As I start to move beyond dreaming about my perfect nucleo, and take practical steps toward planning it, I'm forced to think about what are actually reasonable goals. If I had unlimited resources, my nucleo would "have it all," but as that is not something that is likely to happen in my first year, I've started thinking about what would be truly important characteristics of my future nucleo, and what could possibly be expendable (without forgetting, of course, what I would do if I miraculously did have unlimited resources). There are two pieces of advice that I've heard many times over the past few weeks that I believe will help me in deciding how to realistically structure my nucleo. They are:
1. Start Small
2. Identify your Core Values
With that in mind, here are some preliminary thoughts about what my nucleo could possibly look like next year and in the future. These are ideas that will continue to evolve over the next few months.
In its pilot year, my program serves 25 underprivileged children who are living in the neighborhood surrounding the community center where we hold classes. There are classes Monday through Friday after school until 6pm, and the community center is seen as a safe and fun place where children are constantly engaged, learning and building relationships. Our teachers are our greatest strength. They are completely committed to the students. Working here is not a “job” for them, but a way of life. They take both their role as an artist and as a teacher very seriously, with the well-being and growth of their students as the first priority. Each student receives individual attention on his or her instrument, as well as a strong base in music literacy, taught in a fun but practical way. By playing in a string orchestra, instrument choir, and chamber music groups, students learn the importance of collaboration with others. There are frequent concerts given by the teachers, which are community events, attended by families, students and others in the neighborhood. The children also perform often, both formally and informally.
Ten years after the launch of our program, we have become a positive force for social change within our community, serving over 100 children. In our new location we have a beautiful performance space with frequent concerts given by our teachers, as well as visits from many guest artist who give masterclasses and performances. Our first “class” of students are just beginning to graduate high school, having been part of our organization for the past ten years, and all are starting some form of higher education or career. These students have become role models to the younger students, and the pride of their families and communities. We currently have a retention rate of over 90% for our students, even as we continue to target families with great need for support and resources. We have a very long waiting list. We are known throughout the city and hope to open two more locations next fall. Our students perform frequently throughout the city and surrounding areas. There are also frequent field trips with the students to see concerts.