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Archive for July, 2012

This morning, the Summer Sanctuary Choir at University Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Virginia presented a program of the music of John Ness Beck.  During the course of preparation for this program, it occurred to me that music and leadership have in common the requirement of a high level of commitment and dedication.

It doesn’t matter whether the music in question is choral or instrumental, worship or performance; the fact of the matter is that in order to perform it well requires many hours of hard work beforehand.  Lacking adequate preparation and commitment to excellence, the final performance is doomed to mediocrity.  The director must spend countless hours listening to music and reviewing scores to determine what the music will be a part of the program.  Following this lengthy preparation, the musicians themselves must spend hours reading and learning the music.  This is a necessary prerequisite to shaping the music in accord with the director’s interpretation.  Finally, each individual musician must commit to the director’s vision so that the final performance will be a work of art and not simply more noise on the landscape.

The same is true of leadership in any organization, whether it be volunteer, business, or strictly social.  In order for organized activity to take place, the leader of the organization needs to have a vision of where he wants to take the group.  Then, in order to produce quality results, whether a project, event, or product, the leader needs to spend countless hours in planning and preparation.  Under his/her guidance, the members of the organization or team execute their assigned role and the result is a quality event or product.  When this takes place, there is value to the members or customers of the organization.

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This year’s Summer Choir program at University Baptist Church in Charlottesville is a collection of anthems by John Ness Beck which can be summed up as a collection of psalms interspersed with a healthy dose of traditional Protestant hymnity.  The program is rounded out by instruction from the prophet Micah. 

 The heart of the program is Beck’s “Festival of Psalms” from 1982-83 which, along with “Thou art God” (Psalm 90), represent the height of the style one generally associates with the composer.  The other pieces in the program illustrate the wide range of Mr. Beck’s talent and interests.  One of the more unusual examples of this diversity of style is “Make a Joyful Noise”, a setting of Psalm 100 in the style of Gershwin, in which the unison choir substitutes for  the jazz clarinet.  It is as if the choir is accompanying the piano.  Two other pieces, based on familiar hymns, illustrate Mr. Beck’s ability to interweave and combine familiar melodies.  The program concludes with “Offertory”, a setting of Micah 6:6-8 with which the congregation of UBC is quite familiar.

 Two of the anthems in the program conclude with congregational singing of favorite hymns.  The biblically based text coupled with the brass accompaniment, should make this program a rich worship experience worthy of sharing.

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Over the last ten years I have had the opportunity of serving on The Construction Specifications Institute’s Awards and Certification Committees.  As a long time member of CSI, I recognize that in any volunteer organization, the only pay the members receive for service to the organization is when their accomplishments are recognized.

This is the reason for the existence of the CSI Honors and Awards Program, and to some extent the CSI Certification Program.  The H&A Program provides recognition at a national level.  CSI Honors include Distinguished and Honorary Membership plus Fellowship in the Institute.  The Awards Program includes recognition for such accomplishments as distinguished service, advancement of CSI, academic accomplishments, specifications writing, communications, construction technology, environmental stewardship, and other areas of recognition.  Institute awards are presented at Construct & The CSI Annual Convention.

The program is not limited to Institute awards.  Most (should be all) chapters give awards around the end of a fiscal year to recognize the accomplishments of their local members.  Even something as simple as a certificate of appreciation for a job well done is important.  Make certain that your members feel appreciated for all the hard work they put in, but don’t stop at the chapter level.  As I became involved beyond the chapter level in CSI, I realized that the folks receiving awards from the Middle Atlantic Region and the Institute were ordinary folks like me who were doing extraordinary things.

That said, take the time to recognize your peers and colleagues.  On September 14th, The Construction Specifications Institute will recognize member’s accomplishments at the Honors and Awards Gala at Construct 2012 in Phoenix.  Lists of award recipients and members slated for elevation to Fellowship in the Institute are available at www.csinet.org .

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In my last post, I bemoaned the fact that the architectural education establishment appears to be ignoring the fact that architecture is a profession licensed by the states to protect public health, safety, and welfare.  Rather than be a complainer, I have to offer a path toward a solution.  This is why I am a member of CSI.

 For the emerging professionals out there, CSI (The Construction Specifications Institute – not the TV show) offers many opportunities to obtain the technical information you missed while in architecture school.  This information is also of value to the other members of the construction/design team.

 Most CSI chapters offer great technical programs at their monthly membership meetings.  Additionally, most offer AIA learning units with certificates for non-AIA members.  Most of the CSI regions also offer similar education programs.  Both of these options are available to you, the young professional at very little cost and minimal travel, so take advantage of the low hanging educational fruit.

 If you have the wherewithal to get there, attendance at Construct 2012 and the CSI Convention inPhoenixSeptember 11-14,2012 is a great source of information and technical education.  Professionals who attend can usually get enough hours during the four days to satisfy their state’s continuing education requirements for professional licensure.

 CSI continues to pursue other opportunities to offer technical education for the construction community, so stay tuned.

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The City ofCharlottesvillerecently held a design competition to explore better ways to replace theBelmontBridgespanning the former C&O Railroad tracks.  The railroad right-of-way is now owned by CSX Corporation and leased to the Buckingham Branch Railroad.  Rail traffic these days includes local Buckingham Branch freight trains, long distance CSX coal trains, and Amtrak. 

 The existing bridge is a highway department standard design, constructed in 1961-62.  In recent years, it has fallen into disrepair due to, in this writer’s opinion, not so benign neglect by city officials.

 So in the interest of maintaining the city’s award winning aesthetic, a design competition was held.  The winning entry was submitted by students at the University of Virginia School of Architecture.  The proposal is to not build a new bridge, but replace it with a grade crossing.

 Granted, such a design would have a small town feel, but the students seem to be missing the fact that once they graduate, they will eventually be licensed by theCommonwealthofVirginia, or some other state, to protect the general health, safety, and welfare.  Putting railroad, automobile, and pedestrian traffic into the same physical space is doing exactly the opposite.  It is also not a green solution to the problem.

 My reasoning is this:  If automobile traffic is sitting at the grade crossing waiting for a train to pass, most will sit there with idling engines.  When sitting still, all internal combustion engines get the same mileage: zero MPG.  While idling, they are spewing out greenhouse gases (presumably CO2).  The pedestrians who are forced to wait for the train will be exposed to both automobile exhaust and diesel exhaust from the trains.

 I would state further that the greenest option is to not replace the bridge, but to maintain the existing structure.  Granted, this will involve replacing most of the concrete from the deck up, but the structural steel and substructure are sound.  So instead of spending a few hundred thousand to renovate the existing structure, millions will be spent, as the grade crossing option will be a non-starter on the part of the railroad.

 So this is an indictment of the local political process as well as the architectural academic community.  Instead of turning out graduates who are prepared to practice, we seem to be producing young professionals that don’t understand their obligation to society.

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