Another new year already!
As I start digging into the agenda for 2015, I want to take a moment to thank the people who supported GriffinEd in 2014 with their time, expertise, art, music, contacts, and donations. This is emphatically NOT a solicitation; I just thought you should know what we’re doing with your money, music, etc. With that in mind, here are some things going on right now at GriffinEd:
- I recently finished an eight-part songwriting residency at the 20th Street Elementary school in South-central Los Angeles; the kids (grades 3 and 4) did a terrific job writing songs about the things they are learning in class, and they were as proud as peacocks to finish our time together with a live performance of the songs they wrote. I am especially grateful for the many unrestricted donations and grants coming in lately, since they let me do residencies like this where there is no formal program involved; this was just a vice-principal who called and asked me to come to a school with no budget for the arts.
- I also have two paid residencies coming up: one for the LA’s BEST foundation and another for the Theodore Payne foundation. The revenue for these goes to GriffinEd; more importantly, it lends gravitas to our little nonprofit when we get to associate our name with more mature institutions.
- On the publicity front, we’re putting together our first formal EPK (Electronic Press Kit) for distribution to pretty much anyone in the media who might be able to get me in front of an audience to talk about what GriffinEd does. I am fortunate to have a retired TV producer on my board and she has very kindly volunteered to do all the work on this, so our only expense is for the camera and sound.
- Sales of the new CD, Over The Edge, are going surprisingly well at science-fiction conventions, filk gatherings, etc. When I started GriffinEd in 2012 I predicted we’d be all-digital by now, but there are still some advantages to CD’s: the sound is noticeably better on a good sound system, you get the cool artwork by Dan Brooks, plus people still like having a physical thing we can share with our friends. The upside for GriffinEd is that the sales raise some money toward future recording projects.
- Now that we’ve got four albums of mostly original music under our belts, one goal for 2015 is to more assertively court other songwriters for the use of their learning songs. I’ve met a lot of songwriters (pro, semi-pro, and many highly talented weekend players) who mostly write about non-education stuff but have one or two great songs that would work for K-8 education; I’ll be going to several filk music (Google that if you need to) events this year, including two where I’ll be the musical guest of honor (!) and doing presentations about GriffinEd and what kind of music we are looking for. So far I’ve never had a fellow writer refuse to let me use their music once I’ve explained our mission; GriffinEd does offer royalties so contact me if you’re interested in sharing something. Having won the 2014 Pegasus award (think “geek Grammies,” and I say that as an unapologetic geek) for best writer/composer should add some credibility in my hunt for good learning songs by other people.
- I’ve also been writing new songs of my own, including some pretty good ones about fruit bats (zoology), Amelia Earhart (engineering, biography) and the difficulties of using a Roman alphabet for English spelling (phonics). I have finally reached a point in my piano studies where I can now record on it with just a little digital “assistance,” and I hope to get some of the new work posted at www.GriffinEd.org in February.
- GriffinEd is about halfway through its second year as a participant of the Annenberg foundation’s Alchemy program for leaders of nonprofits showing exceptional promise. Under their guidance, we’ve been slowly taking apart GriffinEd’s board structure, case for support, etc. and reassembling our feisty little 501(c)3 into a far more efficient and professional operation. I have now learned how to ask strangers for tens of thousands of dollars without even flinching.
- We’ve had a couple of unrestricted grants coming in, enough to fund our first two animated videos of GriffinEd’s science songs! If you remember the old Schoolhouse Rock videos from the 1970’s, you’ll have an idea of where we want to go with this. Once we get those done, we’ll create a GriffinEd channel on YouTube and see if we can get enough views to make it worth continuing production.
- My second live webcast show will be on January 20th via Concert Window. This is an online live music service that still has some bugs to be worked out, but I believe has potential for reaching audiences in other states as they start implementing the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. If you’d like to check out the show, here’s a link.
One other piece of good news: I received an email a week ago from a foundation in the Bay Area; one of their partners (who wishes to remain anonymous) likes our music enough that their foundation gave GriffinEd an unsolicited $2500 grant that they say will probably be an annual thing. Woo hoo! Best Beloved and I did a happy dance in the kitchen.
These are all small steps, but when I look back at what we’ve accomplished in our first two full years of operation I can see real progress toward the long-term goal: a comprehensive online library of fun but rigorously educational music that we can now PROVE helps kids learn the fundamentals of science, math, history, and other subjects. Since I gave up my tenure to pursue this project full-time, I have been repeatedly astonished by the caliber of people who have come forward to help with their knowledge, their music, their contacts, and their money.
Thank you all for your generous support, and please feel free to share this with anyone you think might be interested.
CEO and lead teacher/performer,
Griffin Education Solutions