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Guest Blog Series: Don't be Afraid to Break Old Habits by Rei Hotoda

Note from ACSO: Our membership network is full of incredible people with a wealth of life experiences, talents, and diverse perspectives and backgrounds. We want to share their insights, points of view, and wisdom with all of you, as well as raise the voices of individuals who are making a difference for the classical music field. Our guest blog series features people from different communities throughout California and the western region, from different sizes and types of classical music organizations, and with different jobs and responsibilities. They will share what they have learned, express their opinions about the sector, and ask challenging questions that will help us shift our thinking and be better advocates for this art form that we all love.

Don't Be Afraid to Break Old Habits
   
I’m someone who loves a challenge, whether it’s learning to conduct a new work or bench pressing 150 pounds. Yes, me. Just shy of 110 pounds was *challenged* recently by my trainer to do just that. While it was difficult, and didn’t think I could do it, I did. It was quite life affirming and opened a whole new mental and physical avenue for me.
   
Was I afraid? Yes. The thought of pulling something (or worse breaking something) was first and foremost. The thought of doing something that might threaten my career was very real. But, I decided I need to do this, and boy I’m glad I did. Not only did this newness inspire me to hit the gym more, it challenged me to think differently about HOW I go to and experience the gym.
   
You might be thinking, "What on earth does this have to do with anything music related?" A whole lot actually.
   
Oftentimes, we, as musicians, music directors, executive directors, boards, get stuck in a rut. We let our creative muscles atrophy.
   
We—and I count myself in the “we”—are in the habit of repeating our successes, even if they become less successful and stale over time. Season in and season out, presenting and doing the same thing year after year. This is a habit we need to break.
   
Are we challenging ourselves to offer new experiences or seizing different opportunities to connect to our audiences or new audiences in different ways?
   
If we want reach new audiences and stay relevant to our communities, we, as creative organizations and musicians, need to make this a priority. Much like I took on lifting 150-pound weights, we need to have the confidence to lift the giant weight of doing things in more creative and inventive ways.
   
I feel strongly that our arts organizations should serve our communities, and this may mean we need to think and present music differently. Let’s embrace a new “spirit of creativity” that is meaningful to these communities. In my position of Music Director of the Fresno Philharmonic, and as I approach my third season, there is even more momentum to instill this “spirit of creativity” to all that we do. Little by little, program by program.
   
Always thinking creatively and assessing if there is a rut can be exhausting and unnerving. It can be hard to be honest and even harder still to accept what you find. 
   
Think of it this way: Say there is a new restaurant in town, but you always had good food at one that you often frequent. You’re hungry and you want to eat, but the thought of being disappointed at a new place is making you avoid something new. So, instead of going to the new restaurant and having some potentially exciting new food, you go to the same old, same old. Did you eat? Yes. Was it good? Yeah, perhaps, but not exciting. However, would you have found a new place to go to and had a new experience? No. (And, for the record, I would always try the new place; I’m a foodie through and through!)
   
The mark of a good and successful business is its ability to adapt and grow, change and challenge itself. And I firmly believe music is a creative business. As arts leaders, we MUST continue to push our creativity and bring in new ideas!
   
I truly believe that those in artistic leadership roles should be the role models for our musicians, our boards, our audiences. The fear of failure or experiencing something unsuccessful should not be our first thoughts, and truthfully, they often are. We need to stop looking at change as being a disruptive impediment. We must expand our thinking beyond our monetary value and place the lasting impact in our communities squarely in the driver’s seat.
   
Don’t worry, I’m not recommending we throw all caution to the wind. I’m just encouraging you to do something, try something different and challenging. No matter how small All it takes is one step. Like we did in Fresno. One small change had a huge impact!
   
In Fresno, we had a “Meet the Artist Luncheon” series. It was held at the same place and in the same way year after year. While it was attended, the event started to feel stagnant and was not relevant to the dynamic changes that were taking place on stage.
   
So, we decided to try a new approach. Thanks to my awesome staff – Stephen Wilson and Annie Schmidt  we started holding our luncheons in places in the community that were relevant to what was happening on stage. We formed new alliances and partnerships with these spaces and organizations, opening up and expanding our reach and making many new connections. The result has been overwhelmingly positive.
   
We broke the habit of always falling back on what we knew, we challenged our creative muscles, and we had a fabulous work out -- and the rewards have been wonderful!
   
About the Author: Rei Hotoda, the newly appointed Music Director of the Fresno Philharmonic, is rapidly becoming one of America’s most sought after and dynamic artists. She has appeared as a guest conductor with many of today’s leading ensembles, including the Symphony Orchestras of Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Edmonton, Jacksonville, Utah, Toronto, and Winnipeg, as well as the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and the St. Louis Symphonies, among others. She most recently made her conducting debuts with the Nashville and Asheville Symphonies. Read more here.

Sexual Harassment Training Now Required for all Organizations with 5 or More Employees; For Orchestras, This Includes Musicians

Last year the California legislature passed SB 1343 expanding the requirement for who has to be trained on sexual (and other) harassment issues, largely in response to the #MeToo movement. Previously, only supervisors had to complete the training, and it was only required for organizations with 50 or more staff members. Now it is required for all employees in organizations with five or more paid staff. Since the bill includes temporary or seasonal employees, it means that orchestras must ensure that paid musicians receive the training as well.
   
The required training has to be completed by January 1, 2020. The training must meet certain standards and must be repeated every two years. New employees must be trained within six months of hire or promotion to a supervisory position. Non-supervisor training is a one-hour session; supervisor training is a two-hour session.
   
Organizations with five or more employees will also need to update their employee manuals with the training requirements and anti-harassment and retaliation policies, plus post updated notices and hand out the California sexual harassment brochure (all available here). 
   
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing will be developing sexual harassment trainings by the end of the year, but those are not yet available.
   
In the meantime, there are many vendors and companies that provide the training. If your organization is a member of CalNonprofits, as ACSO is, your supervisors can take the required harassment training for free and your non-supervisory staff can get discounts on the required training. Learn more here. 

Music for Our Veterans

Note from ACSO: The author of this article, Retired United States Marine Corps Major Brian Dix, was Director of “The Commandant’s Own,” The U.S Marine Drum & Bugle Corps, in Washington, D.C. He is currently an independent conductor and composer in San Diego, California.

It is a pleasure observing various symphony orchestras crafting Veterans Day programs each year on November 11. Having worked with several artistic directors on creating appropriate repertoires, I’ve seen common threads of misunderstanding. They often suggest well-intended selections for our nation’s fallen service members that are more appropriate for a day of solemn and earnest commemoration, also know as Memorial Day. In a nutshell, Memorial Day is a day of “remembrance”; Veterans Day is for the living.

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The LA Phil at 100

Note from ACSO: The author of this article, Julia Ward, is the director, development communications and strategy and editor, Past/Forward: The LA Phil at 100 at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. She is also on ACSO's Board of Directors.

When the Los Angeles Philharmonic was founded in 1919 by William Andrews Clark, Jr., Los Angeles wasn’t the likeliest place for a professional orchestra to spring up. It was a pioneer town with indigenous roots on the verge of what remains one of the largest population booms in U.S. history. The film industry had set up shop by then as well, and Fatty Arbuckle shorts weren’t doing much for the city’s reputation as a fount of classical art. But Clark and the impresarios who followed were nothing if not aspirational. 

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ACSO Celebrates National Arts Education Week by Highlighting our Youth Orchestra, Academic, and Orchestra Education Members

Passed by Congress in 2010, House Resolution 275 designates the week beginning with the second Sunday in September as National Arts in Education Week - that's this week! National Arts in Education Week is supported by Americans for the Arts on behalf of the field of arts education to bring visibility to the cause, unify stakeholders with a shared message, and provide the tools and resources for local leaders to advance arts education in their communities.

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Jack of All Trades, or Master of One? How Musicians Make an Impact as Artists and Administrators

Note from ACSO: The author of this blog, Leslie Schlussel, is ACSO's Summer 2018 Conference and Membership Intern and her internship is supported by a grant from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. She is entering her senior year at UCLA, majoring in Music Performance with a minor in Music Industry. She aspires to be a professional horn player in a symphony orchestra as well as work in arts administration.

What is my role as a classical musician in today’s world? In what ways can I help protect orchestral music’s integrity and further its efforts to address audiences’ evolving needs and expectations?

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