Monday, November 22, 2010

Important News from COPPeR's Board Chair

It is with both sadness and a sense of excitement for her bright future ahead that I must share with you the news that COPPeR Executive Director Bettina Swigger has accepted a position as the executive director of Festival Mozaic, a music festival in San Luis Obispo on the California Central Coast. This is a tremendous opportunity for Bettina for which she was approached as a part of a competitive national search. This not only speaks highly of her personal and professional integrity and work ethic, but speaks to the culture of COPPeR where we strive to provide our staff the best opportunities possible to actualize their fullest potential.

COPPeR has grown leaps and bounds since its inception four years ago. We've established as THE go-to website for arts, culture and fun. We've worked together with artists and arts organizations, donors, businesspeople and local government and municipalities to leverage the role of arts and culture as a vital part of the fabric of community identity, and a significant economic driver. We've told the story of how arts and culture bring together people from various backgrounds and perspectives to celebrate what is truly important, our shared humanity.

All of this with Bettina Swigger as the leader of this vibrant, ever-evolving organization. She served first as a founding board member and then as the organization's first executive director for three years.

As Bettina transitions into the next phase of her career, COPPeR itself is poised to head into the future with many exciting things ahead. In 2011, COPPeR will be working with members of the community to implement parts of the Cultural Plan for the Pikes Peak Region; gather data for the next economic impact study on the arts and culture sector and its impact on the local economy; move forward with the board of directors on its new five-year strategic plan; publish the next edition of the COPPeR Pages; and more.

A party is planned to honor Bettina's legacy at COPPeR and to wish her bon voyage. Please save the date for January 5 and you can expect an invitation with all of the details shortly.

As we look to the future, the Board of Directors of COPPeR is seeking a new executive director who will help lead us into the next phase of our development. We are currently accepting applications and you will find the job posting on our website. Deadline for applications is December 3, 2010. Click here to see a complete job description.

Look to hear more from us as we embark on this exciting search for the next leader of this tremendous organization.

Thank you for your support of COPPeR, and of the entire arts community.

Amanda Mountain
COPPeR Board Chair

Friday, November 19, 2010

Two new arts trainings - Audience Development and Impact Measurement and Outcomes

COPPeR is delighted to invite you to our final two arts training
"Boot Camp" sessions for 2010:

Audience Development: Beyond Butts in Seats
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
4:30 - 6 p.m.
Jack Quinn's Pub
21 South Tejon Street

In today's world, it takes enthusiasm, energy and innovation to grow audiences for the arts. This boot camp will explore new ways of opening up to new audiences. Hear from Ivette Gallegos and Karen Evers, the masterminds behind the Jack Quinn's Running Club, a phenomenon that has transformed Tuesday nights in downtown Colorado Springs by bringing thousands of runners together. Also hear from realtor Benjamin Day about his experience as an audience member and how the lessons he learned from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' CEO Michael Kaiser inform his business planning and building his client base. Finally, hear about trends in audience development from across the country from Brett Garman, manager of, fresh from the 2010 National Arts Marketing Partnership Conference. This conversational session will allow time for questions, comments and dialogue about how to expand our reach as an arts sector. Click here to register by email.

Impact Measurements and Outcomes
4:30 - 6 p.m.
Wednesday, December 8
East Library
5550 N Union Blvd

Measuring the impact of the arts can be challenging. This session will provide insight in to how your organization can measure and track your impact in real ways. Debi Krause-Reinsch with the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Association will share tools she has used to measure impact in the nonprofit and commercial sectors. Susan Edmondson, Executive Director of the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, will discuss the importance of accurate measurement from a funder's perspective. And Caitlin Green, Director at the UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art will share research she has done across the sector in new techniques. Boot camp participants will be guided through exercises. Click here to register by email.

All sessions include:
- Tools to help your arts organization survive and thrive in a challenging economy.
- Information geared specifically for the unique challenges of arts organizations.
- Time for Q&A and collective sharing of our individual organizations' successes and challenges.
- Networking with colleagues and new friends

Cost: $5 per session per organization (more than one member of an organization may attend).
$2 for COPPeR Arts Partners.
Pay at the door.

RSVP: Space is limited!

You may RSVP for all sessions at once, too.
Questions? Call Bettina at 634.2204.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cultural Plan for the Pikes Peak Region is finally here!

I'm sitting in my office, finally sitting at my computer and reveling after having just formally announced the first-ever Cultural Plan for the Pikes Peak Region. It's been a whirlwind morning of press conferences and TV cameras. It's a big moment for our community.

Two years ago we embarked on a journey with Arts for Colorado. In 2008, before the National Performing Arts Convention was coming to Denver and bringing with it 8,000 arts professionals from across the nation, I spearheaded an application for Colorado Springs to participate in a statewide collaborative community planning process. We were selected as one of eight communities around the state, which also included Aurora, Cortez, Steamboat Springs, Monte Vista, Glenwood Springs, Lakewood and Glenwood Springs. We put together a team, which included Thomas Wilson, associate conductor of the CS Philharmonic, Jan Martin, Colorado Springs City Council, Deborah Thornton, Imagination Celebration, and Dave Talbot, an entrepreneur. We headed to Denver for NPAC that summer and began to explore the possibilities of launching a cultural planning process for Colorado Springs and our region. A previous effort at creating a Cultural Plan for the region had led in part to the very formation of COPPeR, and cultural planning is a primary activity of cultural offices around the country, we figured there was no time like the present.

Two years later, I'm delighted to say that we have a plan! Click here to download the plan that will help guide arts providers to better serve the community for years to come. The Pikes Peak region (El Paso and Teller counties) is home to more than 200 nonprofit arts organizations that produce an annual economic impact of nearly $100 million. Thousands of individual artists also call this region home. Colorado Springs ranks in the top 15 percent of 276 metropolitan areas nationwide in the number of arts businesses per capita, proving that creative industries are a major force in the economy.

It just makes sense -- a strong arts and cultural sector benefits everyone from visitors to residents, educators to businesspeople, schoolchildren and seniors alike.

The Cultural Plan is a strategic plan which aims to develop, enliven, enhance and promote arts and culture to strengthen our community. Our arts scene already is vibrant - and we simply want to see even more of a good thing. This 10-year plan has identified the necessary goals, strategies and recommended action steps for supporting the growth, diversity and sustainability of cultural activities in the Pikes Peak region. The plan identifies methods in which the arts can strengthen all sectors of the community, with the understanding that the arts are an intricate ecosystem composed of individual artists, nonprofit organizations, and creative industries like film, design and architecture. In order for our region to be hip, exciting and attractive we all need to be on the same page, with a similar vision for the future built on shared values.

Some major takeaways from the plan:

This plan identifies that one of the most critical issues holding back the artists and arts organizations from serving our community is the lack of a variety of affordable and accessible venues throughout the region. This plan calls for dedicated effort toward ensuring a variety of cultural spaces -- from an amphitheatre that takes advantage of our beautiful scenery and weather to more simple and small-scale spaces for performances and exhibit spaces -- spaces that are achievable in partnerships with developers, institutions, municipalities and others.

Numerous studies have shown that in order to compete in an increasingly fast-paced employment market, arts education is essential for building 21st-century thinkers. This plan looks at ways to capitalize on successes in innovative arts training and connect more students to arts learning opportunities both in and outside of the classroom. The plan also calls for more interactive, instructive arts programming to build creative individuals of all ages.

Philanthropic support will always play a part in the arts. This plan identifies new systems and structures for generating new, sector wide private support for the arts, in addition to ways the arts community can better demonstrate its impact and its high level of professional management standards to donors and partners.

Serving the community begins at the neighborhood level -- from block parties to coffeeshop poetry readings to concerts in neighborhood churches and YMCAs and community centers -- and especially integrating public art and murals throughout our two-county region. This plan calls for tools that will help artists and arts organizations work with our community at the neighborhood level to increase the quality of life for all of our residents -- in downtown Colorado Springs, in artistic hubs such as Manitou Springs and beyond to all of our neighborhoods.

Download the complete Cultural Plan for the Pikes Peak Region here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Congratulations to Kevin Johnson

Hello to COPPeR friends, donors, supporters and volunteers:

After two and a half years at COPPeR managing, Kevin Johnson will be leaving in mid-September for a brand-new position as
Information and Online Community Coordinator at Pikes Peak Community College. We are extremely excited for Kevin as he faces this bold new opportunity, and we are terrifically grateful for his work here at COPPeR. He will be missed.

Kevin says: "I have had the good fortune to make lasting connections with many of the fabulous people from the diverse arts and cultural organizations we serve at COPPeR, and I will miss working closely with them to support their programming. I was proud to be a part of an organization that has brought attention to the outstanding events and programs that are produced here in the Pikes Peak region."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

With apologies to Battlestar Galactica

As we approach the rollout of the first-ever Cultural Plan for the Pikes Peak region, I decided to combine my love of SciFi with my love of Cultural Planning in the video below...

Stay tuned. 9.9.10. The Cultural Plan arrives.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

From Katie, the friendly Fellow

My name is Katie Ferguson and I’m so excited to be working with COPPeR this summer as their cultural planning coordinator through Colorado College’s Public Interest Fellowship Program. I’m a Mathematical Economics major and dance minor at Colorado College, just down the road. I have grown up in the nonprofit world, training with a dance company and school near Denver and working with their administrative and development departments and teaching in past years.
I’ve not posted a blog on here before so I thought I’d fill everyone in on what I’ve been up to and let you all know that, at least for the summer, there are more people in the office! (I wouldn’t want any of you coming into our office and thinking there was some random girl hanging out at a desk). So here goes!
During my time here at COPPeR, (about 2 months now!) I’ve gotten the great opportunity to work very closely with Bettina compiling and creating the first ever Cultural Plan for the Pikes Peak region. This project is what drew me to the job in the first place so I’m so happy to be getting to do so much work with it ☺ So far this process has been a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the area and discover just how important the arts and culture are to this region. It has been really great to be able to meet so many influential people in the community through the plan0-writing process.
I’ve also gotten to explore the Colorado Springs arts scene and learn more about what’s going on here. I was shocked in my first few weeks to learn how much was going on! I have always considered myself to be pretty aware, but there was so much I hadn’t heard about. As I explored and visited places like Smokebrush Gallery, the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum and Cottonwood Center for the Arts, I also learned just how very essential the arts, culture and heritage are to this community and to so many people who live in it and work for it.
I had no idea places like Cottonwood existed, let alone so close to where I live. I got a tour of Cottonwood from artist Jennifer Hanson and to get to meet so many of the artists. I was blown away by the level of local talent we have here. From sculptors to painters and even artists who work with pastels (I never could do anything with those except get them all over my hands and clothes) the work was just brilliant. There was one artist who paints landscapes from pictures so that they would look brilliant-- even clearer than the original picture! And the truth is that there are tons of venues for local artists to show their work- we have an amazing artistic base here in the Pikes Peak region. Unfortunately, not everyone knows about our rich arts scene and that's why COPPeR is so important for getting the word out.
I brought a couple friends with me to the Pioneer’s Museum and besides learning new things about Colorado’s history; we got a secret tour up to the top of the bell tower! Check out this picture - there's COPPeR wa-a-a-y down below. If any of you heard the bells ring a couple random times in mid June- that might have been me! It was great up there; you could see for miles.

In addition to my work on the Cultural Plan and exploring the area, I have also gotten to work on the Arts/Culture/Fun(d) drive, in which we raised more than $8,000 to support! There have been lots of other activities, too - there's always something going on at COPPeR.
Last weekend I got to hang out at the COPPeR booth at Pride Fest which was so much fun (Click here to see some great photos)! It was great to see the diversity of our region so engaged in such a great festival. It has been a really truly great experience working with COPPeR and I’m excited to continue on through August!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nuggets from Michael Kaiser's Arts in Crisis Presentation

We just returned from a fantastic morning at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center where we heard from Michael Kaiser, President and CEO of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on his only stop in Colorado on his 50-state Arts in Crisis tour. I served on the interviewing panel along with Maurice LaMee from Creede Repertory Theatre and Elaine Mariner from Colorado Creative Industries (formerly Colorado Council on the Arts). We had a lively crowd and Mr. Kaiser presented some great information about what he's learned during his tour and some of his advice for arts groups moving away from crisis and toward organizational health.

COPPeR Board Member Benjamin Day live-blogged the whole thing on Facebook – so for those of you who couldn't be there - here are his posts for all to enjoy!

Michael Kaiser's Fan Club @ FAC... Representing COPPeR at "The Kennedy Center Presents: Arts in Crisis". Parking lot was full more than a half hour before event was to begin.
“Yes, I'm blogging live... Yes, we have had a Coffee Crisis when we almost ran out of decaf; a Strawberry Squeeze when there was a fresh fruit deficit; but no CC Compromise with Bettina facilitating!”
“first instinct of arts organizations when faced with economic constraints is to start cutting." Equates programming to marketing: your programming is your message.
‎"There is no reason to give to an organization that is doing nothing". Huh. Does that extend to organizations / municipalities / communities / organizations outside of the arts?
‎70% of international tourists to the US identify themselves as cultural tourists. 17% of GDP is manufacturing. Smallest number of any developed nation.
A wish not a plan is to do more marketing and more fundraising. Hint: programming. You can't balance your budget on bequests. Talk about the present and the future, forget the past. Plan big transformative projects, meaning a five year calendar. Kaiser has five years of projects as a menu: donors will connect to one or two; if you have only one, ... See Morethey might get distant. The length of time actually helps tighten the bond with the audience. Five years gives him time to educate an audience. Take time to do the exciting work.
Institutional marketing connects people to "the family." marketing: you do it and you do it again and you do it again. Hint: arts organizations fear doing anything big. You don't need big donors: people want to be involved. Big is a pretty easy way to get people involved. Haley Dance Company facing bankruptcy in 1992 paid off their debt within 12 mos.
There is zero room for negativity in the arts, the spokesperson must be optimistic and communicate the positive attributes exclusively. Arts are notorious for whining about their financial problems, reducing programming, being entitled ("ask Bill Cosby for $1 million"... "why? We don't deserve it"), and living in the ruins of their past ("who was ... See Morethe fool who approved the $56K cannon for The Nutcracker? That was dumb. Let's marinade in dumb..."). That thinking organizes no one. Arts must be visionary and paint a picture/direction that is optimistic.
Arts ticket prices have created a large degree of exclusivity and thus irrelevance. The Met has decent tickets for standard opera next year are $750/piece. Arts orgs have to think inclusive and how to get everyone involved. Kennedy Center has a free performance daily at 6. Changes daily. Most popular are what likely would seem most irrelevant: symphonic music and ballet. These "free" events draw more than anyone.
We are channeling Seth Godin here: don't work on your donor base. Work on being exciting. Example Soweto Dance Company. If you can do it there (one of the poorest slums on the planet creates a top int'l dance troupe)... You can do it anywhere. Do exciting & important, focus on that. Biggest arts progam of 2010 was in Gand Rapids, MI, Visual Arts Festival. 1500 artists showed up: year one. Interesting and Important can happen anywhere.
Creede Rep. Theatre has a value of "we will fail." Kaiser: arts must lead. Probably will fail when you lead. Most "best" arts performances people experience are not ones they expected. Arts are risky: embrace that. People don't claim Phantom of the Opera as their lifetime best arts experience... It's good, maybe great, but the best lies in surprise... See More. For me, Arcade Fire and the Sam Lay Blues Band (at Shove Chapel, 1995) are the two best live music experiences I can think of, not the huge, high expectation events. Both surprised me and left me transformed. (Now we are channeling Aeschylus!)
Lots of grumbling before event on the title and use of "Crisis". We are clearly crisis'ed out. We are city 66 out of 69, maybe is resonated more six months ago. In any event, the theme is exceedingly positive and pokes at the crisis-to-crisis mentality, and that "from the 1890's there are accounts of the arts are doomed." Arts are not allowed to function from a crisis mode.
Totally agree..if you have a product, it needs to be exciting more than anything else. Organizations that cut back on programming also cut back on product, no sales. Most marketers look for the "home run" donors, exclusively. But they don't understand that by tapping the base of the pyramid, you can get tons of singles....Singles win Ballgames!
Arts Crisis Alert! Educational problem and arts not considered part of the necessary curriculum. How to address? Proactive behavior of arts orgs should be to concentrate on inclusive events and actions. Again mentions ticket prices as a huge problem and a deficit of thinking about big programming that's exciting. Innovation also really brings people in.
Interesting spiritual nugget: arts leaders should be mentored and mentoring.
Oh dear... First person has left and I can't say I'm surprised who it was. Yes, an EDC member.
More spiritual... Know when to build a building. Debt kills. The line between sickness and health is very slim. What, is he addressing a bunch of 30 yr old men? :) awesome advice for life not expected at an arts event.
Singles win ballgames... I love it Mark. Thanks!
Send off: we sell more tickets for arts then sports in the US.
Imagination Celebration presents the Dragon Hat, as the Protector of the Jewels of the Kingdom.

Friday, May 28, 2010

US Air Force Academy to Downgrade Band - consequences for our community

From COPPeR Board member Mark Dempsey, Executive Director of the Colorado Springs Chorale:

The Air Force has made the determination to downgrade the Air Force Academy Band designation from Premier to Regional while retaining the Band’s national touring mission. The downgrade is not just in title and stature but will have a very real impact.
The Band will lose 7-10 musicians and the members will have to rotate through other regional bands every three or four years. The ensemble's current strength is based on playing together as an ensemble over a long period of years. They will no longer have as much ability to audition musicians, but will have to consider candidates rotating through the re-assignment pool. In addition, this will leave the Air Force Academy as the only service academy whose band is not a premier band and eliminate the only premier band located outside of the East Coast/Washington, D. C. geographical area.

I see this as a tremendous blow to the Academy, the region’s number one tourist attraction, an insult to Colorado Springs and to Colorado more generally, not to mention the hard to calculate impact on the region as a tourist draw. It certainly impacts our efforts to develop the cultural reputation of the area. The Philharmonic will lose the availability of some top musicians, and regional schools and other clinician, teaching and developmental efforts among kids and adults alike now provided by the bandsman will suffer as band members are regular clinicians with the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Association, Peakharmonic and other youth organizations as well as providing off-duty free clinics in at least six area high schools.

The downgrade will also impact recruiting for the Air Force Academy in competition with the other service academies for top quality cadets and in the long run, has the potential to degrade the quality of Air Force leadership. For comparison purposes, the U.S. Army has four Premier bands, the Navy, two, the Marine Corps one plus a Premier Drum and Bugle Corps, all located on the East Coast.

Additionally, the Band uses the Pikes Peak Center 7-10 times a year, presenting at least five concerts to the community. Twenty-five members of the band or their spouses are private music teachers, reaching over 200 students per week. Two members of the band are contract members of the Philharmonic, three band spouses are contract members, while eight band members are regular performers with the Philharmonic.

The only recourse now available to reverse this decision is for individual citizens to contact their political representatives asking them to intervene. I encourage you to contact your elected officials today! (But please keep in mind that cut and paste of my or others’ remarks suggests an organized mass mailing and has less impact than a simple, short call or letter in your own words as an individual concerned citizen.)

El Paso County Treasurer Sandra Damron has made the following plea to her elected officials, as well:

The community’s concern regarding the downgrading of this band from Premiere to Regional is based on several factors:

The Air Force Academy would become the only service academy without a Premiere Band.
The Air Force Academy band is the only Premiere military band west of the Mississippi. This is a slap in the face not only to the Pikes Peak Region and Colorado, but to the entire Western half of the country.

The reason given (career stagnation and lack of promotion opportunities) is simply not true. Musicians function much as a baseball or football team does: the longer they play together, the better they get. For example, the Stellar Brass, which has had the same personnel for 12 years, is possibly the best brass quintet in the country, military or civilian. As far as promotion opportunities, taking away one of the two Air Force Premiere bands effectively cuts promotion opportunities for all other Air Force musicians in half.

There is no cost savings. In fact, the requirement of adding 45 more AF personnel to the list of those who are transferred regularly will actually increase costs by approximately $1 million annually.

The members of the US Air Force Academy Band are permanent members of the community. Because they feel a connection with the community, during their off hours they teach in our colleges (state-wide), they play in our community orchestras (also state-wide), and they volunteer in our social organizations and churches. The loss of this connection would negatively impact all of these organizations.

It is my hope, and the hope of many others, that you will be able to convince the AF Chief of Staff that downgrading the AFA Band is unnecessary, and that we will be able to proudly keep this band as “The Best of the Best” in representing the United States Air Force Academy.

Elected Officials Contact Information:

The Honorable Doug Lamborn
US House of Representatives
437 Cannon House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
Phone (202) 225-4422
1271 Kelly Johnson Blvd. Suite 110
Colorado Springs, CO 80920
Phone: (719) 520-0055
Fax: (719) 520-0840
The Honorable Mike Coffman
US House of Representatives
1508 Longworth House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
Phone (202) 225-7882
9220 Kimmer Drive; Suite 220
Lone Tree, CO 80124
Phone: (720) 283-9772
Fax: (720) 283-9776
The Honorable John Salazar
US House of Representatives
326 Cannon House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
Phone (202) 225-4761
134 West B Street
Pueblo, CO 81003
719-543-8204 (fax)
The Honorable Mark Udall
United States Senate
317 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
Phone (202) 224-5941
2880 International Circle, Suite 107
Colorado Springs, CO 80910
P: 719-471-3993
The Honorable Michael Bennet
United States Senate
702 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
Phone (202) 224-5852
409 North Tejon St., Suite 107
Colorado Springs, 80903
Phone: (719) 328-1100 Fax: (719) 328-1129

Friday, April 9, 2010

Flash Mob for Poetry

Perhaps you've seen the Improv Everywhere "Food Court Musical" and thought to yourself, how cool is that? Can we do something like that here? Check out this video for how these spontaneous performances can surprise and delight.

Well, just in time for National Poetry Month (April), here's your chance to get involved in a poetry flash mob. Calling all with dramatic flair, a passion for poetry, and/or video skills [BYO camcorder], the mission is to make poetry happen, in sync, all over Colorado Springs.

We'll gather to assign groups and tasks on Saturday, April 10 at high noon. Come to the offices of COPPeR, the Cultural Office of the Pike's Peak Region. Missions will include visual and spoken performances of predetermined poems at prearranged places throughout the city. The hope is that we take Colorado Springs by surprise with poetry.

Examples of group missions include:
-holding posters along sidewalks and across parks, mapping out famous lines of poetry
-erupting in spontaneous choral recitations in grocery stores and shopping malls
-videotaping crowd responses and enjoyment of spontaneous poetry

Deployment of the missions happens on Saturday, April 17th. We want lots of footage so we can gather later to celebrate our success!

If you're interested, please come down to our office tomorrow and we'll be sure to post videos of the deployment after they happen.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Art Creates Community Winner announced

Yesterday, the winner of the new the 2010 ART CREATES COMMUNITY $10,000 Award sponsored by the Bee Vradenburg Foundation and the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado was announced. Congratulations to Community in Unison: Chamber Orchestra of the Springs and the Gospel Music Workshop of America!

Community in Unison will combine chamber music virtuosity with the explosive energy of gospel choir in a concert of original arrangements of traditional spirituals and gospels. Chamber Orchestra of the Springs and Gospel Music Workshop of America - Colorado Springs Chapter will present this inspiring concert at the downtown First United Methodist Church on September 10, 2010 in association with a Volunteer Fair. If you want to learn full details of the project and/or play a more active role in its realization please contact

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spotlight: Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Association

This is the second in our Spotlight series in which we have invited folks from some of the Pikes Peak region's diverse arts groups to tell us what they do, who they work with, and what they're all about. You may have seen the banners in downtown Colorado Springs advertising the 30th anniverary of the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony. Today we give you a behind-the-scenes snapshot of this venerable institution. This post was written by David Sckolnick, Marketing Consultant for the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony.

At the age of 30, we reach a time in our lives when the previous three decade's trials and tumbles make way for genuinely powerful and consistent accomplishment. The Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Association is celebrating that birthday this year, but the experiences and accomplishments of many of the aspiring musicians who have been a part of our program go beyond what is considered normal in the classic model of the human growth curve.

"I love being able to play with people that share my passion for music."

For three decades the CSYSA has been shaping young musicians. As part of this year's celebration we're reaching out to our musicians, folks in their 40s, 30s, 20s and teens to see what our program has meant to the lives of our musicians. The Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Association provides high quality, diverse instrumental music education to youth and is a resource to the community. CSYSA is comprised of 7 auditioned groups (2 full orchestras, 2 bands and 3 string orchestras), a Mozart String outreach program and a chamber ensemble program. CSYSA serves over 450 musicians a year in these programs (once a week rehearsals/classes minimum). Musicians come primarily from the Pikes Peak Region and musicians come from more than 60 different schools and outlying communities.

"What I like best about Youth Symphony are the friendships I've made. Through tours, rehearsals and concerts, the other musicians become your second family. I'm thankful to the organization for integrating wonderful musicians from many different schools--without Youth Symphony I never would have met these amazing people. The music is great, too!"

The Colorado Springs Youth Symohony provides an experience outside the schools to offer outstanding musicians real-world orchestral experience. Unfortunately, in our society, money is more frequently alllocated for ahtletics programs than music programs in public schools. It's true that athetic team experiences inspire great camaraderie and growth for young people as they move through the ups and downs of a competitive season. Some of the athletes even spend hours practicing on their own in weight rooms and working on their sport. But the hours spent mastering a violin, trumpet or bassoon may match and in many cases exceed how a high school linebacker or a point guard in basketball gets his or her body and mind prepared for a challenging opponent. And alongside the discipline, devotion, camarederie and growth nurtured by the experience of playing in an orchestra, a crash course in Bach, Mozart and Beethoven expands the minds and spirits of young people.

These young people also act as ambassadors for our community. The Youth Symphony tours internationally every other year as an ambassador of our city and country-they have performed in China, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Spain, Czech Republic, Carnegie Hall, and others!

For some of the musicians, playing with the Youth Symphony is the only chance they have to play with other musicians. One young musician says, "The Colorado Springs Youth Symphony is the highlight of my week. It is well worth the 200-mile drive each week. I have really grown as a musician being able to play with such talented kids. Gary Nicholson is an outstanding conductor who challenges me to do my very best." This student drives TWO HUNDRED MILES every week! That's dedication.

"I like losing myself in the music. When I play with all of the instruments, I feel like I am all of the instruments!"

But the benefits of being part of our program extend beyond their time in the ensemble. Although some alums do choose to pursue professional careers, many continue playing their instruments in a part-time community setting. But more importantly, our musicians go on to become one of the most vital component of the arts - the audience! Our cellists and trombonists of today will go on to attend symphony and chamber music concerts and other arts events in the future. The love of music they learn while in CSYSA will make sure that classical music keep sounding off on their loudspeakers and earbuds. It's just a little truth we have learned at Youth Symphony - music is a lifelong "sport" in which its players just get better and better, regardless of how their bodies wear down over the decades.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Spotlight: The Club of Arts

This is the first in our new Spotlight series in which we have invited folks from some of the Pikes Peak region's diverse arts groups to tell us what they do, who they work with, and what they're all about. This post was written by Jessie Pocock, Development Director at the Club of Arts.


There are 54 million people with disabilities in the United States making it the largest minority group. -Colorado Springs Independent

The unemployment rate for those with disabilities in the United States is 63.1 percent. The El Paso County rate was close to 80 percent in 2008. -The Resource Exchange, Cornell University

In 2009 alone 232 people with disabilities in El Paso County participated in art at TCOA in over 7,500 artistic interactions.

From Jessie:
Before attending the grand opening of The Club of Arts in 2005, I rarely considered why I almost never encountered people with developmental disabilities in the community. As a sociology major at Colorado College, I didn’t notice that there were no class offerings in my department that focused on the social issues concerning disabled people. It wasn’t until I entered the community of people with disabilities that I learned how powerful their voices can be.

Since I have been associated with The Club of Arts, (a nonprofit art organization reaching people with disabilities through artistic education, expression, and performance) I have learned so much about the strength, endurance, and power of people with disAbilities. For example, there are students like Allicia, who was on the waiting list for services she had been deemed eligible to receive for fourteen years. Allicia came to The Club of Arts hungry for independence, in need of a safe place to express herself. She is an incredibly talented silk dye artist. Her parents believe that art and TCOA have saved her life.

There are students who had never engaged in the arts previous to TCOA, like Marty, who is in his forties and started taking classes at TCOA a couple of years ago. Marty began experimenting with gluing wine corks to wooden boards and has now created intricate cork cities and has discovered a fine talent for diorama.

And there is Joe, an incredible oil painter who cannot physically speak because of his disability, but has found that he can communicate powerfully through art. In his self-portrait series, “Beyond My Wheelchair,” Joe paints his body trapped inside of a bottle demonstrating how the world occurs for him as a young man with a disabled body inside a world that is uncomfortable with difference. For Joe, art has become a way for him to communicate and a way for people to listen. Here's Joe at Exposion in summer 2009.
Joe wrote a poem about his experience of showing the world what he can do through his art.

Trapped in a Bottle
I am trapped in the bottle that is my life.
Always on the inside looking out
My bottle does protect me
All the while restricting me.

My bottle doesn’t allow friends
Nor does it allow climbing mountains.
It keeps me from being a drummer
And it doesn’t permit surfing.
My bottle doesn’t like babies
Nor does it like motorcycles.

But I have found a way around my bottle.
My bottle does allow art.
What my bottle doesn’t know
Is that by letting me paint,
It is losing control over me.

Painting frees me from my bottle.
I can paint thoughts my bottle won’t permit.
I can paint peace and frustration
And I can paint love and hatred.
I can paint spirituality and freedom
And I can paint hope and majesty.
I can paint patriotism and pride
And I can paint security and stereotyping.
I can paint good and evil
And I can paint alienation and connections.

Even though my bottle tries to protect me,
I still have all these thoughts.
And because my bottle allows art,
The world will know my thoughts.

Today, TCOA serves over 200 artists with disabilities, who through the artistic process are finding their own unique form of expression, a place to be heard, and a tangible artistic contribution to make that is appreciated and respected.

For more information about The Club of Arts please visit us online or stop in and visit. Our students love visitors! We are located at 505 E. Columbia St., 80907.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Poetry Out Loud

Last night I had the distinct privilege of serving as a judge for the Palmer High School Poetry Out Loud competition. Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation contest, was founded in 2006 by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. I've been aware of the program for several years, but I didn't get to actually experience it until last year at COPPeR and the Chamber's Business and Arts Luncheon, where Colorado state champion (and Palmer High School student) Kaleena Kovach stole the show with her moving recitation of a Margaret Atwood poem. It's not easy to captivate a room full of 300+ business people, but this 17-year-old did just that, and left the room hungry for more. As one luncheon attendee put it, "I am still amazed that the highlights were local opera singers and teen aged poetry performers."

Last night's competition was brief, with only three competitors, but there was a decent crowd of people to support the contestants, and the evening was carefully and lovingly executed, including incidental music. There were five judges: Aaron Anstett, the reigning Pikes Peak Poet Laureate, Jim Ciletti, poet extraordinaire and owner of Hooked on Books, Slam Poetry Mistess Karen Sucharski, Molly Gross, co-director of the Colorado College Writing Center and candidate for an MFA in poetry at Bennington, and yours truly. The reciters were of varying ability, but all were enthusiastic. The coach, Heather Brown, has done a phenomenal job of inspiring her students to appreciate poetry. But after my experience last night, I think she's gone beyond that; in fact, she has given each of her students a truly profound gift.

My grandfather was born in 1903. One summer when he was well in his eighties, we went on afternoon walks almost daily. On these walks, he told me all about his education in the small town in Texas, where he grew up on a farm. He went to a one-room school and eventually worked his way up to earning a scholarship to Oberlin. One of his favorite memories, and thus one of the stories he liked to tell again and again, was how his teacher required him to memorize poems. Numerous poems. Later, as his health declined and he became more senile, he had trouble remembering how to complete simple tasks. But he never forgot a poem. Those poems that he was forced to memorize in that little schoolhouse gave him a sense of peace that could never be taken away.

I was reminded of my grandfather last night. Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins and Carl Sandburg, which I'd read on the page many times years ago in class, came alive. It was as if by hearing them so lovingly recited, I was able to truly understand the poems, without having to parse or dissect them. It took the labor out of poetry appreciation and left all the joy.

One of the goals of Poetry Out Loud is to help students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. But they also gain fundamental understanding of individual poems and they will take those poems with them for the rest of their lives. For lack of a more poetic way to say it, that is just really, really cool.

Want to learn more about Poetry Out Loud? Click here.

For your enjoyment, one of the poems from last night's competition.

The Cities Inside Us by Alberto Rios

We live in secret cities
And we travel unmapped roads.

We speak words between us that we recognize
But which cannot be looked up.

They are our words.
They come from very far inside our mouths.

You and I, we are the secret citizens of the city
Inside us, and inside us

There go all the cars we have driven
And seen, there are all the people

We know and have known, there
Are all the places that are

But which used to be as well. This is where
They went. They did not disappear.

We each take a piece
Through the eye and through the ear.

It's loud inside us, in there, and when we speak
In the outside world

We have to hope that some of that sound
Does not come out, that an arm

Not reach out
In place of the tongue.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bob Lillie, 1937-2010

Robert Claude Lillie, "Bob" or "Bobby" as he was called by family and friends, was born on August 2, 1937, in Hammond, Indiana, and passed away peacefully on January 15, 2010, in Colorado Springs. Bob was an accomplished musician, especially on the pipe organ, and played for 15 years for the Sacklunch Serenade concerts at the City Auditorium, in downtown Colorado Springs. He was a founding member of the Colorado Springs Chorale, and was a participant in many local musical events. He also founded the Friends of the City Auditorium group, and served as its first President. Bob was preceded in death by his parents, Robert M. Lillie and Chlotielde G. Lillie, and his wife, Charlea. He is survived by his son, Robert Douglas (Gloria) Lillie, two daughters, Lisa Ann Fox, and Margaret (James) Hopkins, and a brother, David A. Lillie (Kate O'Boyle), a sister, Coral (Lonnie) Mings, six grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, two nephews, four nieces, and great-nephews and great-nieces. A memorial service will be held at the Colorado Springs City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa, on January 25 , at 1 p.m. Gifts of flowers will be gratefully accepted (please have them delivered to the Auditorium before 1 pm on the 25th), or, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Pikes Peak Area Theatre Organ Society (PPATOS, or to Friends of the City Auditorium . Bob will be greatly missed.