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We provide fun, educational, and dynamic informal classes including photography, dancing, art, fitness and more! Try a variety of classes with us without an intimidating time commitment.

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A Brief Look by Informal Classes’ instructor Mo Pair

The history of analyzing Native music, and specifically pow wow music, shows a denigration of this art form, an art form that is truly and uniquely American. Here is an example from John Comfort Fillmore’s “Report on the Structural Peculiarities of the Music,” from Alice Fletcher’s A Study of Omaha Indian Music, 1893, in which Mr. Fillmore, a musician in the Western tradition, gives a summary:

The results of the foregoing investigation may be summed up thus: The deficiencies and defects of Indian music are, first, lack of sensuous beauty of tone quality; second, uncertainty of intonation (p. 74).

“Indian” music did not fit Mr. Fillmore’s criteria for music, in terms of timbre and structure. Yet, Mr. Fillmore did laud the Omaha in regard to their rhythmical prowess:

It seems to be as natural and easy for them to beat two and sing three, and that too in all sorts of syncopation and complex combinations as though they had received the most thorough rhythmical training to be had in any conservatory in the world (p. 68).

Mr. Fillmore’s opinions depict the weaknesses in Western theory rather than attenuation of “Indian” music. In music, Western theory focuses more on melody and sound quality and less on rhythmic qualities; yet, rhythm is a powerful force in music, not to be derided. It is now time to investigate further Mr. Fillmore’s findings about rhythm in Omaha music and other Native musics, and to leave behind his thoughts in regard to what he deems “deficiencies.”  For, truly, what is music and who is to judge what is and what is not musical?

Explore these ideas further in Mo’s class, Native American Pow Wow Song & Dance, which starts on October 14. Register on our website.

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Catherine Jewell has been an instructor with Informal Classes for years now, bringing her expertise about finding the right job to our students with enthusiasm. Read on for some of her advice on how to find allies among the people you already know to help get your job search on the right track. Find more on Catherine’s blog.

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After some time of wallowing in the grief of a job loss, it’s time to pull on your big girl/big boy pants and move on. It’s time to reach out to people you already know and ask for help. How you do this makes all the difference.

You don’t want to approach this too directly. People really want to help, but they don’t believe they can. So, when you reach out to people it’s to “catch up,” “reconnect,” and “ask for advice.” Literally anyone can be the key resource in your job hunt. In my job hunt, it took just 2 coffees and 3 lunches to find the perfect job lead.

The point of this reaching out is to get friends, family and new acquaintances thinking about you and watching for signs in the marketplace that jobs are about to open up. The goal is to apply for an unadvertised job—a job in the so-called Hidden Market. Why?

Because employers, like everyone else, want to do things the easy way. If they have a handful of candidates referred by employees and friends of the company, that’s way easier than advertising a job and having to deal with hundreds—and  sometimes thousands—of job applicants.

Your chances of getting an interview are 10 to 100 times higher if your resume is hand carried or forwarded by email with even the slightest recommendation. The person delivering the resume need only say, “Here’s a sharp guy I met at a party Saturday night.” Suddenly, you’re in. You are being considered for a position because you were recommended to someone you don’t know by someone you just met. Crazy.  And crazy effective.

Where do you start to network? If you’re like most American workers, you’ve been keeping your head down, working like a dog the last few years. You haven’t made time to go to association meetings. Your LinkedIn profile is lame. You have had no contact with former coworkers and supervisors. Heck, you don’t even have time for relatives!

Here’s how you start. Make a list of five people you know quite well—one from high school, one former coworker, one fellow soccer or PTA parent, one neighbor, and one cousin. No kidding. All these people know that you are a person of your word, that you keep promises and don’t have two heads. That’s all it takes to start.

Invite each one to lunch or coffee. While you are talking, each of these people is going to give you ideas and names of other people to talk to. If each one only mentions three ideas (and they will likely give you 7-10) you will now have 15 more people to contact! That’s how easy networking is!

The huge side benefit: all this socializing is fun. You are meeting new people, sharing ideas and helping others.  You’re rekindling old friendships and enjoying yourself. Isn’t that more appealing than staring at a computer screen with the same old job offerings day after day?

You might say, “How do I know which leads to follow?” That’s the magic. You have no idea where these conversations will lead, but each one takes you closer to a job that’s right for you. Of course, if you go into these conversations with purpose, you’re going to get to the goal faster.  More about that later.

Try out your first few coffees and lunches on people you know best. After you get the process down, go for people who are well-connected and who are even more likely to help you. But do it.

My clients resist this idea like crazy. I beg them to get out and talk to people. When they do, they always get fired up. Try it this week. Meet with just two people you know and see how it lifts your spirits. So, what’s the most powerful question you can ask yourself to get motivated?

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Catherine’s upcoming classes include New Resume, New Career (October 9), Find Your Passion, Find Your Perfect Work (November 13), and LinkedIn for Job Seekers (starts December 4).

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Theresa Zelasko has raised backyard hens in Austin since 2010 and is enamored of their charming personalities and their amusing hijinks. As a chicken enthusiast, she likes to share her experiences with her birds with others, and discover delicious new recipes for all those eggs! We were very excited for her to bring her enthusiasm for raising chickens to Informal Classes last year and start her Backyard Chicken classes! Here is her instructor highlight:

Informal Classes: What can students expect out of your class?
Theresa Zelasko: They’ll learn all the basics of becoming a backyard chicken keeper. They’ll see the baby chick to mama hen experience, learn about housing/security, health, feeding, and general care, and get an honest look at the financial commitment(s) required, too. They can expect to ask questions of me and get straight answers, even if I have to do research and get back to them.

IC: What are you most excited about sharing with your students?
TZ: My passion for chickens! They’re such wonderful, funny, and resilient creatures. I never had pets as a child, but now I can’t get enough animal companions in my life. Also, raising chickens is one small way to take back our broken industrial food system. Chickens also make short work of your compost pile so you get that rich black soil sooner.

IC: Can you tell us a little bit about your background in your field?
TZ: This spring is be my 4th year raising backyard chickens. I have had 2 dozen chickens come into my life over that time. I currently have four charming birds roosting my backyard: Minty, Hawkeye, Excelsior, and Peanut. There’s a lot of personality in that group! Their antics keep me in stitches!

IC: What do you as the instructor learn from working with your students?
TZ: Non-chicken keepers ask great questions and keep me on my toes. I’m always modifying what I’m doing in regard to my birds: learning here, progressing there, updating as I go along. Every hen has her own personality and needs. Reading books about chickens is great, but you really gotta get some birds and learn from your successes and failures. It’s like anything else — over time, you become a better chicken keeper.

Theresa’s class is coming up on Saturday, October 11. Join the class on our website!

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Dive into puppetry in this fun class! Instructor Sara Farr will bring plenty of puppets for you to try out. Work on the basics of puppet manipulation, like making eye contact, feigning breath, etc, and learn to bring life to inanimate objects! This one-day workshop is on October 11. Register online.

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Get comfortable on Texas dance floors by learning the two-step! Class starts on October 7. Register on the website.

Find Out Why So Many People are Hooked on Knitting

Our next Learn to Knit class is coming up soon - and it’s almost full! Don’t miss your chance to register for this fun class. Pick up a hobby that will keep your hands and mind busy. You can knit pretty much anywhere - while watching TV, while riding along in the car, while visiting someone in the hospital - or just focus on knitting and create beautiful, intricate patterns! This class is for beginners, but if you’ve had some  experience and want to brush the rust off your skills, you are welcome.

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You can register for this class with new instructor Mike Van Heyde on our website. Don’t miss Mike’s other class this fall, Introduction to MySQL Databases.

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Relive the thrills and chills you felt back when you saw Freddie Kruger, Jason Voorhees and Chucky for the first time! Examine how these characters have stood the test of time, watch and discuss specific scenes from various movies and explore the creators of many of these villains and how they came up with their twisted characters. Class starts on October 1 to put you in the Halloween mood! Register on the course page.

Michael Rubin’s next Beginning Harmonica class is starting on October 1. Come learn the basics of the blues on this handy, portable instrument! Previous student Jim Shay told us that “Michael Rubin is a great teacher!” His classmate Candace Mattson wrote,

Excellent! Loved it! Instructor was fab and I learned way more than I thought I would.

Another former student Chris Santiago wrote,

Awesome class! Beginning Harmonica was great! Been waiting to learn harmonica for over 20 years and I feel like I’m off to a great start.

Try out this fun class starting October 1. You can register online.

Michael Rubin’s next Beginning Harmonica class is starting on October 1. Come learn the basics of the blues on this handy, portable instrument! Previous student Jim Shay told us that “Michael Rubin is a great teacher!” His classmate Candace Mattson wrote,

Excellent! Loved it! Instructor was fab and I learned way more than I thought I would.

Another former student Chris Santiago wrote,

Awesome class! Beginning Harmonica was great! Been waiting to learn harmonica for over 20 years and I feel like I’m off to a great start.

Try out this fun class starting October 1. You can register online.

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Register for Jeanette’s class on our website!