Friday Fish Wrap 6.15.18

Five things worth knowing this week.

The Sound of Student Music. VCA Suzuki violin students along with Vashon Violin Ensemble and I Solisti di Vashon performed in an Ensemble Concert on June 12th. These talented students, ranging in age from 5 to 17, have weekly lessons with VCA instructor Gaye Detzer. They have rehearsed all year for the concert and were excited to be able to perform on the big stage for family and friends. Gaye frequently reminds students about her philosophy: music doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. We couldn’t agree more. Thank s to Gaye and her students for making such wonderful music, and congratulations to graduating I Solisti seniors – Theo Hu, Kieran Enzian and Madeleine Schroeder!

The Sound of Shakespeare. Aimée vanRoekel of Vashon ShakesKIDS was an artist in residence in TWO VAIS projects this spring, with both groups studying Shakespeare’s arguably most playful work, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Students in Mr Chasen’s 5th grade class At CES as well as the alternative learning programs Family Link and Student Link dove into the text and embodied the characters in performances for family and friends.  Chauatauqua students could be seen and heard on the playground at recess rehearsing lines, and their dedication paid off!  Congrats to all for two wonderful shows!


The Sound of the Birds.  Vashon Birds has been a staple of the curriculum for Chautauqua 4th graders for many years, and island artist Rose Belknap has been a part of it for just as long with residencies through VAIS. This year Bruce Morser stepped into the mix and has been working in the classrooms to teach the kids the art of fine drawing.  His message to the kids has been about 5% lines, 10% shapes, and 85% confidence!  Their work will be on special display in the breezeway as the birds fly their way to VCA from Chautauqua.

Bruce told me today as he started to hang the show that at first he resisted teaching the class.  Now, he feels like it was one of the best decisions he’s made in a long time.  “I’ve learned so much from this experience.”  As he and I stood together admiring some of the paintings he said, “Usually kids draw in cartoons.  Not this time.  Every one of these kids worked to produce a piece of art.  Some of them are just outstanding.  For example, look at this one.  There is no doubt this is a wren.”

“You know,” he said, “You ask a group of adults in a drawing class, ‘how many of you like to draw?’ and you’ll get maybe one hand.  You ask a group of fourth graders and they’re all jumping out of their seats.”  Makes you go hmmmmmm.  What happened to us adults that we lost that?

The Sound of the Doors.  Just love the new doorstops our Facilities Manager, Ian Metler, made for us.  The rubber surface solves that “slip sliding away” feeling you get with a wedge of wood.  The grip into place with a nothing but a tap.  If you’re nice, maybe he’ll even make a few for you!

The Sound of Encaustic.  It seems these days that everywhere I look, there’s Ray Pfortner.  To back up, one of my colleagues sent a text this morning . . . “There are kids in the lobby!”  Nothing better, so out I went to find Pam Bigatel, substitute Art Teacher at McMurray, with a gaggle of 8th graders who are on “Photo Exploratory” week with Ray.  They’ve spent their time shooting photos at the Seattle Library, Pike Place, Smith Tower, the Amazon Spheres, and Center for Wooden Boats.  Thursday was their turn at transmogrifying their photos into pieces of Encaustic Art.  Their work will be shown in July at The Hardware Store as part of the annual “Shoot to Show” show.

Finally, and this is a sixth thing, my brother,, is a “mental toughness coach” who works with athletes and coaches (among others).  Probably his best known client is the Washington Capitals hockey team, a team that just won the Stanley Cup which is the highest achievement in North American professional Hockey.  It’s a big deal, especially for the team (which has never won it) and the coach, Barry Trotz, a highly regarded coach who also had never taken a team to the final dance.

Barry and my brother talk on the phone all the time, sometimes daily.  I know this is an Arts blog, but my brother’s recent note to me on building culture is so strong, so profound, I just have to share it.

We all influence the culture by the shadow we cast

Barry did absolutely amazing work with Ovi [Allstar forward and playoff MVP Alex Ovechkin] this past season, but really he has been doing it for the last four years. In the end, as much as Trotzy has to be admired for the coach he is, it’s Ovi that made the change in himself. Great coaches don’t change people. Great coaches create a culture where people are able to find clarity and change themselves

The Caps [Washington Capitals] reminded us of the truth about culture building that everyone involved in the organization influences the culture around them. The coach doesn’t build the culture; everyone builds the culture. There were no spectators on the ice in the Caps lineup because there were no spectators off the ice. Virtually everyone knew that they mattered; they had to show up in a high quality way; if they didn’t then they wouldn’t be truly All In. It mattered more than ever to be All In. It’s not more complex than that. That’s culture.

Two simple but key points of becoming All In. 1) Because they started to have fun and really care about winning it all with each other, the All In power built on a daily basis. It was cool how no circumstance could change their commitment to keeping it fun.  2) Barry used the words All In, in strategic ways, so that the team would make it their own language. Amazing the impact simple words can have on keeping things in alignment.

Barry refused to make these playoffs about the past. He was steadfast and totally determined to be present with the task at hand, to make it all more fun and to be completely honest with everyone throughout the journey.

I also think the Caps story is about quality communication – a lot of work has gone into “How we talk to each other“. In this era, in pro sports just like in the business world and every part of our lives, you have to honor quality communication. Barry likes to talk about things like: Keep it real. Be direct and honest. Be good to each other.

Everyone found inspiration in everyone else. There was a True Pro Standard that everyone committed to. What happened was the players and the coaches were able to feel increased trust and an increase in their sense of bond. They knew they could count on each other. When you build that bond you see different heroes every night. You see the stars being the stars but you see every player at some point step up and do something really significant. The team bond frees up every individual to be the best version of who they are.

Being mentally tough means choosing not to be the victim. Being mentally tough is often simply about hanging in there when it’s hard; maybe too often people, as a good friend of mine said, “panic too quick.” It wasn’t always easy and who could blame him if he chose not to be, but Barry Trotz chose to stay poised and to simply take full ownership of what is under his control. On this commitments he never flinched throughout the whole journey.

Maybe sometimes you have to hit “rock bottom”. I can tell you this: There were times where I was feeling pretty concerned when I thought about (with my consultant’s mind) where things were and where it looked like things were heading. Barry refused though to let himself give up on what he believed was the right way for him to go about leading the team – coaches, players and support staff.

It took time and lots of pain and adversity but the caps proved that it’s all about mindset.

Here’s a lesson in all of this: You also never know when it’s your time. So don’t limit yourself by thinking that it isn’t.

Here are my notes on key takeaways from watching Barry do his work from where I sit –

Leadership Is: Quieting your mind and directing your thought so you can be at your best in your interaction with others.

Leadership Is: Knowing what it means to you to be at your best; it’s believing in your process; it’s a sense of confidence based on all the right things.

Leadership Is: Seeing things with simplicity; getting past the chaos and distraction; focusing on what matters most.

Leadership Is: Preparing with a passion for readiness; no circumstances changes the honor of preparation.

Leadership Is: Keeping it real with yourself and with those you are connecting with.

Leadership Is: Caring deeply about what you can contribute and holding yourself to a high standard.

Leadership Is: Inspiring others because of who you are and how you show up.



Why “Fish Wrap”? Years ago, living in San Francisco, I became a devotee of a legendary journalists named Herb Caen. While he may not have been the first to use the phrase in connection with “yesterday’s news,” he is the one I remember. Today’s news is tomorrow’s fish wrap. Maybe it’s a generational thing. At any rate, we call our Friday wrap up, The Friday Fish Wrap . . . Five things worth knowing about VCA this Friday.



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