From Inside the Global Leaders Program: Thought Experiments for Shared Inspiration

The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.

From Inside the Global Leaders Program: Thought Experiments for Shared Inspiration

Pedro Zenteno, Academic Director, Global Leaders Program


Editors’ Note: Have you and your colleagues ever allowed yourselves the luxury of imagining a community-building event or concert that’s much more ambitious than anything you’ve ever done before? If so, wouldn’t you have welcomed help from advisors who could bring broader perspectives from the fields of social science, education, and civic policy?

The Global Leaders Program (GLP) is an international non-profit organization based in Washington, DC that aspires to provide exactly this kind of support for programs around the world that pursue music for social impact goals. For the next few months, The World Ensemble is partnering with the GLP to bring you a series of three articles by current members of the 2021 Cohort. These articles will describe how current cohort members have been working alongside social impact-oriented music programs to imagine and design bigger, broader, and more impactful community events. We hope this series will afford you food for your own thought experiments and inspire you to think even larger about such events for your own programs!

Close to a decade ago, the Global Leaders Program (GLP) was founded with the mission of preparing rising cultural agents in music for the creation, development, and leadership of sustainable social enterprises across the world. Each year, we admit 50 professionals who integrate music and social action into impactful career trajectories that help communities realize their potential against the backdrop of different local challenges.

For the past five years, alumni and advisors of the GLP have written articles for The World Ensemble about their on-field experiences. Their stories have taken readers to Easter Island, the foothills of Patagonia, Afghanistan, Haiti, and many other locations. The exciting nature of these experiences may have led to the impression that the GLP is about traveling to dynamic foreign communities in need of the specialized training that Cohort Members have. While this is not wrong, it is incomplete. The professional development of the GLP combines field assignments with an annual multidisciplinary synchronous curriculum, a two-week Full Cohort Residence, and individualized career mentoring.

This article is the starting point for a three-part series that aims to cast a light on the types of learning activities involved in the curriculum of the GLP, and to share the energy and excitement of this learning with readers of The World Ensemble. The three articles that complete the series are written by current members of the 2021 Cohort—three impact-focused artist-entrepreneurs whom we have come to admire from the moment they applied to the program. These Cohort members will synthesize work developed by their peers in order to distill the most interesting themes and insights that surfaced through the Cohort’s learning process. But first, let me introduce them.

Meet Rebecca Shasberger, a cellist and social entrepreneur who, upon graduating from the Cleveland Institute of Music, founded Renovare Music to bring beauty and restoration to communities that are often overlooked. Throughout the last two years, she has worked to bring top-notch artistry to homeless shelters, prisons, hospitals, and concert halls while building a brand that helps partners and audience members understand the value of their work.

Meet Linda McAlister, a soprano and administrator who currently works as Executive Director of Schmidt Vocal Arts, an organization just outside of Cincinnati (Ohio, USA) that creates transformative learning opportunities for young singers. Already a rising professional in the field, Linda is currently expanding her network with like-minded cultural agents through the GLP. These agents come from different corners of the world and inspire new ideas for the continued growth of Schmidt Vocal Arts.

Meet Nancy Uscher, an extraordinary woman who has managed to live three lives in one. After a 20-year career as a professional violist working in global contexts, including years as co-principal in the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, she entered the world of academia as a tenured professor of music at the University of New Mexico in 1992, eventually becoming the Dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2016.

Rebecca, Linda, and Nancy participate in a GLP cohort that is by design professionally and intergenerationally diverse, for whom the common denominator is a question they carry with them as musicians who want to do good and do well: How can the work of musicians reflect and advance communities across the world to support local efforts of sustainable development?

At the beginning of the academic year, Linda, Rebecca, Nancy, and 57 other GLP Cohort Members were teamed up and assigned a social impact–oriented music organization to study throughout the first semester. In numbers: 16 teams composed of 60 Cohort Members from 25 different countries, paired with 16 organizations spread across four continents. Diversity is a fundamental virtue of this learning process.

On the one hand, the 16 organizations chosen as case studies comprise a constellation of ways in which music can act as a platform for something else: supporting maternal health and childhood development in New York; helping ex-prisoners develop skills that help them get their lives back on track in London; healing communities after a natural disaster in Soma City, Japan. On the other hand, GLP team members bring their unique professional experiences and cultural viewpoints to these encounters, mixed with a yearning to learn about how these organizations have managed to create a model that allows them to positively impact a specific group of people through music.

How does the GLP prepare these teams for entering the worlds of the social impact–oriented music organizations they are assigned to? Our curriculum offers concrete tools from three different disciplines: social entrepreneurship, business management, and teaching artistry. Our Cohort Members interview the founders as well as the musicians who work in these organizations, learning to apply social science and business frameworks to these narratives while getting a sense of the creative work that generates the desired impact. In this way, Cohort Members engage with these organizations simultaneously as entrepreneurs and artists.

This article series can be traced to one assignment in particular, which culminates our module on Teaching Artistry led by Eric Booth and Judy Bose, Dean of the Conservatory at the Longy School of Music of Bard College. The module, which explores the philosophical and educational bases of teaching artistry as well as issues of effectiveness in real-world settings, ends with a challenge: design a purely hypothetical Community Concert that is ambitious and achievable, and that meaningfully addresses the different stakeholders with which organizations work. These designs were then shared with the organization each team had been assigned to, as a kind of “thank you” for allowing us to learn about their organization and apply our own learnings to their specific context. The results were varied and full of creative thinking.

That is where Linda, Rebecca, and Nancy come in. They have accepted the challenge of sharing the most interesting examples from those assignments, isolating throughlines, unique themes, and new collaborative pathways that might benefit programs in totally different contexts. And while this series celebrates the creativity and dedication of impact-focused artists who have worked to understand specific social impact-oriented organizations across the world, it also represents an open invitation for readers of The World Ensemble to explore these ideas in their own home contexts. We hope they excite your imaginations and galvanize your teaching artistry.


© Copyright 2022 Ensemble News