New Perspectives From A Different Part of The Country

I mentioned last week that I was in the process of moving. Today I started a new job at the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

I am really excited by this opportunity. The Grand is a storied theater having undergone many evolutions, and renovations  over its, depending on how you count, 134 or 104 year history.

One of the other things that really excites me is that Macon is a Knight Foundation community.  Over the years I have written about the interesting programs they have initiated and supported in their chosen communities. I am looking forward to experiencing some of this first hand.  (As you might imagine, I now need to insert a disclaimer that The Grand Opera House benefits from their support.)

I will apologize in advance that my posting schedule might be a little irregular as I tackle the challenges of my new job. Not to mention, my furniture has yet to catch up with me and blogging while sitting on my living room floor presents some challenges.

Still, I anticipate having new perspectives and insights to offer readers in the coming months.

Have You Hugged Your Grant Panelist?

Short post today because I just returned home after serving on a grant review panel for the state arts council.

The deputy director of the council was reminiscing about the days in the not so distant past when the review process for the main grant program took three days. Even though the panelists reviewed the applications in advance, they would spend time reviewing VHS tapes, etc as a group and discussing final thoughts on the grants across those three days.

Now it is possible to review and pre-score the grants online and likewise review videos, recordings, webpages, etc online and in advance as well. The stacks of applications for each grant program are distributed between different groups so that no group of reviewers has to spend more than a day at the arts council offices deciding on final scoring.


It is still a big job to serve on the panels and potential reviewers are busy.

A month ago a colleague told me she had been asked to serve on a panel for another program, but felt some trepidation about having enough time amidst all her other commitments to review the 45 proposals that had been assigned to her group.

There was a member of my panel today whose background and expertise I felt was much needed because it aligned with the non-arts field components found in five of the grant proposals. She also expressed reservations about serving again due to the time commitment required to preview the 45 proposals.

I should note the actual time we spent reviewing the grants today was about 6 hours. That is about an appropriate number of proposals to assign a group to review for a day. But it was also only possible thanks to 25-30 hours of preparation.

The moral of my little story here is to encourage everyone to volunteer to serve on your state arts council (or NEA) grant panels when asked.

Failing that, give your panel participants a hug in thanks.

Heck, definitely give your arts council staff a hug. They vet many multiples of proposals for basic qualifications and prepare them for the grant panels. Not to mention organizing and providing orientations to the panelists in the first place.

Nothing Ambiguous In This Job Description

A job listing for a Program Manager at the Armed Services Arts Partnership came across my social media feed today. I might not have followed the link except that I was curious what type of work the Armed Services Arts Partnership did.

I thought a lot of the job description was particularly well written in terms of being clear about what the expectations would be. The duties clearly reflected the needs of this job rather than having been cut and pasted from a generic description or another organization’s job description.

What really struck me was the “This Role Probably Does Not Make Sense For You If” section. I am not normally inspired by job descriptions, but this one made me wish I had thought to write something that reflected the expectations and culture of my organization so well. (my emphasis)

-You cannot live in the DC Metro Area.

-You are uncomfortable working in a small work environment that involves less structure than a larger organization.

-You are looking for a traditional job with a 40-hour work week.

You are applying to this job because you think our programs are cool, but you haven’t considered the amount of work that goes into developing them.

-You don’t check your emails and deliverables at least three times before sending.

-You are approaching this job viewing veterans as victims to be saved or heroes to be revered, rather than contributors to and leaders of our community.

The “This Role Probably Makes Sense For You” section is longer and more positive. I don’t want to misrepresent the tone of the listing as being negative and exclusionary. I just appreciated that they were able to state their expectations and operational philosophy so well.

Here are some of the “Makes Sense” criteria they listed. I thought they were equally well written. They are just slightly less arresting. If this sounds like the job for you, check it out a bit more:

You are passionate about art education, community arts, performing arts, veterans affairs, mental health, civic engagement, community-building, and/or social entrepreneurship.

You are energized when working in demanding, fast-paced start-up environments where you have the ability to shape the future of an organization and movement.

You are intellectually curious and excited by opportunities to develop new skills.

You view yourself as an entrepreneur, thrive in environments where you have autonomy over your work, and are capable of managing your time effectively and efficiently.

You understand that the behind the scenes work necessary to build, plan, and improve programs is just as important the actual program delivery.

You are excited by the opportunity to lead and foster the growth of a dedicated staff.

Broadway Wrote Their National Anthem And Didn’t Tell Them

It probably isn’t news to anyone these days that popular culture can influence what people perceive to be factual information.  While there is a lot of controversy over the intentional manipulation of information these days, I thought I would offer an amusing story I found about a situation inadvertently created by a Broadway musical 30 plus years ago to provide a little relief.

It seems diplomats have found their patriotism under suspicion thanks to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music.

Perhaps it is because the musical is based upon the real Von Trapp family lending some verisimilitude, but apparently a lot of people thought (and perhaps still do think) that the song “Edelweiss” is the Austrian national anthem.

According to reports of events at the Reagan White House in 1984, the Austrian ambassador mentioned he had been expected to sing a song he barely knew.

Earlier in the day, music seemed to swirl through the luncheon Secretary of State George Shultz gave for the Austrians. And Austria’s ambassador here found out that the tune “Edelweiss” is just as sacred to Americans as apple pie and motherhood.

“There are 200 million Americans who know it’s the Austrian national anthem,” U.S. Trade Representative William E. Brock III told Ambassador Thomas Klestil at the luncheon.

“And whether you like it or not,” Brock teasingly said of the Rodgers and Hammerstein tune that became known to millions through “The Sound of Music,” “it is definitely yours.”

Klestil told about going to a Texas charity function whose theme for the evening was Austria. At one point he said he was invited to join everyone in singing “a beautiful Austrian song, ‘Edelweiss.’ ”

“I didn’t know the words,” Klestil confessed. “I said, ‘It is not an Austrian song, it is a movie song written in Hollywood.’ When I said I didn’t know the words, they were all shocked and they looked at me as if I were not a patriot.”

Just then, Muffet Brock, also registering shock, interrupted to ask: “You mean it isn’t the Austrian national anthem?”

Klestil shook his head, gave what some would have sworn was a polite gulp, looked across the table at Margit Fischer, wife of the Austrian minister of science and research, and began to sing “Edelweiss, Edelweiss . . .”

“You see,” said Klestil watching Fischer’s expressionless face, “here’s the wife of an Austrian government official and she doesn’t know it either.”

I should mention that while there has been a fair bit of conversation and self-examination in the last few years about the way other cultures are depicted in classic plays and musicals, this doesn’t fall squarely in that category. In the musical, the song is represented as piece of shared culture, albeit fictitious, but not the national anthem.

There may be an obligation to debunk erroneous notions like these, if only to prevent embarrassment. However some the belief is likely to persist simply due to the appealing defiance associated with it. Just like the story about Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads will likely never die.

By the way, here is the actual National Anthem of Austria

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