Thursday, May 8, 2014

Getting "Orch"-anized: A Girl Scout's love of music drives her Gold Award project

Gold Award Girls

The following entry was written by Mackinsey Anne Smith, a Gold Award recipient whose passion for music helped her identify the need for a restored  music collection. She then decided to focus her efforts in the music library at Austin High School. Read all about her project, challenges and her very sage advice to aspiring Gold Award girls.


My Gold Award project, “Orchanization,” was designed to restore order to a crucial part of an orchestra, the music collection.  I chose this project because I love music and I wanted to give back to a music director and organization that has given so much to me. 

My project took place mostly in the orchestra room at Austin High School where an extensive music library is housed in 50 file drawers. The goal was to update the music database by listing the location and key details of each piece of music (ex: title, composer, arranger), as well as re-file the music in score order. Being able to quickly find music, including which parts may need to be borrowed or purchased, improves efficiency and reduces costs. This is how my Gold Award project evolved. The first part of my project was to accomplish or facilitate the steps noted above. This was done by going through over 1,600 music folders one by one to be sure they were properly filed and matched the database; over 325 folders were also put into score order. The second part of my project was to create a system that would make it easier to maintain the library over time. To do this, I created a website that details how to create and maintain a well-organized library. I also trained the Austin High Orchestra Board on how to maintain the newly organized library. The third part of my project was to expand the scope of the library to benefit more people. This was accomplished by reformatting the music database and uploading it to a cloud-based organization, management, and communication tool used by nearly 7,000 orchestra and band programs nationwide. 

I encountered several obstacles during my Gold Award project. The most apparent was that aspects of my project took much longer than expected, so I had to make adjustments. For example, my original intention was to put all of the pieces in score order, but after spending 125 hours on 325 folders, my project advisor and I agreed that this would have to be a longer-term goal as it would have required over 600 volunteer hours just to finish this one portion of the project. I also had to add a second database checking team, something I did not want to do initially because it increased chance of error. I learned that I need to keep the end goal in mind, but be flexible in how to get there. I had to be willing to make adjustments if something wasn't working out or was taking too long, and I had to recognize that good ideas can come from anywhere, even someone who was less knowledgeable than me, while also establishing myself as team leader. I had to train people in how to do each task and I had to check in frequently at the beginning when they were learning. Because of the nature of my project, my volunteers had to have some musical knowledge. This limited the people I could ask for assistance, but improved my communication skills by forcing me to ask people I didn't know well for help. 

In addition to maintaining good humor, patience, and flexibility, I would advise Girl Scouts beginning their Gold Award to download and carefully read the final report paperwork before beginning your project. It will tell you exactly what you need to track and document throughout your project so you can format your data in a way that the final report is easier to write. Lastly, chose a subject and organization you feel passionate about. This is likely to be the biggest, most time-consuming, and at times, the most tedious, never-ending project you have ever worked on, so it is important that it be something near and dear to your heart. And it will be worth it! You will grow as a person and as a leader, and see the change that a dedicated group of volunteers with a united vision can achieve. I know I have.

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