What makes Noah Kleiman the right person to start & run Secret Knowledge ?
Like many of the people Secret Knowledge serves I'm a very creative person. I like to write songs, play music, and produce recordings. I can be wickedly funny, at times. I can write.
I have a B.A. in Computer Music from the University of California at Santa Cruz. I don't claim that knowing how to write a computer program that writes it's own music has much to do with my career empowering creative people as a nonprofit leader.
I suppose my creative qualities and deep technical background matter some when it comes to starting and growing a nonprofit like Secret Knowledge, but what really makes me the right person is this:
I have a gift for seeing what other creative people need and figuring out a really good way to help them. That gift is what lead me to start Secret Knowledge. I saw a lot of people who needed some very particular kinds of help.
This is not my first rodeo.
My experience starting and running another successful nonprofit agency has prepared me for starting and running this nonprofit agency.
My first nonprofit, Old Library Studio
In 2003 I saw that music education opportunities at the middle and high-school levels were entirely focused on how to perform music on an instrument and never showed anyone how to create their own original music. I knew that teenage musicians desperately wanted support for their music-making explorations because I had been that kind of teenager. So 11 years ago I started and ran Portland's nonprofit music recording and composition studio for teens, Old Library Studio.
I didn't know at the time if I'd be able to do it, but I felt very driven.
I was not quite 24 years old, with just enough premature grey in my hair to inspire a little extra trust. The opportunity was there and it was my dream job, so I poured all the creative energy of my young life into doing my best at it.
It turns out all that was really required was learning to do everything, facing hundreds of disappointing setbacks, and not giving up.
It wasn't easy, but it was totally worth it. I helped hundreds of creative teens, I loved the work I was doing, and I'm still really proud of what I accomplished.
In order to be successful at running Old Library Studio I had to learn everything I possibly could about nonprofit management, fundraising, strategic planning, finance, and grant writing. So I did that and I also developed a bunch of other entrepreneurial skills like DIY promotion, graphic design, web development, and marketing. Over time I got good at that stuff.
I was a very busy teacher. I taught 3 - 10 group classes every week and did one-on-one tutoring to hundreds of creative teenagers each year for about 5 years.
My workshops were about empowering creative teens using music technology, making music, and producing recordings - but they were also about mentoring creative teens and talking about how to live a creative life, and career advice.
Discovering "secret knowledge"
I started using the term "secret knowledge" to describe the sometimes esoteric but really useful skills and techniques I was teaching. My favorite experiences were when my advanced students and I would discover some secret knowledge together.
The focus for me has always been on sharing that knowledge, not on keeping it a secret.
Along the way I learned a lot about what it takes to keep volunteers, donors, funders, board members, and the people you're helping all engaged in what you're doing. Some of those lessons have become second nature to me, others require a lot of effort to follow still.
I was awarded the 2006 Skidmore Prize for the Arts in recognition of the work I did at Old Library Studio.
Of course I didn't do any of it alone. A lot of people helped to make it happen.
Starting Secret Knowledge
I'm in my mid 30s now and I'm surrounded in my life by working artists & musicians and also talented creative people who make their living doing non-artistic work. In looking around me I saw that the working artists needed help with technical & entrepreneurial skills; skills they need to make it here. At the same time Portland's audiences filled with creative people who want to be involved in culture, not just witness it.
So in November 2013 I started Secret Knowledge.
This time around I know exactly what it takes to succeed. I also know that there's always more learning to do, that there will always be challenges to surmount, and setbacks to face. Secret Knowledge has already faced several.
I'm the right person to make Secret Knowledge happen for all the right reasons. Painters paint. Musicians perform. I do this, because this is my calling.
All of that is what qualifies me to start and run Secret Knowledge.
I know better than to try and do this by myself which is why I've put so much energy into building a great board of directors, recruiting talented volunteers, connecting with donors from all over, and continuing to welcome new people to join me in building Secret Knowledge.
Thanks for taking an interest in my work. I'd love to hear from you.
Mr. Noah Kleiman