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Cruise Liner Supports Anchors of the Local Arts Scene

Posted by Kate Reese
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Cruise Liner Supports Anchors of the Local Arts Scene

It probably comes as no shock that the people at Carnival Cruise Line know how to throw party, but readers may be surprised to know that Carnival has been using this skill to benefit the arts in communities where they dock. In conjunction with the company’s recent addition of the Carnival Triumph to their New Orleans fleetwhich operates year-round and is estimated to carry 45,000 passengers each yearCarnival recently organized an entertaining charity event to raise money for music organizations who make the City of Jazz, well, so jazzy.

 

This raucous event revolved around an American-Idol style competition in which four local music organizations competed for $35,000 worth of donations. The competitors included Shamarr Allen, competing on behalf of the Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong Jazz C singer; saxophonist Robin Barnes, competing for the Tipitina's Foundation; and Derek Douget, representing The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Foundation. The competition was as convivial as the city these organizations call home, but at the end of the day the Tipitina's Foundation took home the $15,000 first prize, while the other groups split $20,000 in runner-up funds.

 

Carnival also partnered with the Port of New Orleans, which has been essential in economic development in New Orleans, using its status as a port city to attract business investment and travelers.


This event reflects a larger drive by the international cruise company to engage with local communities and support the creative character of their brand. As the Crescent City’s largest cruise operator, Carnival has shown that when supporting the local arts scene by throwing a fabulous party, one can never go overboard (pun very much intended).

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Q and A: BNY Mellon Jazz and the Community

Posted by Emily Peck
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Q and A: BNY Mellon Jazz and the Community

An interview with Stephanie Babich Mihleder, Global Citizenship and Sustainability, BNY Mellon

 

Americans for the Arts is proud to present an interview with Stephanie Babich Mihleder, Global Citizenship and Sustainability for BNY Mellon. BNY Mellon was named a BCA 10: Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America honoree in 2015.

 

Q) Can you give us an overview of BNY Mellon’s arts support?

 

Over the course of its more than 230 year history, our company has supported and worked with many leading art and cultural institutions around the world. BNY Mellon’s support of the arts is an extension of the company's rich cultural heritage. In 2015, our company provided more than $2 million in corporate grants and sponsorships to support the arts.  

 

BNY Mellon's art collection serves to enhance the workplace, stimulate creativity and reinforce the company's longstanding support for the arts. Through an active loan program with museums and galleries across the world, the collection creates positive visibility and strategic opportunities to connect with clients and employees.  

 

The company matches donations for arts organizations at 50 percent with a cap of $10,000 for all eligible charities. Employees also receive matching donations for their volunteer time and paid time off to volunteer for eligible charities, including arts organizations. 

 

There are numerous art related programs for employees, including occasional workplace performances.

 

Q) How did the jazz program first come about at BNY Mellon?

 

Pittsburgh has had a huge influence on the jazz world and is one of the foremost cities for developing jazz artists. Many of the jazz greats were from Pittsburgh and, due to the rich jazz culture, Pittsburgh had a thriving jazz scene and was always a tour stop for performers. BNY Mellon has always had a major focus on the arts, and so BNY Mellon Jazz was created in the Pittsburgh region to give back to the community.

 

Q) How has the program evolved over the years?

 

This year (2016) BNY Mellon Jazz celebrates its 30th year in Pittsburgh. Throughout that time, numerous local nonprofits have received support from this initiative and thousands of artists have played under its banner, including Tony Bennett, George Benson, Diana Krall, and Al Jarreau. By partnering with nonprofit organizations and educational institutions, BNY Mellon Jazz underwrites jazz concerts and concert series, CDs, educational initiatives, and scholarships. This year-round focus provides cultural and educational institutions with exceptional opportunities to offer the best in jazz artistry under the BNY Mellon Jazz brand.  BNY Mellon Jazz started with a Festival for the Pittsburgh community that has transitioned over time to a robust program where presently 13 different organizations are involved.

 

Q) What are some of the organizations you partner with on your jazz programs?

 

The 13 organizations we work with are very diverse. For example, we work with the University of Pittsburgh facilitating an annual scholarship for a jazz student. We work with organizations like Citiparks and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust who facilitate community jazz shows. We are the title sponsor of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s JazzLive. This program has a weekly jazz show in the downtown area that is free to the public. We partner with Manchester Craftmen’s Guild for the MCG Jazz series at their concert hall. They are the most popular jazz subscription series in the United States and bring high caliber performers to the Pittsburgh area. We have also partnered with the Grammy Award winning MCG production team to produce CDs. One of the most interesting organizations we have worked with is City of Asylum. This organization provides sanctuary to endangered artists. Each year they organize a jazz poetry concert that showcases these artists’ talents and stories.  Every year seems to bring something new as there are always new opportunities. For example, in 2014 we worked with Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to be the title sponsor of a Tony Bennett performance.

 

Q) Did your partners approach you first or did you find them?

 

Most of our partners approached us with sponsorship requests.

 

Q) How does the jazz program help BNY Mellon to put your company in the spotlight?

 

Supporting the arts creates positive visibility for the company’s brand and demonstrates goodwill in the communities where BNY Mellon operates. Many of our sponsorship benefits include tickets to performances or special events that we can use for client-entertainment.

 

Q) What do you love about BNY Mellon’s jazz program?

 

People in Pittsburgh are extremely passionate about jazz and I am proud to be part of an organization that brings so many jazz related opportunities to the community. My personal favorite is all of the free concerts that we sponsor. Anyone can partake in those and they are spread all throughout the city.

 

Photo: Sean Jones plays at a JazzLive show, a free year-round weekly concert for the Pittsburgh community sponsored by BNY Mellon in partnership with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

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What Jazz Can Teach Business About Innovation

Posted by Greg Satell
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In a recent episode of Boardwalk Empire, Chalky White’s wife was angry because he took his son to play with Jazz musicians at his nightclub.  She feared that it would upset the order of his classical training.

 

Traditionally, business executives have felt the same way. They would bring in bright young prospects and make them “organization men”—and later women as well—who would work their way up through the system and then indoctrinate the next generation.

Yet the past few decades have altered things considerably.  The LBO craze in the 80’s, the PC revolution in the 90’s and the digital disruptions of the 21st century have radically changed how we need to approach business problems. Strategic planning has become less tenable and we need to adopt more adaptive approach. Jazz holds important answers.

 

A Struggling Artist In New York

 

Coming from a meager background, Carl Størmer was determined not to be a starving artist, but after graduating with two graduate degrees—a Masters degree in Music and another in Arts Administration—that’s just what he was becoming. He spent most of his time playing in clubs and improving the mastery of his craft, but making very little money.

So he started learning computer code, got a job as a database consultant at a Wall Street law firm and then started a career at IBM.  Later, he founded a startup and became Marketing Director at a Norwegian airline. Størmer had, in every conventional sense, become a successful business executive.

 

Yet he still continued to play and the more he did, the more he became dissatisfied with corporate life. As he thought about it, he realized that business organizations operated a lot like classical music, with structure dictating action rather than the other way around.

The thoughts turned to writing, the writing turned to consulting and even led to a Harvard Case Study. Today, his organization, Jazzcode, works with executives at some of the world’s largest corporations, such as IBM, Siemens and Novartis.

 

Unravelling Complex Interactions

 

The funny thing about complexity is that it starts out simple.  Infants learn phonemes—the basic units as language—as almost incomprehensible sounds. As they develop, they learn to string those sounds into words and the words into sentences until, before you know it ,they are a senior business executives giving conference presentations.

We’ve taught computers to learn the same way. We now have machines that can do legal discovery, perform medical diagnoses and even create and evaluate artistic works. They do this not by rote procedures, but by first learning simple patterns and then learning how to combine them into complex patterns.

 

Ironically, while our machines can now do this almost flawlessly, our organizations cannot. They are still largely set up around command and control, designed to perform simple operations over and over again with amazing efficiency, but have difficulty combining the patterns of those operations into something wholly new and different.

As Størmer puts it, “control is for beginners.” We need to upgrade the software of our organizations.

 

Unlocking The Jazz Code

 

Jazz is, in many ways, polar opposite to the corporate world.  Improvisation is prized, rather than discouraged and there is a minimum of hierarchy. Yet when it’s done well, it seems as if it is obeying a higher order, with the performers feeding off each other as well as the audience.  “Good art,” Carl Størmer notes, “is obvious but unexpected.”

So for organizations that want to transform themselves into more adaptive enterprises, Jazz can be an effective guide:

 

Preparation vs Planning: Jazz musicians prepare for years to achieve technical mastery and then continually practice even after they attain it. They are constantly building new skills, but perhaps more importantly, they remain focused on fundamentals and strive to improve every note they play.

 

It is this high degree of skill that allows them the eschew planning and adapt proficiently.  “Planning is making decisions early and preparing develops the ability to make decisions as late as possible,” Størmer notes.

 

Reduce Emphasis on Status: While Jazz ensembles do have leaders, status and hierarchy are devalued while listening and awareness are prized. This helps take fear out of the equation and promotes creativity.  If one team member misses a note, the others react to it not as a mistake, but as an opportunity to create something new.

 

Connecting S Curves: In the corporate world success can often breed failure because a successful model becomes treated as holy gospel. This can lead to strategic rigidity and eventually a failure to adapt to market developments.  Often, everybody jumps onto a popular trend just as growth is beginning to taper.

 

In Jazz, the focus on awareness rather than status and planning allows musicians to build off of past successes rather than become imprisoned by them. A bored audience becomes an innovation trigger rather than a performance killer.

 

The Mission Driven Organization

 

While Jazz is improvisational, it is not a free-for-all. As Jackie Modeste, whose consulting firm trains corporate executives using insights from music, points out, “The difference between an average Jazz director and a great Jazz director is that a great one brings a clear, inclusive vision to the table.”

 

And that, in fact, might be Jazz’s greatest insight. In order to improvise and adapt, the mission must be clear so that team members can act with passion and purpose rather than mere obedience to authority.

 

One thing is clear. Strategy is evolving and leadership must do so as well. A manager’s role is no longer to plan and supervise actions, but to develop and instill values.  If the objectives are clear and the team is prepared, skillful and aware, improvisation and adaptation become not only possible, but inevitable.

 

(This post, originally published on Digital Tonto, is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage.)

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If Miles Davis Taught Your Office to Improvise

Posted by Marisa Muller
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The old saying goes, “The only thing constant in life is change.” And with the current pace of change in the workplace, there is a demand for businesses to be ready for anything and everything. In order for business leaders to thrive in today’s market, they must be receptive, responsive, and adaptive. But how can business leaders prepare themselves for the unexpected?

 

Frank J. Barrett, Professor of Management and Global Public Policy at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, suggests that business leaders take a cue from jazz musicians and practice improvisation.

 

In his article featured in Fast Company, the skills jazz musicians develop while improvising can also be helpful working in the office. Through improvisation, one nurtures spontaneity, cultivates creativity, encourages experimentation, and facilitates dynamic synchronization- all traits that are becoming increasingly necessary to succeed in business. By harnessing these qualities, businesses will be better equipped to tackle challenges that come their way.

 

Barrett proposes the following practices to help business leaders replicate the environment of a jazz band jam session:

 

Treat each task as an experiment

 

Every time a jazz musician improvises with a band, he or she tries different combinations of notes and rhythms over the chord changes of a song. As the musician performs, he or she is aware of his or her actions, listens to what works musically, and is receptive to others’ responses. Each spontaneous composition, therefore, becomes a learning process.

By adopting this experimental approach for the office, Barrett believes you will obtain a mind-set focused on discovery. Because you are constantly proposing new ideas and testing new hypotheses, you are more receptive to different ways of thinking and encourage breaking the routine. By consistently approaching projects through this process of trial and error, you become more aware of yourself and your own experiences, and you consequently learn more.

 

Resist the Glamour of No and Go with the Flow

 

Wishing the situation was different is one of the greatest hindrances to creativity and improvisation. Instead, do what jazz greats do- assume that you can make the situation work somehow. With this affirmative mind-set, you are more likely to accomplish the task at hand and find a positive pathway.

 

Encourage Serious Play

 

Musicians play on stage and you should play in the office, too. Although work and play seem diametrically opposed, the addition of legitimate play into the workplace can be a fruitful and meaningful activity. There is a sense of surrender in play, a willingness to suspend control and give yourself over to the flow of the ongoing events. Playing and practicing in situations where it is acceptable to try new things and fail provokes and open thought process and reinforces the experimentation process.

 

 Everyone gets a chance to solo

 

Successful work teams are often characterized by distributed, multiple leadership in which people take turns heading up various projects as their expertise is needed. The same thing happens in jazz bands, where everyone gets their turn to solo. That way, all participants get their chance to shine.

 

 

With these tips in mind, it’s time to warm up those chops and have your own office jam session, you cool cat!

 

*Photo courtesy of Stefan Leijon.

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