Saturday, February 18, 2012

YPQA training w/ Voice & Choice: Be like a garden hose


So just a quickie on my experience at a YPQA training yesterday. It was hosted by Montgomery County's Collaboration Council (which you can also find on Facebook) and led by Lynn Sobolov (the program manager of Excel Beyond the Bell) & Jaracus Copes (Founder of New Destiny). The training Midcounty Community Center.

Just in case, YPQA stands for Youth Program Quality Assessment, and you can find more info at the Center for Youth Program Quality.

This training focused on Voice and Choice, and I can't possibly recap EVERYTHING that was addressed and discussed, which was all pretty neat. But I wanted to share a metaphor which came to mind, and I'm sure I'm not the first one to ever make this connection...but wanted to share, anyway.

At one point we were divided into groups and asked to focus on different guidelines, to become experts on our assigned one and share it with the group. My partners and I had to inform the others about how to provide support.

And in our book, there was this neat and simple smiley face spectrum. The two ends of the spectrum were "Wide-open choice with no support (can lead to frustration)" and "Not enough choice (can lead to lack of interest)". And then there was just right, "Meaningful choices with adult support. So the metaphor goes like this.

Wide-open choice is like a sprinkler, water's flowing but it's going all over the place, some of it evaporating, some of it hitting the sidewalk, and maybe some of it actually hitting what you're trying to water.

Not enough choice is like a faucet, again, water is flowing, but it's going right down the drain.

Meaningful choices is like a garden hose. Wate is flowing, and while there is structure, there is also flexibility in its direction.

So that's, that. Was definitely a great morning/early afternoon, getting to spend time with a group of people doing amazing work in the area, including organizations like Arts on the Block (also on Facebook) & ClancyWorks (also on Twitter).

Anyway, that's it :-)

- JR

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Singing in GMCW's "The Kids Are All Right"

Hey there,

First, just wanted to start with my own personal background on singing. I actually started singing when I was a soprano, in the Men & Boys choir at the Washington National Cathedral.  I went on to do high school musicals, before High School Musical was one, and eventually pursued a professional career in the arts, which I continue to do today.

Which leads me to singing with the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, one of the most professional ensembles I've had the pleasure and privilege of being a part of, in skill, in artistry, and with the bonus of family. And at this point, I just have to share the latest iteration of a meme that's been floating around on Facebook, which if you're on, you can find it here.

This Saturday, GMCW will be presenting "The Kids Are All Right". In this concert, we'll be presenting a musical adaptation of Oliver Button is a Sissy, with guest narrator Candace Gingrich-Jones. We'll also be joined on stage by Dreams of Hope, "Pittsburgh's only arts-focused, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and allied (LGBTA) youth (13-21) organization".

At this point, I can't really provide any information that isn't already up elsewhere. In fact, there's a great piece in today's Washington Blade, Message in the Music. And, again, if you're on Facebook, you can RSVP at the event page, as well as follow GMCW on twitter.

I will say that even rehearsing for this concert has brought me close to tears. While I was fortunate to have had a supportive environment in high school at St. Albans, so much so that I felt comfortable enough to bring my boyfriend at the time to my senior prom, my bf did not. Almost daily, I would hear about incidents at school where other students would use slurs, and he would get in trouble with the teachers for speaking back. He would be physically harmed with his own backpack in the restroom, and hit so hard that sometimes he would actually get knocked out and come around because of the sound of the bell ringing.

Unfortunately, I know that was just the tip of the iceberg, not just back then (I was the class of '99), but especially now.  Rolling Stone recently had a thoughtful and heart-wrenching article, One Town's War on Gay Teens. Lately it doesn't even seem like a week goes by without hearing about another youth lost because of ignorance and intolerance. And we have prepared for and will perform this concert acknowledging, remembering and honoring those who are gone too soon.

Yet, more and more, communities seem to be coming together to raise awareness and address these issues, to foster safe spaces and attitudes. Not even two weeks ago, Montgomery County held a symposium on bullying, and the panel include representatives of the Gay-Straight Alliance of Walt Whitman High School (the link is a .docx file of their mission statement). GMCW even has an outreach program dedicated to youth outreach, GenOUT, which was mentioned in the Washington Blade article, in a quote from Jeff Buhrman, our Artistic Director:

"“(Saturday’s concert) is designed especially to serve the mission of our GenOUT program,” Buhrman says. “We are specifically reaching out to youth for ‘The Kids Are All Right."

I'm actually hoping to volunteer with the program, and am stoked to have the opportunity to further give back to an organization that gives more and more, to me and the rest of the community. So, if you know of any youth, families, and allies who would like to join us, I (and I'm sure the rest of my fellow chorines) would love to see you all there. Because everyone in the chorus, a long time ago and far, far away, used to be kids, too.

- JR

Thursday, February 09, 2012

MD Arts Day 2012 synopsis

This will have been the 2nd year I've attended Maryland Arts Day, organized by Maryland Citizens for the Arts.

Ran late, but fortunately they still had coffee and danishes out. Made it in time to catch "The Journey of an Artist from B-More" as told by Bashi Rose, local Theatre Artist and Filmmaker.

This was followed by various individuals from MCA's Board of Trustees addressing budget realities, advocacy training and legislative talking points, and impact maryland arts.

Then attendees went to divide and conquer, to speak to their delegates, at least those that were available.

The highlight was running into Heather Mizuer in the hallway on the way back to lunch, and she was gracious enough to stop and speak to us about her own stance on and support for the arts.

Lunch included a performance by A Little Bit of Blues Band.

Breakout sessions were on the agenda next, and I went to the Social Media one, led by Megan Pagado, from the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County.

Initially thought about heading back at this point, but stayed for an Emerging Arts Advocate happy hour, hosted by the folks at The Circle Gallery.

This was just a synopsis, but there'll be a handful more blogs to parse out some of the highlights of  this day, in greater detail, over the next week or so.

At the end of the day, I find myself reaffirmed, reenergized, and re-inspired. Very grateful that my life has led me to such a wonderful community as that made up by the individuals involved in the Maryland arts sector - JR