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magazine WE LOVE TO IMPROVISE

NOVEMBER 2010


g NOTEWORTHY

NEWS

Princeton NJ

1 November 2010

Dear MIMA, October 10, 2010 marked the 10-yea r anniversary of MIMA. We celebrated the occasion with ten con secutive days of music-making. Thi s important milestone culminated wit h a keynote and performance by Bra zilian singer-songwriter and former Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil.

MIMA Teachers and students united at the Westminster Presbyterian Church (WPC) in Trenton, NJ to celebrate six consecutive years of weekly after-school MIMA songwriting at the WPC on Thursdays.

This issue will showcase photog raphs of memorable moments throughout the week. An article by Princeton Professor Stanley Katz cap tures the emotion of MIMA’s Schola rs’ Symposium during the international conference.

CONTENT PAGES INTERNATIONAL MIMA CONFERENCE 3 MIMA MUSIC by Stanley Katz 4 10 YEARS OF MIMA, 10 DAYS OF CELEBRATION 6 HELPING YOUNG PEOPLE MAKE MUSIC 8 “QUE HACES” new video online 9 Photographs & layout by C.Geiseler Photograph by Annabelle Dunne Graphic by Han Rhyu Photograph by Han Rhyu

the

magazine NOVEMBER 2010 Edited and Published by Christoph A. Geiseler

The events at Princeton University required 18 months of preparation and a serious commitment from student volunteers, professors , MIMA staff and special guests. Act ivities included dinners, performanc es in NYC and Princeton, leadership and teacher training, a scholars’ symposium and a concert with the Prin ceton University Concert Jazz Ensemble.

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CHRISTOPH A. GEISELER MIMA Founder and Executive Director


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What a happy thing this past conference

INTERNATIONAL MIMA CONFERENCE by Alan Gaskill

a class writes a composition, and once the composition is ready, they perform it. But a service project might live inside of their song. What if the students are encouraged to conceive of some deed to carry out in the world as a way to inspire a new section of their musical composition, or contest or affirm the truth of the lyrics of the second verse of the song they wrote?

was! And we were all there to see: this organization has legs. It will travel. One thing we can be confident of now is that what we do with our students works. We talk of inspiring individuals and building stronger communities through music. Well, we can actually do this. Yet now, with two weeks past since we all parted ways and returned to our respective homes, we may all be asking ourselves: Silly as it seems, imagine that the but what WAS it that really happened? It was world looks a bit like a movie musical – where wonderful and exciting and inspiring – but there are groups of jamming youths volunwhat do we do next? teering in orphanages, senior homes, soup It is time for MIMA to begin enabling kitchens; throwing concerts and donating MIMA students as social entrepreneurs and the proceeds to the families of fallen soldiers, leaders not only in the symbolic musical building homes, teaching youngsters how to sense, but literally in the world as well. To do play instruments, helping individuals to set this, we’ll look for ways to expand upon the up micro-financed home businesses, cleaning MIMA Method so that it stretches beyond the up the filth that washes up on the coastline, classroom in more concrete ways, and to re- cleaning the forests – all the while singing and imagine the scope of the MIMA songwriting putting their funk on a beat, dancing around course. Our mission remains the same: to use and getting people in their vicinity to particigroup music making as a gateway into lead- pate in spontaneous outbursts of music-makership, stronger communities, and civic en- ing. It would be service-driven and inherently gagement. The difference would be this: the musical community building. The Tennessee landmarks signifying the end of our songwrit- Valley Authority meets Brazilian Carnaval. ing course – the recording of the students’ It seems ridiculous, but human beings were original song, music video, and public perfor- making music as they worked, as they healed, mance of said song – would really become the cooked, fought, rejoiced and prayed for many first summit in a longer trek whereby music is thousands of years before we were around – employed to inspire and transform individuals because, as we already know, music brings people together and strengthens communal and literally build stronger communities. bonds. Any portrait we imagine of a musical As teachers and facilitators of music- service corps is but a remix of an ancient huthemed social programming, it may be worth- man lifeway – and really, sometimes all peowhile to consider opening up the discussion ple need to join in is to see somebody else about songwriting, and even the definition of doing it first. songwriting, to include the idea that many It is time to imagine all the possibilithings are song, and thus many different things can live inside of a song. For example, ties that reside in a single song.


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10 YEARS OF MIMA 2000-2010 10 DAYS OF CELEBRATION 8-17 October 2010

Photos top to bottom: Caleb Dance jams at the welcoming dinner in Brooklyn, NYC; Adam Nemett and Hunter Piel set up the silent bubble at the Instrument Party; Laini and Kate Lynn Nemett mug for the camera; Matias Zloto at 10.10.10 in NYC; improvised songwriting at the Bowery Poetry Club on 10.10.10.


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Photos top to bottom: Princeton student Jess Turner plays the cello; MIMA leadership training culminates with a certification ceremony; Alexis Brown records “Hug the Ugly”; Jill Sigman and Alan Gaskill at the Scholars’ Symposium; Gilberto Gil gives a keynote at Richardson Auditorium; Jonathan Barnes DJs in Princeton.


around the world. Their basic programs (Social Outreach and Songwriting) have enabled outreach to youngsters in economically deprived communities, and they have now begun a Teacher Training and Leadership Development Program for college and post-college musicians in order to teach the MIMA methodology. A highlight of the Saturday program was a jazz performance of a piece they had created by a group of about a dozen African-American and Latino youngsters from a private high school in Harlem (Cristo Rey), led by a MIMA-trained teacher. This is a voluntary, after-school program, and the kids were just great.

The room is octagonal, high-ceilinged, and surrounded by stained glass through which the afternoon sun streamed on the participants. We sat in a circle around a small central space.

MIMA MUSIC An article reprinted from the Chronicle of Higher Education (Oct. 18) by Dr. Stanley Katz I attended a wonderful event [at Princeton University] Saturday afternoon.

The conference itself was quite unusual. We met in a glorious space called Chancellor Green, the reading room of our 19th-century university library before the current Firestone Library was built. The room is octagonal, high-ceilinged, and surrounded by stained glass through which the afternoon sun streamed on the participants. We sat in a circle around a small central space. The first “performer” was a well-known musician (Pauline Oliveros) who led us in what she calls Deep Listening, which struck me as somewhere between meditation and self-expressive plainchant. Then a wonderful former Princeton undergraduate and philosophy Pd.D. who runs her own dance company (Jill Sigman) led us in 15 imaginative minutes of movement exercises–I learned how, physically, to imagine that I was a camera. Then we heard a Teacher’s College music educator (Lori Custodero) talk about music and life, and lead us in musical responses. My colleague Scott Burnham, a music theorist, talked to us about the uses of music, a Princeton graduate and professional orchestra conductor (Susan Haig) showed us how conducting works and how hard it is for the public to be properly informed about cultural news. And a business school professor (Julian Lange) and I talked about social entrepreneurship and arts policy. It was a small audience, but fortified by coffee, water, and organic doughnuts, it stayed the course of a long afternoon.

It was a happening (billed as a “conference”) to celebrate the 10th anniversary of a 501(c)(3) called MIMA –Modern Improvisational Music Appreciation. MIMA was founded by a group of Princeton undergraduates in 2000. It originally organized music-based events (raves and jazz performances) in Princeton, Trenton, New Brunswick, and New York City. Christoph Geiseler (whom I got to know as an undergraduate through my Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies at Princeton University) took MIMA over in 2002, and began its present mission of using music to work with underserved youth, first in Trenton, then elsewhere in the United States and now in many sites

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But the featured event of the day was a Saturday evening concert featuring the Princeton Jazz Ensemble (directed by my colleague Anthony Branker) and the remarkable Brazilian composer-lyricist-singer, Gilberto Gil (also the Brazilian Minister of Culture from 2003 to 2008). I wasn’t able to attend the concert, but for me the greatest thrill came when the Cristo Rey kids announced that they had learned a famous Gil song, and started to play it. The song featured a vocal by an AfricanAmerican kid with a nice voice and style–but then Gil (completely unplanned, I think) emerged from the audience to join the kid as the lead singer, and drew the whole audience into singing the song. The high schoolers were thrilled, and so were we all. The day was a wonderful reminder of the diversity and power of human creativity. A group of young people have created an organization that is empowering youngsters through music. Christoph Geiseler is modeling what cultural leadership means. The MIMA group are developing themselves through their efforts, and it seems clear that they are evoking wonderful responses from the schoolchildren with whom they work. It was also moving to see the way in which the MIMA group reached out to an older group of artists and scholars–for an afternoon we were all one. This is how civil society ought to work, and I am grateful to these youngsters for showing us the way.


HELPING YOUNG PEOPLE MAKE MUSIC An article reprinted from the Princeton Alumni Weekly (Oct. 13) by Robert Strauss On

tion in music education, social entrepreneurship, and public diplomacy; a performance by the Harlem students; and a keynote speech by musician Gilberto Gil, a former culture minister of Brazil. Several Prince ton faculty members and alumni They are part of a program designed by Modern will participate. Improvisational Music Appreciation (MIMA), a nonprofit organization headed by Christoph Gei- Today, MIMA programs operate in the United seler ’04 that grew out of a Prince ton student States and abroad. For several years, Geiseler and group founded 10 years ago to stage improvisa- Princeton jazz students worked with an aftertional music concerts on campus. When he grad- school program — now run through the Student uated, Geiseler expanded the group’s role to send Volunteers Council — at a Trenton church, teachcollege-age jazz musicians into low-income com- ing children improvisational techniques and songwriting. The Cristo Rey High School program has munities to provide free music lessons. been running since 2008; MIMA is now analyzLow-income children often lack the access to arts ing the students’ grades to find out whether their and music education that’s available in wealthier participation has improved their academic perneighborhoods, says Geiseler. “Music can act as a formance. Geiseler believes the program “started remedy by inspiring the imagination of students, engaging them with other students [and] gave which excites them about learning ... and em- them more confidence.” Friday afternoons, instead of doing what they used to do — go home and hang out — a dozen teenagers stay after school at Cristo Rey High School in Harlem, making music.

powers them.”

Elsewhere, in Spain, Cyprus, England, Argentina, To mark its 10th anniversary, MIMA and Prince- and Brazil, volunteers lead songwriting workshops ton’s MIMA student group are organizing a confer- for disadvantaged teens and young adults and ence on campus Oct. 10–16 at which they expect leadership-training workshops for music educato train up to 50 Princeton students to be vol- tors. In the songwriting workshops, participants unteer teachers and musicians in the nonprofit’s learn traditional music skills such as rhythm, programs. A symposium Oct. 16 is scheduled to pitch, and melody, and work with others in the feature discussions about the role of improvisa- group to make music using percussion and other

instruments, along with their voices. By the end of the classes, they create a song and, with the help of MIMA instructors, produce a music video. “We at MIMA are convinced that you can come together with music,” said Geiseler. In Madrid in 2007, immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, many of whom did not speak Spanish, were paired with Madrid natives. A workshop in Bristol, England, in April, brought together high school students from different ethnic backgrounds, providing a model to the high school music teacher to continue cross-cultural dialogue in the community. “These young people have grown in confidence, self-esteem, and musical and linguistic skills,” a local official said in a press release. In December, the U.S. State Department is sponsoring Geiseler, MIMA vice president Jonathan Barnes ’03, and other participants to run songwriting and leadership-training workshops in a poor neighborhood in El Salvador. The aim is to have ongoing programs in the United States and abroad, Geiseler said. “Using music like this, for social goals, has always been what I have been looking to do, and I hope we can inspire more and more Princeton students through MIMA to do the same.”


“QUE HACES” New MIMA video from Buenos Aires now online by Matias Zloto MIMA finished its first experience in Barracas, Buenos Aires. Following our

initial leadership-training week sponsored by the US Embassy in Buenos Aires, Maxi Garcia, a group of eight interns and I embarked on the venture of producing an original song with twenty children between the ages of 7-11 in the slum known as “villa 21 / 24”. The Temas Foundation helped us by providing a space and students. Our “classroom” included a dusty soccer field and a local rehearsal space for circus performers. We met ten times. The first sessions included introductions, body rhythms and collective improvisation games. Each lesson ended when we sung Reggaetón on the guitar.In the third meeting, we started to use percussion instruments (water coolers and paint cans) and harmonicas. Soon the interns started to conduct parts of the classes on their own. In the fifth meeting we started to develop words for our song. Beginning with an open theme, everyone decided to write about friends. We identified the names of some of the kids to teach the rhythm of a Milonga (Pa-lo-ma Pa-lo-ma Ti-ki) and then we came up with the idea of “Que Haces”, or “what are you doing?” The idea of the song is about despair and misfortune; “if it rains in Barracas, if the dog barks at you, if they trip Messi [in the World Cup]). They respond; “take a breath, count to ten and wait for a calm to search for solutions.” In the song, the kids sing about Facheritos. In the colloquial language of Latin America, the term “facha” is commonly used to describe and signal someone’s physical appearance and the charm that someone embodies with their outward appearance. The “facha” is a quality that is nothing more than physical and aesthetic but it implies a certain level of charisma and charm. In the tenth session we arrived at the studio to record the song. I invite you to listen to it and enjoy our video. www.mimamusic.org/videos/32


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MIMA Magazine November 2010