by extension, that it enriches our social and cultural capital.”

The new assessment — which began in early 2009 and included a survey of creative sector businesses, individuals and organizations — was completed in February, and was presented Wednesday morning at Art at Work: Kelowna’s Creative Economy, a business breakfast panel discussion at the Coast Capri Hotel, hosted by the City of Kelowna’s Cultural Services Branch.

Continue reading this article ›

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An Open Letter to the Vancouver School Board and the Government of British Columbia,

On the subject of closing music programs and Programs of Choice in the Vancouver Public School System and province-wide.

I write to you today, on “Music Monday” May 3 (link to press release below), to argue against the closure of music programs and Programs of Choice in BC Schools. My name is John Oliver. I am a full-time freelance composer whose works have been commissioned by major Canadian musical institutions, including the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Canadian Opera Company. My composition, “Five-ring Concerto,” was commissioned by Vancouver’s Turning Point Ensemble as part of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Cultural Olympiad. As part of my collaboration with Turning Point Ensemble, I am working as an invited guest with young composers at a Metro Vancouver secondary school. This music program is so vibrant that there are over 20 young composers eager to learn from a professional composer. I am also the father of two daughters, aged 11 and 13, enrolled in French Immersion programs in the New Westminster school District and active in the school music programs.

I attended Lord Byng High School from 1973-77. At that time, the Byng Band did not have a string section, but it was a respected band program. When I was growing up, there were no band programs in elementary schools at all, but most high schools had music programs with concert band at the core. Because I had demonstrated music talent early, my family paid for private guitar and clarinet lessons while I was in elementary school, though we had to pinch pennies to do so. It wasn’t until I entered the high school band program that I was able to explore other instruments, such as flute, the various saxophones, bass clarinet and percussion.

In grade twelve I designed a special “directed-study” course, investigating music notation history from the earliest examples of music being written down to the most avant-garde and contemporary music notation. I was able to do this because during grades ten and eleven I had taken part in a satellite program for gifted, self-motivated students at Byng called “Self.” This self-directed studies program encompassed English, History, and Physical Education. Students were required to design their own course of study in these subjects, picking their own activities and topics for study and essay-writing. We also produced our own theatre productions and planned educational trips.

I owe a great deal to the program offerings at my high school. I became a composer because of the breadth and depth of experience I gained within the Vancouver public school system Programs of Choice.

If the Vancouver School Board decides to close the band and other Programs of Choice, they will do irreparable harm. They will deprive our children of a hopeful, bright, interesting, and engaging school experience. They may save some money this year and next, but we will all pay for it in the end, including the cost of servicing the social ills that come with bored youth.

I believe that the BC government must stop funding private schools and put the savings into the public education system. Why should scarce public dollars fund private schools? Why should the wealthy be able to benefit from the mixture of public and private funding that will allow their private school to afford to offer a music program, while kids in public schools have their music program taken away from them?

John Oliver
New Westminster, BC

Music Monday Press Release:

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April 30, 2010

Dear Colleagues,

I want to help build a case for the fact that Arts makes life worth living. Its not fluff, its essential.

I have a story; it was music that saved me. I was dead in the water at school. Hated it. Kicked around by bullies and humiliated by teachers, I nearly fell thru the cracks. Started playing drums at 11 years old and never stopped. It was all I had to give me any sense of self-worth. Went on to a 40 year career in the music industry and I’m still playing. Music saved my life.

People ask me why I keep doing this work after 30 years working with kidsfests. I see similar stories to mine unfold every year at our festival. This is the big pay-off for me.

Children’s festivals with an international scope provide kids with possibly their first eyeball-to-eyeball connection with performing, literary and visual arts from around the world. They get to interact with artists and then go and do their own thing in the hands-on workshops on the festival site. Many kids go on to careers in the arts, both as artists and technicians. I have many letters from kids over the years that did just that and credit our Children’s Festivals for exposing them to life-changing attitudes and decisions.

Thank you and cheers all!

Gord Osland
Executive Director
Rotary Okanagan International Children’s Festival

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