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Summing It Up: 2012

As people began filing out of the auditorium after Saturday’s final talk, the fluorescent house lights went up. Crystal Schenk’s art installation, colorfully illuminated from the stage throughout the day, instantly lost some of its magnetic magic; the illusion of the aurora borealis had become a memory.

Photo Credit: Armosa Studios

Maybe it’s just me, but since Saturday I’ve been trying to hold on to such memories. My thoughts have been awesomely overrun with the forceful pull of all of the day’s radiant ideas. Snippets of talks recur, ideas new and exciting turn over and over again in my mind, and despite the many times that we were urged to be present, a part of me wants to live in the (recent) past.

TEDxConcordiaUPortland’s 640 attendees will remember how things kicked off with Anis Mojgani’s spoken word performance.

Photo Credit: Armosa Studios

Positive and ethereal—we are all a noble combination of science and magic—his poem resonated with the celestial stage backdrop and solidified the tone for the day.

You’ll remember on-stage hosts Jackie and Prashant, and you’ll remember guessing at who would speak at Jefferson’s mystery session (though many suspected that Governor Barbara Roberts might speak when they saw her in attendance). You’ll also remember those other speakers who seemed to have crafted a talk just for you; their ideas corresponded with those you’d been turning over yourself recently. You may have even thanked them during a conversation break, or at the end of the day, or in your Thank You card. And you may have shared meaningful quotes and thoughts:

“Passion is a greater indicator to success than IQ.” –Speaker Ethan Knight

Photo Credit: Armosa Studios

“You cannot be a leader if you are not a risk taker.” –Speaker Gov. Barbara Roberts

“How does one become a better photographer? Become a better person.” –Speaker Taylor Swift

“Zombies don’t care about the truth.” – Speaker Jesse Laird

“Surround yourself with people who challenge you”—Speaker Mark Powers

“If you want to get a new idea, you have to get rid of an old one.” —Speaker Linda K Johnson

“How many times to you shake? Twelve. Why Twelve? Because it’s the biggest number with only one syllable”—Speaker Joe Smith

“So many of our treasures, the best parts of us, are found through the hardest times, the worst experiences, the dark days we have and through our deepest fears. Embrace them as they are the foundation of the light and the truths that exist in all of us.”—Speaker Cheryl Strayed

“I would want to relive TEDxConcordia 2012 if I could. It was fantastic.” Planning Team Member Brian Mariki

“How amazing to reflect on how a group of individuals, who might never have gotten to know one another, banded together to plan this event we all believed in and became a big, working ‘machine’ to pull this production off. We’ve become friends out of this. We trusted one another to make this work.” –Planning Team Member Brittany Duncan

“Thanks for giving me so much to think about”—Attendee Julie Sabatier

“It truly inspired me and I felt such a feeling of empowerment after leaving that I felt like I need to pay it forward.”—Attendee

“Time to focus my passions on my next project to change the world!”—Attendee Kirsten Anderson

But the event was something more than just these flashes we can recall days later. It was the sum of its parts. When you think back upon the day, you might remember stray quotes from talks, or a melody from one of the incredible performances.

Photo Credit: Armosa Studios

But what arises most clearly is the feeling. The feeling of being wholly absorbed in an idea; of delighting in seeing where a speaker would lead us and what ideas they’d share; of discovering where they’d end up and why. Most importantly, you may remember the feeling of connection. Of quietly breathing next to someone or holding their hand during a talk; of knowing that people in the room are thinking almost the exact same thing you are thinking; of finding other open minds who are similarly open to learning about new ideas.

So now for the challenge: Resist the urge to think of this day as only a memory. Use the thoughts and ideas and inspiration and connections you were a part of, and do something with them. Take them out into the world.

We all can’t wait to see what happens.

By Sean Wheaton

Sean Wheaton is a teacher and writer who lives in Portland, OR. He’s a lover of ideas both big and small, and he is thrilled to be a part of this year’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland planning team. He’s one of several storytellers who are sharing write-ups, interviews, and perspectives on the many extraordinary people from our surrounding community. 

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Announcing Something Extraordinary: Our Mystery Session

Shhh! We have a very secretive announcement to make this week. As you well know, Jefferson Smith is curating a session at TEDxConcordiaUPortland.

But do you know what speakers he’s chosen? Are you excited to hear who else will make March 31st such an extraordinary day?

If you’re teetering on the edge of your seat, hold tight (and don’t fall!) because you’re going to have to wait just a little longer. That’s right—Jefferson’s session will be a mystery session that will unfold before your very eyes the day of the event.

We know, we know. It wouldn’t be right to leave you totally hanging. That’s just not very nice.

Instead, we’ll further pique your curiosity about this guest curated session by leaving you with a few clues. Hazard a guess, take a chance, and be ready to find out who these mysterious folks are next Saturday!

Mystery Speaker 1

Once you have an official title, you can’t shake it.

History’s preservationists forgot about the West.

She wishes HIStory had more of HERstory.

Mystery Speaker 2

Their ages range from 8 to adult.

Who says women can’t turn it up to 11?

Mystery Speaker 3

Democracy takes action (and wheels).

Tomorrow’s leaders are developed today.

Mystery Speaker 4

Drying your hands is much more important than you know.

Family matters.

All you need is one.

Mystery Speaker 5

Change means working together.

Over 38,000 Native Americans live in Multnomah County.

Celebrate Portland’s diversity.

Mystery Speaker 6

Video games=a viable business model.

They didn’t kill the electric car in Eugene.

How we get around needs a reboot.

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Announcing Our On-Stage Artist for TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012: Crystal Schenk

The rhetoric artists use when they talk about their creative processes is well-worn. We know about the ingredients of inspiration, imagination, expression, skill, emotion, and representation; we’ve heard about the muses (sometimes real and sometimes imagined), and we know that at some point the creative process involves sitting down and doing something until it becomes art. We know that what artists consider work is more like a state of being; they lose themselves to what it is they’re doing, surrendering to what positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow.”

All of this points to what’s mysterious and ethereal about art, but none really captures that strange and magical way in which an idea or feeling is transformed into something tangible.

Forming the backdrop of this year’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland stage will be a work of art that stems from our theme of “Becoming Extraordinary.” Award-winning artist Crystal Schenk has designed a sculpture that will resemble the Aurora Borealis, which this year is expected to be in peak form due to the magnetic influence of the eleven-year solar cycle.

“It is remarkable and poetic that the magnetic fields and solar storms of the sun have such a beautiful impact on our planet’s atmosphere. I wanted to create something that both references extraordinary natural beauty but was also relevant to our time.”

One of nature’s great mysteries, the extraordinary glowing patterns of the Aurora have long captured the imagination of those who’ve witnessed them.  The sense of wonder that arises in the viewer soon gives way to the sense that there is still a lot to know and discover out there. If they hold onto this wonder and bring it down to earth, there’s a chance that it might be changed into some else entirely, an idea worth spreading.

In creating this piece, Crystal followed a familiar process.

“Often my work starts as a lingering feeling or impression that defies words and imagery.  I spend a long time meditating on this sentiment, turning it over and over in my mind like a worry stone.  It is important for me to hunt down the perfect metaphors and representations until I find one that resonates.”

As all of our speakers give the talk of their lives, their ideas will be illuminated by the shifting and shimmering lights of Crytal’s work. The magic of their stories will be enhanced and we’ll see how ideas can be created, stretched out, reached towards, and grasped.

Buy tickets today for TEDxConcordiaUPortland


March 31st 2012

By Sean Wheaton

Sean Wheaton is a teacher and writer who lives in Portland, OR. He’s a lover of ideas both big and small, and he is thrilled to be a part of this year’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland planning team. He’s one of several storytellers who are sharing write-ups, interviews, and perspectives on the many extraordinary people from our surrounding community. 

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Announcing Our On-Stage Host for TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012: Prashant Kakad

At last year’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland event, he taught us to dance. He also taught us about his lifelong love affair with Bollywood, and we learned that he sang to his mom before he ever spoke to her.

This year, Prashant Kakad returns to the stage as our on-stage host. He’s excited and honored to take this role, and he’s looking forward to helping our speakers share their extraordinary stories.

If you remember Prashant’s talk from last year, you know that he has an extraordinary story of his own. His passion for Bollywood led him to singing, which then led him to dancing. The real world, on the other hand, led him to Cornell then Intel. He was an engineer and he continued to dance, but juggling both of these didn’t feel right. He thought a lot about what he wanted out of life and he returned continuously to the place he considers the most extraordinary in the world, “the stillness of one’s soul.”

“One must visit that place & understand the why to the best of their ability. The how then takes care of itself.”

And so it did. He quit his job at Intel and he’s been spreading his love of Bollywood ever since. DJ Prashant now teaches audiences to dance, and he revels in getting them moving. Dancing has always been celebratory, expressive, and liberating. It is in this spirit that Prashant incites his audiences to get lost in the music and the movement of dance.

“There is something magical about dancing,” he says. “The goal is to share the joy with everyone on planet earth!”

On March 31st, Prashant won’t be giving us another lesson (though you can get one at the official TEDxConcordiaUPortland Jai Ho afterparty at Lola’s Room!). Instead he’ll be participating as a Portlander who has fully embraced the city’s openness for creativity and new ideas. He’ll be filling those spaces between speakers and introducing these extraordinary people who, at one time or another, also searched the stillness of their souls.

Buy tickets today for TEDxConcordiaUPortland


March 31st 2012

By Sean Wheaton

Sean Wheaton is a teacher and writer who lives in Portland, OR. He’s a lover of ideas both big and small, and he is thrilled to be a part of this year’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland planning team. He’s one of several storytellers who are sharing write-ups, interviews, and perspectives on the many extraordinary people from our surrounding community. 

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Announcing Our Next Round of TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012 Speakers: A Thinker, a Drummer, and an Educator

This week we have a little riddle for you: What will generate over thirty minutes’ worth of incredible talks and a lifetime of memories, but makes 168 hours seem like only yesterday?

The announcement of our next three speakers! That’s right, another week has passed and another group of speakers is waiting in the wings, ready to be announced and added to our illustrious, exciting, and extraordinary list.

Like all of our speakers, these three have been hand-picked for their extraordinary stories and accomplishments. We look forward to hearing them share the talk of their lives on March 31st.

So let’s get on with it! We’re pleased to announce three more speakers who will be taking the stage at TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012:

Nathan Schmitt

What is the purpose of an education? This is a question Nathan Schmitt has spent a lot of time pondering. If it is to learn to think for yourself and approach the world with a questioning attitude, he’s well on his way. Schmitt was homeschooled by his mother through high school and she taught him how to think critically about the world and how to make a difference in society. He’s now a student at Concordia University, but lately he wonders what our current academic culture is preparing us for.

”The information taught in schools and read by an individual person is basically incomplete knowledge if what they read is not followed by hands-on action.”

Ambitious and competitive, Nathan is a driven and successful student; however, he knows that this isn’t enough. He thinks more time should be spent acquiring situational knowledge. Though they provide a meaningful foundation, he thinks there’s only so much you can learn from books and theories. Instead, students should be getting “real, tangible experience” so they can gain experience and build industry relationship.

He’d like to see theory and praxis balanced in education, and he’s crafted a 50/50 rule that speaks to this idea worth spreading.

Nathan is in the midst of building his own business and he plans to write a book. Ideally he’d like to get involved in the leadership of his community and country. Come see him discuss his ideas for change on March 31st.

Mark Powers

Drum roll, please. And hold…for twelve hours! Mark Powers, percussion artist, teacher, and writer, once co-held the Guinness Book of World Records title for longest continuous drum roll (2003-2005). He admits that it’s a silly claim to fame, but it does show this adventurous world-traveling musician’s devotion to rhythm.

“Percussion has held such an integral role in cultures around the globe for centuries and rhythm is something that each one of us possesses within. My goal is to harness its power and potential, using it for community building, wellness and personal growth.”

Knowing early in life that he loved percussion, Mark began studying drumset performance at age 16 after an accelerated high school graduation. Over the years, he’s studied with countless percussion luminaries in the U.S. and abroad. He’s performed and absorbed the rhythms from Puerto Rico, Cuba, China, Thailand, Canada, Ghana and Uganda.

Through it all, he’s met, performed, and recorded with a variety of people.  He finds that his ever-widening circle of friends constantly inspires him.

“I am continually aware of many people doing so many great things for themselves and others. I can’t help but see their ideas and actions and ask myself, “’hmm . . . how could a drummer apply that?’”

When he’s not traveling or performing, Mark teaches private lessons, classes, and workshops. In teaching people the rhythms he’s mastered, he uses music to touch people’s lives. In some cases, it even helps to heal—he teaches at Riverfront Wellness Center and he presents percussion-based Correctional Education programs in adult and juvenile facilities.

Soon after Mark shares his passion for percussion on the stage at TEDxConcordiaUPortland, he’s travelling to Kuwait City, where he’ll be artist in residence for two weeks at an international school. Then he’s off to the South Pacific to perform for four months.

Catch him while he’s still here and prepare to be moved by his rhythmic expertise!

Jesse Laird

When asked what he’d do if he could harness the energy of all today’s attendees, Jesse Laird immediately knew the answer.

“Easy. I would have them create a massive free university whose sole purpose would be (will be? is already?) to facilitate the intellectual, spiritual, and psychic liberation of all human beings, by and for their own power, to live meaningfully in harmonious community with all living creatures throughout the Universe.”

Jesse Laird knows education, and he also knows about change. He teaches Humanities at Concordia University and is a doctoral candidate in Human Rights Education at the University of San Francisco. Since 2002, he has marched-on, taught-in, walked-out, blockaded, occupied, obstructed, and strategized in dozens of nonviolent campaigns. At Concordia, he teaches Peace Studies, Global Diversity, Speech, and Ethics.

Jesse facilitates regular workshops in strategic nonviolent action through Our School, a Portland activist education collective. His publications include case studies of nonviolent social movements and he has recently lectured and presented on activist themes at numerous universities and organizations in California and Oregon.

He says that he would someday like to become more balanced. For some people, this might not be a concern; however, for someone who’s devoted his time to studying the balance and imbalance of power in governments and institutions, the idea of achieving that ideal state of equality and equilibrium is probably one that is ever-present.

Without a doubt this is another exciting group of speakers! Look for our next group to be announced next Saturday, March 3rd

Buy tickets today for TEDxConcordiaUPortland


March 31st 2012

By Sean Wheaton

Sean Wheaton is a teacher and writer who lives in Portland, OR. He’s a lover of ideas both big and small, and he is thrilled to be a part of this year’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland planning team. He’s one of several storytellers who are sharing write-ups, interviews, and perspectives on the many extraordinary people from our surrounding community. 

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Announcing Our Musical Guests for TEDxConcordiaUPortland2012

At this year’s event we’re jazzed to be partnering with kin trio. They will provide mood music throughout the day that will accompany and harmonize with the all of the wonderful thoughts and ideas being shared.

Eugene Lee, artist and founder of kin trio, writes below about the group:

i formed kin trio in 2011 with the idea to combine two of my favorite things: bebop and minimalism. musically, i come from a bebop background and will always have a soft spot for it, no matter how experimental my projects become. recently, largely through my path of becoming a natural doctor, i’ve begun appreciating meditation, silence, nature. the idea of this group is to use the context of bebop, one that is normally frenetic and freewheeling, to portray these experiences of tranquility and inward focus. most of the compositions are jazz standards that have re-written melodies that are spacious and sparse, full of silences and held tones.

originally in kin trio i played upright bass while noah bernstein played alto sax and tim duroche played drums. then, when noah went on tour with the tune-yards and became an international celebrity for months on end, i took over the saxophone role and andre st. james joined on bass. both tim and andre are mainstays in the portland music scene and have an impressive set of life experiences and musical associations.

tim’s bio and work can be found here. whenever i ask him about his work i am confronted with a flurry of sentences involving art and culture: it’s difficult for me to piece together because what he does almost defies categorization. he is an important role in the portland community in general, tying together social activists, writers, musicians, public figures, and the general public. in addition to all this, he is a fantastic, sensitive drummer who gigs regularly with some of portland’s most cutting edge jazz and experimental groups. he also has a weekly radio show featuring experimental jazz music.

andre st. james is another pillar in the kin trio as well as in the portland musician / artist community. he’s been active on the scene for quite some time now and has made a name for himself playing with the likes of andrew hill, sonny rollins, dewey redman– and the list of luminaries goes on and on. (see more at his website) his ubiquity is not without cause: with playing that is consistently solid, inventive, and responsive to group dynamics in a way that allows creativity to blossom.

the name kin trio, although first chosen without a specific meaning in mind, has come to imply a level of kinship between the three of us which i believe is evident when we are playing. i go to natural medicine school, tim is a longtime meditator, andre practices qigong daily; all of us try to maintain some consciousness about physical and spiritual health and thus are on the same wavelength when it comes to the mission statement of kin trio: simply put as “minimalist bebop”. we reject the bombast and ADHD which is normally associated with bebop and instead try and weave textures that allows the listeners, as well as ourselves, to sink deeper inward. like all worthwhile endeavors, it is a tall order and we are just at the beginning stages but like other journeys it is one that is possible through persistent cultivation.

kin trio has an upcoming CD release gig for their debut CD, “roots” at the teazone camellia lounge (510 NW 11th) on thursday, march 1st.

Buy tickets today for TEDxConcordiaUPortland


By Eugene Lee

Eugene Lee is originally from Boston but now a student at Portland’s National College of Natural Medicine studying Naturopathy and Chinese Medicine. He is also an artist and performing musician, and feels honored to be part of the TEDx planning this year via logo design as well as live music for the event!

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