Trader Joe and Pasadena

How do we find our ideas? What makes them come to life and work over many years? How do we adjust to the various stages of an idea’s life cycle? Do we keep our idea manageable and small, or do we encourage growth beyond our original purpose? To whom do we look for both inspiration and advice?

As Southwest Chamber Music began its activities, Jeff and I quickly came to know a couple in our city of Pasadena who influenced us greatly. Joe Coulombe, who created Trader Joe’s, and his wife Alice, were influential in the music community.

So much to learn

We certainly had the required office space in our garage but now we had to decide what to do inside! Jeff and I had many long talks about our new venture and what we needed to do first, second and third. Like any new entrepreneurial idea, we had to figure out how to pay for the venues, commissions, and musicians. Finding the money — task number one.

We knew from our careers thus far that arts organizations in the United States rely on becoming tax-exempt non-profit organizations. In other words, our business would be exempt from paying taxes because we would have status as a charity, not looking to make a profit — our activities would be recognized for the public benefit.

The Strength of Ideas

Many friends and colleagues have encouraged me to write more in detail about how ideas originate, develop, and are finally realized. In my book and previous blogs, I have discussed the building blocks of creativity, especially inspiration, education, and the skills to bring one’s ideas to fruition. This blog is the first installment of a new series that will demonstrate idea development through my experiences as musician, administrator, educator and cultural entrepreneur.

My last blog spoke about the seed of creative ideas — inspiration. Something must inspire us in order to have the urge to create. Early childhood exposure builds interest and ultimately the direction of our life.

Inspiration is Everywhere

With the focus recently on the 50th anniversary of man’s landing on the moon, I am reminded of the inspiration provided by President Kennedy, whose support of the space program made the landing possible. His inspirational message has never been forgotten.

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, . . .”

Creativity depends on inspiration — from teachers, leaders, life experiences, and especially the arts.

Discovering Hanoi’s Alleys

As my husband and I complete our tenth visit to Hanoi in the past twelve years, we are still finding new nooks and crannies everywhere we go in this fascinating city. We enjoy our time here as artistic advisors to the Hanoi New Music Ensemble, and we are especially proud of the ensemble’s recent concert performed for almost 1,000 attendees!

In addition to our musical activity, our wonderful Vietnamese friends make certain that we experience their favorite places — endless street stalls, restaurants and cafes. No matter how many times we return, we make new discoveries everywhere. What is difficult for most visitors is the opportunity to enjoy local places because many of these special places are located in small alleyways that connect the beautiful tree-lined boulevards.

“What’s Next?” in Asian Creative Music

One of the joys of travel is meeting new people, especially when we share friends in common. Before arriving in Vietnam to begin our 2019 concerts with the Hanoi New Music Ensemble, my husband Jeff and I decided to visit Singapore and Thailand to meet some of their composers and contemporary music leaders. I am pleased to report that creativity in Asian contemporary music is thriving and exciting.

With introductions from our Vietnamese colleagues, Facebook and emails facilitated quick connections. Luckily musicians love to eat, so our conversations also included local food as well as introductions to music and cultural institutions.

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