WindSync is an award-winning wind quintet based in Houston since its inception nine years ago. Board President Beatrice Graham wrote this moving account of their experience with Engage. Learn more about the Engage Houston program outcomes here.
8 September, 2018
Although this letter comes to you long after I first intended to write it (following the Engage Houston celebratory luncheon in May), the intervening months have allowed time for reflection resulting in an even greater appreciation of the value of the Engage program, which WindSync was fortunate to participate in during the 2016–18 cycle in Houston.
We first connected with Engage Houston through one of our board members, David Lake, who was familiar with the program from his work with the Houston Endowment, which helped fund Engage Houston. Although we were impressed by the introductory materials we received, the reality of the Engage experience turned out to be so much greater than we expected, both in scope and relevance.
It is a tribute to the design and leadership of Engage Houston that the program brought such benefit to WindSync; despite having been a 501(c)3 since 2012, our organization could not tick off many boxes on the financial physical and governance checklists – our report card would probably list us as “needing improvement” in many areas. Engage Houston met us where we were, and gave us information and tools to identify our strengths and shortcomings. From the opening orientation session through the final lunch meeting, every presenter we heard was well-prepared, on point and responsive, helping us see both the big picture and important details about topics essential to organizational health: finances, governance, community engagement.
One of the special benefits of Engage is the opportunity to interact with peer organizations. Although many of the peer organizations were larger and more established than WindSync, hearing their stories and questions was motivating and enlightening and affirmed WindSync’s commitment to collaborate with several arts groups in concert and service projects, including Apollo Chamber Players, Kinetic, Vitacca Vocational School for Dance and the Houston Youth Symphony.
As excellent as all the presentations and peer meetings were, the element of the program that was most valuable to WindSync was our coach experience with Carla Patterson. Carla deserves a medal for her insight, perseverance and diplomacy! She worked very hard to build trust and confidence among our board and musicians, and went many extra miles helping us identify and address critical “fault lines” that were undermining our functioning as an organization. I cannot report that we resolved our issues and checked off all the boxes on our to-do list; instead, things took a different turn, and we recently decided it was time to transition the organization to a new board chosen by the musicians. Through all of these difficult deliberations, Carla offered clarity, balance and perspective in a thoughtful, caring manner. She is a consummate professional, and we will always be grateful to her for her skilled and generous guidance.
When asked during our end-of-cycle interview what one change we would like to see in the Engage program, I didn’t hesitate to say, “we wish we could have one more year!” Our two years in the program have been rich and full – and instrumental in helping us re-set our organizational path – but we are still beginners who wish we could continue in this extraordinarily beneficial program.
We wish to thank you and your staff for all the ways you made our Engage experience so interesting and useful. Special thanks to Erin, Maren, Brian and Carla for being the people they are and helping all of us become better arts advocates in our communities.
With respect, gratitude and very best wishes,
WindSync Board President