Posted by: thebluemusicblog | June 8, 2011


“Dear friends, when the Berlin Wall came down and I met my former enemies, now my closest friends, I heard the Blue Music of change, and it made my soul fly.”

This is the end of an exciting story that I will share with you in a while. Welcome to my Blue Music Blog! From time to time I will take you traveling along the NEW WAY and share Blue Music moments with you, as well as many moments of grey music.

Most of my life, 80% of my life, is filled with the grey music of every day work. It is good, not bad, I love the grey music, it gives me satisfaction. Going to an office, to a university, planning, making budgets, creating strategies, and implementing projects. It is good. But if all your life is Grey Music, it is too much. I need at least 20% of the Blue Music of change, the music of creativity and innovation, of surprise and laughter and lateral thinking, thinking out of the box. The Blue Music is the greatest gift of God, and it makes our souls fly high and capture inspiration and motivation to serve and thus creating deeply meaningful lives. The Blue Music comes when you do not expect it, but when you hear it, follow it, let it make you fly high and find the direction for your life.

Geneva-Amsterdam-Detroit-Philadelphia  were the first three legs of this travel over three continents in 42 days. Our WAY President, Ken Colloton and I were invited to speak to the NAUG, the North American Urban Group, the CEOs and CVOs of the thirty biggest YMCAs in Canada, USA and Mexico came together for their bi annual meeting in Philadelphia under the leadership of  my old friend Andy Calhoun of Charlotte. We were given the morning session of the programme and presented the NEW WAY strategy.

NEW WAY is the New World Alliance of YMCAs, but also the new direction of WAY, and also the WAY itself, the WAY we are traveling. If you are interested, you will find the NEW WAY strategy here.

I was on my way to Colorado Springs, where I hired a car to drive up to Estes Park in the mighty Rocky Mountains. Having driven through Denver, Colorado, it started to snow, and when I parked the car outside of Kent Meyer’s office at Estes Park Center, the beautiful mountains were all hidden behind the clouds and a great atmosphere of Christmas filled the cold air. Kent is the President/CEO of the YMCA of the Rockies and host at Estes Park Center, where the World Council 2014 will take place.

It is a wonderful conference center surrounded by fantastic mountains and forests with animals of all kinds, we saw  virtually hundreds of elks during our short visit. Kent, his wife and staff hosted us with great hospitality and I am just looking very much forward to come back in the summer of 2014, June 29 – July 5.

The drive down from the Rocky Mountains made me feel good about being a Norwegian – we are used to driving in heavy snow and still keeping the car on the road!

A very early morning flight took us to Los Angeles and Long Beach YMCA where we had an inspiring visit at the YMCA Youth Institute and the Change Agent Productions. Les Peters (Youth Institute Director, far right with glasses) and his crew showed us around. I am fascinated by this programme. Already last year I met Bob Cabeza, Vice President for Community Development at the YMCA of Greater Long Beach, and heard about the Youth Institute for the first time. For the past nine years they have operated the Youth Institute (, a year-round programme that uses technology as an integral mechanism for promoting positive youth development and developing pathways to post secondary education and career readiness of low-income, culturally diverse urban high school youth. The results are amazing, the documentation of the impact is scientific, and the responses from the young people I talked with, made me proud of being a YMCA member.

The Youth Institute is all about youth development, that is the first and most important goal. But as a side effect, this programme creates a number of well educated young professionals able to deliver first class performance in Video Production, Graphic Design, Animation, Web Design and related fields. The Long Beach YMCA has established the Change Agent Productions and thereby created numerous job opportunities for young people.

“Change Agent Productions is a social enterprise comprised of professional digital media artists who work alongside inner-city youth to carry out video production, graphic design projects and digital media trainings with attention to detail, quality, creativity and promptness.

We create positive business results for clients through our digital media and creative services as well as encourage them to tell their story, just like we encourage our youth to develop their individual stories and voice them through digital media.” (

In Long Beach I had good meetings with the President&CEO, Jason Hagensick, formally appointed on the 5th of May. Congratulations, Jason!

Sue Baker, Senior Vice President, picked us up at the airport, hosted us fabulously and even drew us to our next appointment, the NAYDO conference in Anaheim, California. Thank you for all your hospitality, Sue! Notice the name of the Beauty Salon!

Being fascinated with all things maritime, I could not avoid noticing Queen Mary, the Transatlantic Masterpiece from 1934, anchored at Long Beach for ever. Yes, I did visit her, and yes, I did enjoy it!

The North American YMCA Developers Organization (NAYDO) had its annual conference in Anaheim, California and more than 1000 participants from all over the world came together to learn more about YMCA Resource Mobilisation, Philanthropy, Fundraising, how to make YMCAs sustainable. There I met up with my friend and colleague, Selma Zaidi, WAY Senior Executive Secretary for Movement Strengthening and Resource Mobilisation and the rest of the Global Staff Team. Together we had a very constructive meeting with the NAYDO Council under the leadership of Bryan Webber from Canada and the CEOs of the YMCAs in the USA, Canada and Mexico. We presented the NEW WAY strategy and discussed different forms of collaboration between the World Alliance and NAYDO. The good and close cooperation between NEW WAY and NAYDO is continuing.

Website :     World Alliance of YMCAs
Facebook :  Facebook page
Twitter:       Twitter page
Youtube:       YouTube Channel


  1. This is very enjoyable and insightful commentary. Love the theme. This is among the very best field reports I have seen and read. Your good natured spirit shows through. Press on, Johann, press on.

  2. Thank-you Johan. I enjoyed both the pictures and your wonderful narrative under the banner of the ‘Blue Music Blog’!

  3. The story about the YMCA Youth Institute of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the Change Agent productions is very inspiring and very interesting. Thank you, Johan for sharing this with us. I have so discovered an important source of information about interconnected nonprofit organizations!

  4. The blog is a great idea Johan. Kia kaha! Kia Maia! Kia Manawanui! Be strong! be Brave! Be determined!

  5. Hi Johan –

    Great idea to have the blog. This is a terrific way to share personal stories from YMCAs around the globe. Thanks!

  6. Thank you, it’s a good idea. we feel close to your activite and we encourage you in your mission.

  7. Johan Vilhelm, what an excellent way of getting your personal reflections regarding your work in the NEW WAY in addition to the information provided by the WAY official website! I am really looking forward to a lot of interesting reading on your blog in the years to come.

  8. Dear Johan Vilhelm,
    It was very interesting to read your reflections about your trip and New WAY! Good luck with the New WAY implementation! You are very welcome to Ukraine any time, convenient to you!
    Viktor Serbulov

  9. Johan, Wonderful report. The world YMCA movement needs this kind of openness from the World Alliance. Phil Denison

  10. Johan, Great report. The world YMCA Movement needs this kind of exposure to the World Alliance. Keep up the good work. Phil Denison

    • Phil, good to hear from you, we have shared many miles of the WAY over the years, and I am happy to continue many more miles with you!!

  11. Hej Johan.
    Jeg får lyst til at skrive til dig på dansk. Forhåbentlig kan du stadig huske dette sprog.
    Jeg sidder og mindes en europæisk sekretærkonference i Haslev, hvor du holdt en ganske inspirerende tale om “blue and gray – or was it brown – music”. Jeg kan se at du stadig søger dagene fulde af blå musik. Tak, fordi du deler dem med hele verden!
    Må Gud fortsat velsigne dig og det arbejde du står midt i.

    De bedste hilsner
    Birgit Steffensen, Danmark

    • Thank you, Dear Birgit! Yes, I still have no problems understanding Danish and I think back and remember many good encounters with you during the years in Europe.

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