Community Building

The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.

Editorial: August 2020

08-04-2020

For me, as for many, the pandemic has been a time of Janus-like reflection—simultaneously looking back and making plans for the future. I’ve been reflecting about the early years of the El Sistema movement in the United States: we were driven by Maestro Abreu winning the 2009 TED Prize, the fiery Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, the appointment of Gustavo Dudamel to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the growing media attention on El Sistema. We had that fire-in-the-belly impetus to found new organizations across the country, with dreams of a new wave of music education.

Centering Students in Their Own Mythologies

08-04-2020

Myth and drums are a potent combination. I first encountered the use of drums in men’s circles when I attended a workshop for a rites of passage group led by Dr. Kwa David Whittaker—Nana Kwa, one of my eventual mentors. After I witnessed him playing the djembe drum while relating a powerful story to the group, I knew I wanted to find a way to incorporate the drum into my own work. Before long, I was down in the basement of my house, alone, practicing drumming while reciting mythological stories.

Cultural Equity Learning Center

07-07-2020

The Cultural Equity Learning Community (CELC) is open to arts leaders committed to building racial equity and justice in the arts. Geared toward white-identifying arts leaders and/or those working in predominately white institutions, the two-unit online course offers a go-at-your-own pace learning path with complementary wraparound learning supports. The course seeks to reduce harm toward BIPOC leaders in the arts and culture sector, increase skill sets and accountability of white arts sector leaders, examine what it means to build anti-racist co-conspiratorship, and more.

Decolonizing the Music Room

07-07-2020

Decolonizing the Music Room is a non-profit organization aiming to use research, training, and discourse to help music educators center the voices and experiences of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people to challenge European and White American practices. Resources include suggested reading, podcasts, firsthand accounts from other music educators, video blogs, and more. Join this ongoing process of learning, reflection, and growth.

National Youth Network Meeting

07-07-2020

The National Guild for Community Arts Education has created a National Youth Network (NYN) Meeting as part of the Creative Youth Development (CYD) movement. Youth practitioners, teaching artists, and culture workers age 13–24 are encouraged to attend this weekly virtual gathering and connect, share, and express themselves creatively. Meetings take place every Friday from 7–8:30 p.m. EDT; for more information, please contact Paula Ortega (youth leader) or Ashley Hare (adult accomplice).

MYCincinnati Publishes Open Letter

07-07-2020

In an open letter to its community, Price Hill Will/MYCincinnati recognizes that “everything about an organization’s practices, beliefs, culture, structure, and programs either contributes to racial equity or opposes it.” They present a detailed overview of their equity statements, programs and initiatives, hiring and compensation practices, trainings, fundraising, and more, inviting feedback. Also, their annual Price Hill Creative Community Festival (July 20–25) has announced the festival’s transition to online along with the three Artists-in-Residence. Learn more here.

YOLA National at Home, 2020

07-07-2020

YOLA National at Home, this year’s online version of the annual YOLA National Festival and Symposium, offers keynotes (Thomas Wilkins and Gustavo Dudamel), community and artist conversations, teaching tools, and project-based learning opportunities for youth and adults. Students, educators, and artists are invited into these interactive experiences, held 3–4 times per week over Zoom and YouTube Live from July 10–31. Register for updates here. YOLA is also partnering with Project 440 to provide musicians of the YOLA National Festival Orchestras with a six-week virtual program on using art as a vehicle for positive change and how to prepare for college or conservatory.

An Open Letter to My Students

07-07-2020

As an educator, I am a role model for young people. In the wake of the social unrest following the death of George Floyd, my students made it clear: not only did they want me to amplify their voices, but they implored me to amplify my own as well. Below is an abridged version of an open letter I wrote them immediately following our discussion. The complete letter can be found at project440.org.

Editorial: July, 2020

07-07-2020

I had my first U.S. protest experience in Los Angeles, CA, after the murder of Michael Brown, Jr. I could hear but not see the protesters behind rows of policemen in riot gear. As circling helicopters kept me awake that night, I realized that I felt safer in my home country of South Africa, although I had directly experienced racism, gender-based violence, and crime there.

Showing Up in Crisis Times

06-02-2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our communities in unimaginable ways. It has exposed great inequities in our society, tested the financial stability of our organizations, and forced programs to rapidly explore new methods of connectivity, storytelling, and fundraising. On the other hand, it has also offered opportunities for programs to demonstrate their resilience. As many educators say, it’s better to show than tell. Right now, our students are watching how we show up for them in times of crisis.

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