Silicon Valley Artists Need IP Protection, Too

Silicon Valley artists need IP protection, too
By Marcela Davison Avilés

(Daily Journal, April 29, 2013 – Used with permission)

“What do we need music to do? How do we visit the land in our head and the place in our heart that music takes us to? Can I get a round-trip ticket?” — David Byrne

The arts and entertainment scene in Silicon Valley is vibrant, innovative, and most of all, entertaining and commercially viable. But in a region that is envied all over the world for its technology entrepreneurship, our regional artists and entertainers often get short shrift when it comes to pro- tecting and monetizing their intellectual property. The IP protection issues that arise in the arts are analogous to those that arise in software development — copyright, trademark, service mark, for example. And while the entire legal infrastructure of Silicon Valley has developed to protect technology-related rights, all too often the soft IP of local, talented artists goes unprotected.

Knowledgeable software developers wouldn’t dream of going solo — and neither should the knowledgeable artist!

Read the full article <HERE> (PDF file)

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Marcela Davison Aviles: They say San Jose is a city of festivals, and it’s true

I keep wondering if it is a mere coincidence that at summer’s end, and the start of fall’s election cacophony, two men who devoted their lives to telling the stories of our lives now find themselves at each other’s side.

I speak, of course, of the beloved San Jose Mercury News columnist Leigh Weimers and renowned lyricist Hal David, who left this world within days of each other.

It’s as if the good Lord, knowing what was ahead the next few months, needed the true voices of reason and heart by his side. I can imagine the introductions: “Mr. David, I want you to meet Mr. San Jose. Leigh, meet Hal. He sang the moments of life you chronicled every day.”

I didn’t know Leigh Weimers well, or Hal David at all, but I feel I know what they stood for. It’s here in our town. It’s in the hearts of the commuters at the old train station, still standing beside the river. It’s on the calloused hands of the urban gardeners at Emma Prusch Farm Park. It’s in the little red clapboard steak house standing in the shadow of the modern concert arena. It’s the old adobe home, its hearth still burning after 200 years, a stone’s throw from the memory of a signal tower and its modern semaphore, now signaling commerce, invention, and new meanings for the word Adobe. Leigh Weimers and Hal David found the meaning of our lives here in these streets. Here, they said, is our heart’s true delight. Here is a town. Here is San Jose.

This week in our pueblo the citizens are gathering to celebrate what makes a town. Down Santa Clara Street the annual Mexican heritage and mariachi festival will sing its corridors of heart and passion and young promise. Up Santa Clara Street the ZERO1 festival reveals the latest newfangled inspirations from international artists. At the town center for the arts, you’ll discover the Vietnamese Ao Dai festival — elegant and intricate, beautiful and intertwining; it’s one part haute couture fashion show, one part world music and all parts giving back by raising funds for Vietnamese orphans.

They say San Jose is a city of festivals, and it’s true. San Jose Jazz (a Leigh Weimers favorite), the Big Easy Blues, the Italian festa — these summer shindigs might be over but chances are you can still hear the horns in the alley by the Rep and smell the aroma of grilled sausage next to the Guadalupe River as we gear up for September’s revels. San Jose festivals are quirky that way. They aren’t the massive conglomerations of crowds, beer, merchandise and bands you never heard of that beat in the hearts of the big concert promoters.

All of them — every single one — raise funds to help our community. Now, you just might hear this drumbeat of service from Taiko drummers at the village green, or from chamber music in an old movie house. As they said at the Big Easy festival, you’ll find the music right over here — in “dis” place — or yonder over there — at “dat” place. San Jose may not be the capital of hip. Some might even say it’s not the capital of Silicon Valley. But anyone who ever dreamed, could live in our town. And anyone who has a heart, would know our town. The way Leigh Weimers did. The way our festivals do.

Marcela Davison Avilés is president and CEO of Mexican Heritage Corp. and the producer of VivaFest! San Jose Mexican Heritage and Mariachi Festival, the largest of its kind in the country, which takes place this week. She wrote this for this newspaper.

– By Marcela Davison Aviles

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Amor Eterno

Recently, I posted on face book that singers are angels sent to earth to tell us the stories we need to hear in our hearts. Their gifts are intangible and profound – they must sing on pitch by finding the notes in their head, while remembering the story they share will be for the first time, even if they have sung it a million times.

At the Grammy Awards, the nation held its breath as Jennifer Hudson commenced her pitch perfect tribute to Whitney Houston in front of millions. Such an act requires not only the talent that comes through years of hard work and practice, but courage: the courage to believe in oneself in order to become vulnerable enough to give.

Ms. Hudson’s tribute was heartbreaking because it was heartfelt. Her technical virtuosity and public exposure was an afterthought. What matters was what she achieved – the gift of a personal farewell to a fallen friend. And while her farewell was broadcast before a worldwide audience, it was deeply intimate as well. Only Ms. Hudson and Ms. Houston know what was really communicated between them that night.

The language of music achieves this catalytic intimacy – the inspirational meaning behind the word – and more. From our own community these singular angels have led armies, broken new ground in the halls of troubadours and chorus girls; and delivered the identity of a greatest generation which fought for the right to acculturate – only to realize that the bonds of family and heritage need not take a back seat to citizenship.

Some of these Latina cantantes are Grammy winners– but most of our pioneering “girl singers” are recognized not through framed certificates of sales but through their impact on multiple generations who listened then – and hear today — because the cadence of their unique interpretation got them through a war, or an economic depression, or the new rules of a society seemingly taken over by a younger generation.

These Latina singers defined leadership through the innovation of musicianship – Lucha Reyes was the first woman to sing in front of a mariachi ensemble – Rocio Ducal used her Spanish roots to imbue her interpretation of Mexican music with the unique harmonic tragedy of her country’s Moorish heritage – Lola Beltran was the first singer to perform rancheras at the Grand Opera House inMexico City. She was also the muse of an American rock star — and that American rock star, through her own journey of discovery – delivered a Mexican cultural identity to millions in a way so profound that it informed, for many, the awakening of the conscience of their cultural heritage.

After thousands of years of human imperfection one is tempted to say the world is not worthy of the incantations of artists. Yet without them, we are incapable of the innovation so valued today – because we would not have the heart it takes to be vulnerable enough to risk.

Here then, is a hit parade of Latina courage and leadership – for your listening inspiration and self-discovery:

– Marcela Davison Aviles

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Preservation of Mariachi Festivals

“The wind won’t know me there. The Holy People won’t know me. And I won’t know the Holy People. And there’s no one left who can tell me.”
– An old Navajo Woman, on the subject of her displacement from ancestral lands

Mariachi Festival Pt. 1

Recently the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced that mariachi music was named to Unesco’s list of “intangible cultural heritage” in need of preservation. UNESCO’s recognition is good news for music lovers and especially for those fans of Mexican minstrel – the passionate, melodic, gut wrenching storytelling genre known as mariachi. But the nation which invented the mariachi festival now seems on the verge of losing two stalwart venues inTucson and Fresno, according to recent reports from mariachi musicians and educators. And in San Jose, city fathers have announced that arts organizations need to be prepared for zero funding for the arts, which is also impacting that city’s mariachi festival, a 20 year institution. As a result, a national conversation is taking place – through online channels such as facebook and internet blogs – over the future of this uniquely American invention of cultural celebration.

UTPA Mariachi AztlanWhy should we care about something like a mariachi festival? Critics of government funding for the arts usually focus on one reason – the arts are a “nice to have” not a “need to have.”

The praises of cultural festivals, their imprint on the national and community psyche, their hold on collective identity through economic impact, ingenuity, cadence, flavors, colors – have been sung since the founding of the republic – by aficionados as disparate as Abraham Lincoln and Octavio Paz. Their meaning can only be defined by what we hear in our hearts. In that occupation, festivals are like the wind.

But the American style mariachi festival, with its combination of educational music and dance workshops, concerts, and more recently, original content such as theatre, community conversations, and screenings of Chicano and Latino indy films, provides a unique laboratory for expression. Like other mediums such as literature, broadcast forums, cinema and theatre, it occupies a unique place in our civic culture – because of its ability to change hearts and minds about a segment of society which is increasingly at the margins. I refer here to the Mexican immigrant and migrant worker.

I have personally witnessed grown men crying over the strains of this music, and members of the Tea Party exclaiming new found empathy for the community it represents after attending one of our concerts. I’ve read letters from parents claiming “enlightenment” after attending our mariachi workshops. I’ve seen grizzled, cynical rock star divos turn into little kids when given the opportunity to play with our mariachi students. Yes, UNESCO, there is a Pancho Claus – and every year he gives us uncommon common ground, through the intangible alchemy of the American mariachi festival.

Festival DancersThe common phrase I hear from people who are unfamiliar with mariachi festivals after attending one of our events is: “I had no idea.” Meaning – no idea about the beauty of the art form, the artistry of the musicians, the work ethic behind our festival workshops to teach, inspire, and lift the expectations of our students about their own capacity for excellence. Meaning — no idea about our common humanity. Meaning — no idea about the need for a mariachi festival because it strengthens and sustains us during those fulcrum moments when desperate times require the resilience and grit that music inspires.

San Jose’s mariachi festival has a new name these days – ¡VivaFest! – a broad “abrazo” to welcome community with its message of life and celebration. But under any name, the essence of this festival is constant – it provides something much needed, especially now – a familial knowledge of our community, a place where we gather to know each other, as neighbors and friends, where we can hear each other. It is a frontier created new every year, where held notions may be displaced, within a place where there are no borders.

So — what happens when budgets are cut, and a festival disappears? The same thing that happens when the wind dies. There will be no gathering to know one another. There will be no cadence of language, known only in our hearts. There will be – nothing.

– Marcela Davison Aviles

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Impact of AB 1330 on our Latino Community

When I was eight years old, and attending the public schools in Tucson, I was given a choice: a violin, a cello or a viola to learn to play for orchestra class. The viola was the size of a small cello, and the cello was taller than me, but the violin was just right. I picked a three-quarter size instrument and thus began my beautiful career as a second violinist in my school orchestra, a journey which led directly to college. The arts are a perennial second fiddle in budget discussions. That’s true even in California, where the City of San Jose is expected to eliminate program and operating grant support for the arts, and the state legislature passed AB 1330, which downgraded arts curriculum to elective status.

AB 1330The impact of these cuts on the Latino community is devastating – the data shows – and has for years, that arts curriculum tracks our kids to academic achievement. The many Latino heritage education and arts programs provided by schools across the country have long provided a path of pride and the discipline our students need to excel. The state of Texas is a good example, with hundreds of popular mariachi instruction classes throughout the state – it’s not difficult to guess the reason why the Latino student drop out rate in Texas is lower than California’s.

With these developments, Silicon Valley and the state can no longer claim the mantle of the world’s center of innovation and creativity. And if Mitt Romney’s proposed 50% reduction of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities is passed, the arts won’t be relegated to second fiddle. Try, bottom of the orchestra pit in an abandoned concert hall that’s about to be demolished.

It’s been said that, “it takes more grace than pen can tell to play the second fiddle well.” That’s because the second violinist plays the harmony – and must play a supporting role passionatel. Today it takes way more grace than pen can tell to convince government the arts can play the tune of economic recovery – it will take a collective yelp. Occupy the concert hall. Chances are it’ll be empty.

Thus November California did give public school kids a choice – a violin or a power drill. This is the result of AB 1330, signed into law last week, which changes California high school graduation requirements resulting in an “either / or” choice between Career Technical Education (CTE) and the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA).

To many, the legislature placed arts education in the role of the second violins – subordinate to curricula prioritizing STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – subjects. The concern is justified – the data show music and arts education improves academic achievement and fosters civic engagement. Yet arts education consistently gets “second fiddle” treatment when it comes to funding. Zero investment in the arts is not just paranoia – the San Jose’s Office of Cultural affairs is on record that zero funding is probable. Makes perfect sense, in light of the considerable economic impact the arts sector brings to the City’s tax base.

The California Alliance for Arts Education recommended a harmonizing ‘Both / And’ approach to CTE and VAPA, in which these disciplines work together to benefit students and reverse the impact of recent years:

– In 2000, more than one million students were enrolled in school music programs.
– By 2008, that number had dropped to 470,000.
– Inadequate funding is the main reason for these declines.
– With California’s budget crisis, these numbers have worsened. In 2009, 60% of districts surveyed by the Legislative Analysts Office had shifted Arts and Music Block Grant funds away from arts and music programs. 20% of those districts cut programs altogether.
– According to a national study, African American and Latino students are impacted disproportionately by declines. There was a 49% drop among African Americans and 40% drop among Latinos.

Creativity and innovation are vital to student success, and the nation’s economic recovery. According to the Alliance, 1500 CEOs surveyed by IBM ranked creativity as the number one trait they look for in employees. Research and the U.S. Congress confirm that arts education results in higher academic performance and standardized test scores, increased community service and lower drop out rates.

The data on the positive impact of the arts and arts education adds up. We need a new approach to balance government budgets and engage students, one that abandons stereotyped “second fiddle” perspectives on the arts sector. The arts must have a seat at the budget table and standard curriculum should integrate music and the arts – turning STEM into STEAM, to power the efficacy of creative minds. Leonard Bernstein once said, “I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

Without the arts cities have no soul, or badly needed tax revenue. And public education cannot teach both the rudiments and the wisdom our children need to be successful, without the passionate harmony which informs vision and encourages skill. So occupy your local budget office. Bring both the tech and the arts fiddlers. Let’s re-write this score, and balance the budget, together.

– Marcela Davison Aviles

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