Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Back with My Music Peeps

June 5, 2014

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I am in the sixth month of an assignment as Interim Director of the Bloomingdale School of Music on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. This oasis of music teaching, learning and celebrating had lost its beloved long-time (22 years!) director to a brief illness in November.

It was love at first sight–a funky old brownstone alleged to have once been the home of “Nicky Arnstein, what beautiful, beautiful name!”–second husband of legendary Fanny Brice-THE FUNNY GIRL–on a breezy block between Broadway and Riverside Drive filled with the sound of music. There was even a baby grand piano in my director’s office studio that prompted my 87-year old Dad to call daily to say, “Have you practiced the piano. You don’t have an excuse since you have a piano in your office!”

The most personally meaningful aspect to this interesting phase of my professional career has been to reconnect to my musical roots and to reflect upon the role music has played in my life. It has also refueled my passion to advocate for providing access to high quality music education, performance opportunities and concerts to anyone who wants them regardless of their ability, income, race or gender. But, hey!–that is the mission of the Bloomingdale School of Music!




A Good Use for Used #2 Bubble Test Pencils!

October 27, 2010

Departing Chief State School Officer of Colorado Dwight Jones shared an interesting take on school accountability.  He shared his gallery of pencil sculptures made out of #2 pencils, which had been used on “bubble” standardized tests.  His comment was, “ We wanted to get some good out of those pencils.”

Now that’s the kind of school leadership I want to see.  I wish him well as he goes off to tackle transforming the Las Vegas/Clark County Public Schools in Nevada in December.

I ran into Jones in Denver at the fall forum of the Arts Education Partnership.  I had the privilege of working with him and his Colorado colleagues briefly during a National Endowment for the Arts sponsored Education Leadership Institute a few summers ago.  They were already on the way to thinking outside the test bubble about the role of arts education.  At the forum in Denver last week they shared their thinking about how K-12 arts education must be thought about in terms of nurturing future workers for Colorado’s creative industries—the fifth largest economic sector in that state.  Their survey of what was going on in Colorado schools supplied the underpinning for a transformation of the Colorado Arts Council to Creative Industries of Colorado.

Congratulations to the Arts Education Partnership on celebrating its 15th year of bringing together leaders and organizations involved in arts education to focus on a research agenda, share ideas, suggest public policy and advocate for the vital role of arts education for all our children. It was good to reconnect with colleagues and get inspired to keep working!

I hope we see more #2 pencil sculptures.  That’s the best use for that material.  And if you want to see some really amazing sculptures done with pencils, check out Jennifer Maestre’s Web site: #mce_temp_url#

By Hadley B., Denver Public Schools - The Pencil Tree

Art Education-It’s more than what you see!

August 17, 2010

It’s more than what we can see!

I know.  I haven’t been posting lately. . . well in over a year!  It’s time to get back on the blogging wagon.  I have been working to help American art teachers find their voice.  They tend to express themselves visually, but now they need to help the American public and education leaders know why what they give kids in art classes is so much more than what you see.

It’s true that  a 2005 Harris poll found that 93% of us feel it is important for kids to take arts classes in school, but many of that same 93% privately think art is expendable when tough budget choices need to be made.  We question how continuing to take arts classes through junior high and high school will impact the future employment and life styles of our children, much less help solve the toughest challenges facing our nation and the world.

We love the cute refrigerator art our small children make.  What we can’t see in those whimsical images are the unique skills the arts teach.  Things like solving problems, processing divergent information, appreciating nuance, exercising critical judgment, understanding multiple perspectives, working collaboratively, developing multiple literacies (hey, we live in a visual world!), enabling self-direction and realizing self-efficacy.  Whew!  That’s quite a list.

But don’t take my word for it.  Both education and brain research have proven that skills learned in arts classes enhance the way the brain functions and help connect the brain to our hands to turn ideas into images, tangible goods and innovative services.  That’s what our business leaders say we need to maintain our economic leadership and the style of living we so value in this country.

Innovation.  Creativity.  Thinking outside the box.

Think iPads, Avatar, green building technology, or the imagination playground in my lower Manhattan neighborhood.

See the Advocacy section of the National Art Education Association Web site that I worked with NAEA leaders and staff to revamp to help arm art education advocates with more information about how the arts contribute to our kids education.

And, above all, help keep the arts in our schools!

Half a Skyscraper?

April 3, 2009

Half a SkyscraperIs less really more?  We may find out in my neighborhood in Lower Manhattan.  The emerging Frank Gehry Beekman Tower is going up right outside my bedroom window.  After enduring the pounding of steel rods for months and then the diesel fuel fumes and noise from the cement trucks the building suddenly halted going skyward at 38 floors.  Rumors of the impact of the downturn in the economy flooded the blogosphere and a “real’ news report was issued on March 18 when the building’s department issued a building permit for a 38-floor roof.  The developer only says they are “studying” the situation.

Meanwhile the stainless steel cladding is beginning to be installed to give the building the appearance of being fabric that shimmers in the light.  It looks GREAT.  I loved the random act of creativity that appeared on our building’s community bulletin board shortly after the rumors began about the half a skyscaper.  Someone carefully tore the top half of an image of the proposed building in half and pushpinned it on the side.

I look forward to when the school in the bottom five floors opens and I can volunteer!

Snow Day in NYC

March 3, 2009
Snow Day in New York

Snow Day in New York

What do F. Scott Fizgerald, a lucky peach, Brad Pitt, a wall of graffiti and a barb-b-que pork sandwich have in common?  A SNOW DAY in New York!  The Weather Channel had dubbed it the Megastorm Monday. And though it was only a moderate nor-easter at best, it provided a window of opportunity to get out of our “box.”  My husband Bob closed his dental office for the day and we decided to explore some new places in the City.

Momofuku Ssam Bar was only one express subway ride and several snowy blocks away.  Our foodie friend Roger kept telling us we just had to try it.  This seemed like a good day to venture out.  The little, sleek Second Avenue incarnation of the Momofuku restaurant dynasty was just getting started and we quickly found a sunny corner table near the Second Avenue entrance.  We worked our way through several interesting brews including a “French style” DuPage from Illinois that went well with our steamed pork buns, raw wild striped bass, barb-b-que pork sandwich, frizzled Brussels sprouts and spicy rice cake with sausage.  The combination of great ingredients and creative preparation doesn’t get much better than this. We finished it off with a shared blondie pie and a bottle of Anchor Steam.

Fully sated, we set out to explore Second Avenue and quickly came across Village East Cinema who had conveniently arranged a 3:30 pm nearly private screening of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the Hollywood adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald 1921 short story.  The movie start time allowed us a half-hour stroll on Second Avenue where we mourned the closing of Love Saves the Day where I had once found a remarkable beaded dress for $15 and my kids aquired much of their Star Wars collection. I found my initials made out of tin cans at Anthropologie to hand in my home studio.  Then back to the movie.  I marveled at  the brilliant transition of the setting from Baltimore to New Orleans with the ties to Hurricane Katrina.  The cast was brilliant. It was a beautiful movie in every aspect.

Amazing what the snowglobe of New York can produce when it is turned upside down.

Volunteering Fuels Creativity!

January 28, 2009


Kelly's Concert

She appeared at my door on a cold night in January and greeted me with, “Hi, I’m Kelly, I’m here for the reception!” To which I responded, “Welcome, but the reception is tomorrow night!” I insisted that she come in, warm up and share a drink and promise to attend the reception for the recipients of the 2008 European American Musical Alliance (EAMA) Composition Prize the following evening. And that’s the reason I ended up at a heavenly concert of French chamber music on January 26  at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church performed by the incomparable Kelly Hall-Tompkins (violin) and her colleagues Terrence Wilson (piano) and Briget Kibbey (harp) on an equally cold night.

I agreed to serve on the EAMA board last year because I knew that I could help the organization connect to New York City high school students who aspired to music composition. I knew it would take some time but I never realized how it would enrich my own life by reconnecting me with some of our nation’s most talented artists, composers and music educators. Philip Lasser, American composer and Juilliard faculty member and his wife Pamela founded and administer the EAMA program, which provides emerging composers with an intensive composition studio experience each summer in Paris. And last year EAMA began the EAMA Prize program to encourage and recognize new classical works. See their Web site at and the EAMA Prize site at

The night Kelly Hall-Tompkins came to my house a night early, I was rewarded with a new personal relationship with a gifted artist and passionate crusader for classical music and a new CD, Kelly’s second (In My Own Voice). See Kelly’s Web site for future performances or her innovative organization that was created to bring chamber music performances to homeless shelters in NYC

I’m sure glad I volunteered to help EAMA!!!

Beach Picnic as Inspiration!

August 13, 2008
Cookin' Up Dreams on Egypt Beach!

Cookin Up Dreams on Egypt Beach

How can we get in touch with our own creativity? Inspiration and insight often come only when we do something ordinary in extraordinary circumstances. . . like preparing a meal on the beach! Last Saturday night my husband and I hosted my two best friends from college in an improvised dining room and kitchen on Egypt Beach in East Hampton! Where else can you swim in your dining room? We cooked tamales, corn and lobster on an open fire followed by s’mores–those gooey, marshmellow, Hersey bar and Graham Cracker campfire desserts. And what was the inspiration that was cooked up? A new professional pathway for my friend Carolyn Wollen. Check out her new blog: