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MIMA partners with the US Embassy in Madrid and the US Department of State Arts Envoy program to send 3 MIMA teachers to Madrid, Spain to offer a 5-day youth songwriting and adult teacher training workshop for social workers.


MIMA students perform for embassy staff at week’s end and teacher trainees learn to replicate MIMA exercises for work. TeleMadrid broadcasts a live story about the Madrid program and participants use social media to interact daily.





Cultural and Educational Affairs Specialist PAS MADRID What type of educational or cultural activity was this? Arts/Culture Educational or Cultural Activity Format: Music education Primary Theme(s) Strategic: Youth engagement and adult professional development Strategy Music is a means of promoting a young person’s social development. This is the message that MIMA Week in Madrid conveyed to young kids, educators, government officials and through the media, to the general public. Cultural Envoys Christoph Geiseler, Kevin Wenzel and Caleb Dance used music as a vehicle to capture the attention of young Spanish students in need of support and guidance who participated in a week-long workshop on songwriting and music improvisation.  Program Post partnered for this program with Madrid City Hall’s Office of Youth Social Affairs. They were an excellent co-sponsor. Selection The City Hall publicized the workshops and selected the participants among their database of identified at-risk youth. They also had a number of their social workers enroll in the Train the Trainers Workshop and reached out to social entrepreneurs and a number of music teachers working at the Escuela de Musica Creativa Foundation. Facilities The City Hall provided an excellent venue, the Escuela Municipal de Musica Almudena Cano, a theatre-type space with stage and lighting and two additional smaller classrooms for break-out sessions.

Do you have any observations about your experience? I found very interesting the way we worked together, musicians and non-musicians, especially the way we did warm-ups. We created a unique atmosphere to feel like a group. Then we divided into separate groups and we made a process of reducing our ideas, going from 27 ideas to 3 ideas, just like a triangle. I think this is a very interesting way to work in a big group and we can use this for compositions in groups of students. For sure I’m going to use it. What have you learned in the process? The first thing that I learned is that it’s nice to leave your “backpack” with all your stuff and all your stress outside, and to feel a part of a group. Nowadays we are all living in a very individualistic world. We are selfish. I think it’s a very nice way to feel part of a group.


The unique approach of MIMA programs is the use of improvisation as a teaching tool.


By Caleb Dance

Music is an ancient form of cultural expression and exchange. For the Classical Greeks, music was an integral component of poetry, literature, and drama, and a gifted singer was thought to be inspired by the Muses themselves. (It is no coincidence that the Muses gave their name to music.) The Roman poet Vergil claims, “I sing of arms and a man” in the opening words of his Aeneid, a work which scholars still study for clues about Roman political and cultural identity. A Beethoven sonata reflects the man who composed it and the era during which it was created, much as a modern pop song written by a members of a band, reflects the culture of those who wrote it—the individual backgrounds of the various band mates and the collective culture of the band. But Ancient Greek and Latin are no longer considered living languages, and Beethoven is not here to conduct or perform his compositions. Nor are modern song writers always the performers of their creations. Fortunately, culture as represented through music is not restricted to the culture of the original writer or time of composition. The background of a performer may be a factor in the cultural equation. So too is the background of those for whom a work is performed. A live audience represents the cultural inheritance of each individual attendee as well as of the assembled whole. By attending a musical performance together, the attendees create a culture of the moment. Thus a musical experience involves a multiplicity of cultural layers, from writer to performer to audience, from recording to performance. Although the use of the word “culture” in the previous sentences may seem so flexible as to verge on meaninglessness, we MIMA teachers embark upon US State Department programs with just such a broad conception of culture. We do so because culture is a manifestation of community, and community, “from writer to performer to audience, from recording to performance,” is at the core of MIMA’s approach to music education and performance.

Top row: MIMA teaches students to play new rhythms; Kevin facilitates a “samba reggae” class; Kevin and Caleb teach a “step” routine from Harlem, NY; Middle row: Adults exchange notes about teaching techniques; students begin to write their original song; Caleb teaches a melody on the piano; Bottom row: Students perform their songs for each other; many students sing for the first time in front of a group; each MIMA program ends with certificates.

The MIMA Methodology is a four-step process designed to engage a group of students, lead them through a communal learning and creation process, and celebrate what they were able to accomplish together. The four steps are inspire, transform, create, and celebrate.

The unique approach of MIMA programs is the use of improvisation as a teaching tool.

In Madrid, we also utilized the MIMA Music Curriculum, which is a set of milestones and cornerstones of specific learning goals that is linked to the National Standards for the Arts. Our goal is to ensure that fundamental musical skills and knowledge are being taught, in addition to developing inter and intrapersonal skills throughout the week. The unique approach of MIMA programs is the use of improvisation as a teaching tool. We show musicians, teachers, and social workers how this powerful tool can help them engage and connect with the young adults they work with. During this process, students define musical elements, reinterpret traditional American folk songs, analyze the role of music as a communication tool, and search for universal human experiences that link them together despite their diverse backgrounds.


At the end of the week, each group composed an original song and performed it in a positive, non-competitive environment. The participants left on the final day with a sense of accomplishment because of their shared experiences, and we hope that our program serves as an inspiration for them to continue using the techniques and skills acquired during the week to engage the at-risk communities of Madrid.

APPROACH By Kevin Wenzel



INSPIRATION MIMA envoys harness their own inspiration to ultimately inspire their students.


INNOVATION MIMA invented a method that permits adults to cultivate a better understanding of group dynamics and boost their self-confidence.

NETWORK MIMA invites musicians and non-musicians alike to celebrate new friendships in Madrid, Spain.

IMPRESSIONS Miguel Ruiz De Elvira speaks about his impressions of MIMA in Madrid..

TRAINING MIMA offers a training workshop for 27 adult musicians, teachers and social workers.

PERFORM Younger students learn to express themselves in front of other people. When asked about her favorite part of the course, Yazara exclaims, “everything.�

ENTERTAIN We balance our schedule with evening performances so participating musicians can showcase their musical talents.




Each local embassy arranges for national media coverage during programs. We appeared on Spanish national television. I learned that news crews need explicit instructions about where and when they can and can’t film in an educational setting; they won’t know that education is about the “process,” not the “product,” if nobody tells them.

Each morning starts with a debriefing session with our team over breakfast. Class starts at 8am, so by 10am, our students are singing, dancing and sweating in a tribe-like circle; just another day in the office.

Embassy staff provide Arts Envoys with folders that have Embassy seals and include personalized letters. Each welcome packet includes information about local restaurants, public transportation and entertainment, in addition to emergency contact numbers. Traveling has 5. ESCORTS never felt so safe. Arts envoys do not travel with body guards, but 2. INSTRUMENTS a cultural specialist from the embassy acts as a liaison to local community leaders. Embassy Envoys gain free access to empty auditoriums staff love coming to our MIMA workshops bewith professional lights, grand pianos and in- cause we have a 100% participation rule-- evstruments arranged ahead of time by the em- ery adult jumps around and sings along with bassy and local partners because we are in- the youth that we’re trying to engage. vited as special guests. Roadies, however, are not included. 6. IMMUNITY 3. BULLET PROOF VANS


It may feel like an ice box on wheels with zero suspension, but a bullet-proof van in dangerous places like El Salvador adds gravitas to each “mission”. The embassy in Spain did not provide us with bullet-proof vans.

9. THANK YOU GIFTS We realize the impact we make as Envoys when students bring us thank you gifts and farewell cards at the end of each visit. Even if modern teenagers are addicted to cell phones and social media, they certainly remember how to write hand-written thank you cards and present them at the most emotional moments of departure. 10. INNOVATION

Our teaching method includes a series interactive exercises to unlock the creative potenNo, Arts Envoys do not receive diplomatic im- tial of students-- we write songs in circles, play musical games in circles and perform live mumunity. sic in circles. Our method is so effective that we can write songs with any age group and 7. EARLY BED TIME skill level in less than 3 hours. We ensure the Educational rock stars get 8 hours of sleep and success of each program when languages and wake up sober. We also don’t have groupies. cultures change because we can teach without using words or instruments. Our goal is to create a non-hierarchical, democratic learning environment through the music improvisation process.


By Christoph A. Geiseler

Thanks to the US Department of State, we have refined our innovative teaching method far away from home. In the spirit of true cultural exchange, we will share the new ideas that we learned abroad with teachers and musicians back at home in the United States.

2012 MIMA Project Report for US Embassy Madrid  

This project reports shares photographs, essays and quotes from the 2012 MIMA Arts Envoy project in Madrid, Spain sponsored by the US Embass...

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