Midwest Young Artists: NEA Funding Update

Allan has been struggling with next year’s budget all week, and I have been helping Sandra get the MYA E-Auction up and ready to start on Sunday!  Please check it out!  You might think of it as a way to make a donation and pick your premium, similar to campaigns for NPR. 

Thinking about next year's budget, I did write and send that letter to our elected officials this week about how cuts to the NEA would affect our organization.  Bottom line is that the funding we receive from the NEA supports at least one full time employee.  Funding from the Illinois Arts Council, which for many years was $30,000, has been cut back to almost nothing. 
Congress will begin a 10-day recess on February 18.  When they return, the U.S. Senate will begin consideration of their version of FY 2011 funding legislation as early as February 28.  Here is a link if you want to contact elected officials.  Now U.S. Senator Mark Kirk has been a strong supporter of the NEA and of MYA, specifically as he is on our Honorary Board.  You might want to contact him and ask for his continued support.  This is a link to information on how to contact elected officials. Link to Contact Elected Officials  

FYI, our newly elected representative, Congressman Robert Dold (R) did not vote for an  amendment to cut an additional $20.5 million from National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funding which passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a close vote of 217-209The amendment offered by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) reduced the NEA budget to $124.5 million. This was after the House Appropriations Committee had already cut the NEA’s budget by $22.5 million before it even got to the floor.   

Concerts this weekend will be great!  Am looking forward to sitting back and listening to all the wonderful music!

Midwest Young Artists: NEA Support

Yesterday morning five groups made recordings at Bennett Gordon Hall at Ravinia to submit to the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.  Allan got things started and then had to leave for a KVSO concert.  You may not know that he has another job:  Music Director of the Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra –almost 25 years!  I stayed to manage the time.  I was so impressed with how the ensembles worked together and collaborated.  What better experience to learn working together, problem solving, communication, all with a definite result and goal in mind?  After the first take, they would talk about the performance and then decide what to try to fix in the next take.  It was just so much fun and encouraging to see this process in action.  We view competitions at MYA the same way we do concerts.  The real value is the process of getting there!
After the taping sessions we had two Soirees.  We violated our own policy of trying to keep each to one hour, and we apologize.  Many ensembles played their whole repertoire hoping for another good tape to submit from a concert setting.  It was a lesson learned for our Chamber Music Coordinators.  We didn’t have accurate timings ahead of time this week.   
For the past two years, MYA has received funding for our Orchestra and Chamber Music Program from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  I received numerous emails recently from Arts organizations urging us to send messages to our elected officials to stop or reduce the cuts being proposed to the NEA. 

I gave this a lot of thought and actually wrote a letter on Saturday morning.  Unfortunately, the letter disappeared after my effort before I clicked to send it.  However, the gist of it was that a lot of people think of the NEA as funding a few controversial artists. This is a link to organizations in Illinois supported by the NEA a total of 57 grants for $2,547,100.  A lot of the organizations funded work with youth.  Loss of this funding, particularly on small to mid-sized organizations like MYA, will have an impact.  Arts organizations do affect the economy.  At the end of January, our accountant gave us 78 W-2s for a 2010 payroll of $592,810.

I think that as our elected officials look at the budgetary problems they have to solve, they should look at investments for the future.   Spending and cutting decisions should all run through this lens.  What is the impact of decisions long term on our communities, the country and the world?  The other belief I have always had is that generally those closest to situation are in the best position to make decisions and utilize resources once direction and policies have been decided.

There is a lot more I could write here, but what do you think about funding for the NEA? 

Midwest Young Artists Will Miss Kent Bergren

Allan and I are back from Montana and New York. It was a sad day today.  We paid our respects this afternoon to the Bergren family in Park Ridge who lost a husband, dad, son, and brother this week.  Kent Bergren died suddenly of a heart attack.  He was the dad of Dan ('07 Alum, double bass) and Stephanie ('10 Alum, trumpet).  I first remember meeting Kent and Teresa when we did an outreach concert at Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest.  They had volunteered for the day, and were the best!  We learned that Kent was active in scouting his whole life, but we weren't surprised because we know Dan did his Eagle Scout project for MYA (the wonderful wooden covers for all our trash receptacles in the lobby). 

A few years ago, Kent enclosed a note with his donation to the Annual Fund.  He wanted to tell us a little story that illustrated what MYA meant to him and his family.

This past August, my dad passed away suddently.  He was 83 and in precarious health for the past few years, but we hoped for a few more good ones.  The last time we were together was when Teresa, my mom and dad, and one of my brothers and his wife and a few neighbors traveled downtown Chicago to see the MYA Summer Program concert in July.  As usual, it was wonderful.  And what a beautiful setting!  City of Chicago! Millenium Park! Pritzker Pavilion!

And what was was especially thrilling to our contingent was having both Dan and Stephanie perform together in the jazz band.  Dan was a last-minute substitute for the summer program bass player, and both he and Steph got some solo action.  I will never forget my dad leaning over to me and saying, "It's a Bergren recital up there!" You couldn't find a prouder grandpa in the entire City of Chicago.  

Thank you for all your do, and please accept this contribution in memory of my dad, Louis E. Bergren.

We know that Kent and his dad have reunited this week! 

Midwest Young Artists Bass Fest

I am writing this blog in Batavia, the county seat of Genesee County, New York, a small city about half way between Buffalo and Rochester. This is where my dad still lives and where I graduated from high school. Outside the "big" cities, the surrounding towns are mostly farming communities.

Thought it was a good time to visit my dad. Hadn't been out here since Thanksgiving, and Allan is in Montana conducting an AA Festival Orchestra. Montana doesn't do an All-State, but divides the state in two so the distance to the festival is as reasonable as it can be in this huge state. Allan is is Great Falls, the site of Louis and Clark's portage around the falls in their famous expedition.

I flew to Buffalo last night after the Chicago Bass Fest which MYA hosted for the second year at Ravinia. 110 bassists and bass enthusiasts converged for a day of master classes, and sessions on topics of interest to bassists. I sat in on a jazz session in the morning and a Suzuki Bass demonstration in the afternoon. I also listened to a master class given by Joe Guastafeste, who just retired from the CSO after 49 years! Another highlight of the festival was the recital at the end of the day. Michael Cameron, Professor of Bass at the University of Illinois, performed a piece written to accompany a 19 minute silent film about a bass player which was released from the Smithsonian's silent film archives several years ago.

Thanks again go to Jerry Fuller, our MYA board member, who suggested that the time might be right to start this festival last year. Jerry played bass in a the Lyric Opera Orchestra before he switched professional direction and got a law degree. He currently is Executive Director of an association of small colleges in Illinois. He also keeps his passion and interest in bass alive as Director of Ars Antigua, an organization dedicated to promoting early music.
I had the pleasure of eating lunch with three of the young MYA bassists. It was fun talking to such great young men, especially since I have three daughters. They all enjoy bass, but plan to study engineering, neuroscience or play hockey, but continue to play bass, or as one of then put it, "I'm going to do gigs". I thought of Jerry or even, Allan, who is a bass player, who had so many musical directions to pursue in his career: bass playing, teaching, reserch, and conducting.

A huge thanks also go to Jason Heath, who again lined up all the clinicians for the day! Jason is a master bass teacher who we also recruited to produce our podcast, www.wmya.fm, each week. And no less thanks to Will Biby who administratively handled registrations, logistics, and coordination of the day (which started way before the day), and to Carl Jasieniecki, who created flyers, marketed the festival and made sure we had T-shirts again this year!

Midwest Young Artists Snow Day

Yea, a snow day!  Allan and I were remembering snow storms from years ago and happy days of staying home from school.  You may not know that he grew up on a 500 acre farm in upstate New York.  His dad also had a construction company so they would get calls to come with their bulldozers and pay loaders from the County and others who needed help moving snow.  He said the hardest thing was thinking ahead about where they would put the snow as they were pushing it.  Once to his alarm, he discovered he was pushing a car with a woman in it.  She was scared and grateful.  Another time, his dad sent him to help someone stuck up the road.  As soon as he was dozed out, he took off without paying the $20 so he learned some good lessons.  The most important he said is thinking ahead.
This lesson is a good one for our jobs at MYA.  With 50 concerts a year, dozens of master and instrument classes, summer programs, a benefit, Music &Fun Fest, two big national competitions and this week's Chicago Bass Fest, our challenge is to think ahead.  Yesterday, LFHS was let out early, so Mr. Bassill and Allan thought through chamber music issues before we left our cars at MYA and took the train home.  Sandra Wu continued work on the auction and picked up an auction donation at Poeta's in Highwood (if you like Italian Sausage, this is the place to buy it!). Will worked on registration packets for this Sunday's Bass Fest.

This morning I made calls to our Young Music Scholars and Mentors to cancel tonight's lessons.  Was glad I made the calls.  It re-enforced what I thought.  The students sounded a little sad, and a mom of one of the mentors said this opportunity was the highlight of her daughter's week.   The Young Music Scholars Program is the brain child of Mr. Pearson and we are grateful to Nathan Sackschewski ('01 Alum) for helping to launch it this year.  It brings together students selected by their school music directors and Symphony Orchestra musicians who give them private or small group lessons once a week.  Nathan, a middle school teacher in Buffalo Grove, is there each week as a coach and mentor to the students as they gain experience teaching.

I'd like to recognize Mr. P for believing in this program, Nathan for guiding it along, Mrs. Reagen for her flexibility in Reading Orchestra this year, and Grace Householder, Lisa Chertok, Gwen Hickey, Paige Affinito, and Dale Watt, our first mentors.  I'd also like to thank Sue Morris from South School, Lina Mason ('02 Alum) from Green Bay School in North Chicago, and Steve from Oak Terrace School in Highwood.  We appreciate their cooperation and the time it took to make this opportunity available for their students.  All are outstanding examples of Citizen Musicians.

If you have questions about the YMS Program, think you might like to participate next year, know other school directors to involve, or potential funders for this program, please let me know.

Enjoy the snow!