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

Join Our Team: Applications Are Open for The Ensemble’s 2022 Ambassador Cohort

10-20-2021

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The Life of Jorge Peña Hen, Part III: A New Calling

10-06-2021

Maestro Peña Hen knew he wanted to provide accessible ensemble music education to the city’s youth. But none of us had any experience with this kind of project. As we began envisioning ways to realize the maestro’s vision, we faced a real challenge: we had no students, no teachers, no instruments, and no resources.

The Irish Chamber Orchestra ‘Sings Out with Strings’

10-06-2021

Sing Out with Strings built upon this vision, with a view to immerse the Irish Chamber Orchestra in the local community by providing access to free music lessons to students in disadvantaged areas of Limerick. We began in 2008, when there was a lot of social unrest in the city of Limerick. John Kelly, ICO’s then-CEO, was inspired by Venezuela’s El Sistema program, and began to forge the way for ICO to make a real and lasting difference in Limerick communities.

The Key to Interfaith Collaboration in the Middle East? Steel Drums

10-06-2021

I was not anxious to go to either Afghanistan or Iraq. Most recently, I had been working in Israel, but had to abandon my teaching there due to the Second Intifada. I was also directing several university and secondary school steel bands at home and was impressed with how quickly the students learned, formed close bonds, and enjoyed themselves in that setting.

It hit me: What if I could start an Arab/Israeli youth music ensemble in Israel using a musical instrument that did not belong to any of the cultures in the Middle East—one that was itself born out of conflict in Trinidad and Tobago almost 70 years ago?

Welcome to the Beckmen YOLA Center 

10-06-2021

There are so many youth-centered programs, particularly in our Sistema community, that dream of creating a space just for their students. A space to design freely; a space to be a mentor. A space to perform. A space that belongs to, and works for, the community. Unfortunately, for far too many deserving programs and organizations, those dreams are not easily realized. What could it mean for the field if we call on our funders, institutions, and teams to truly commit to the change and advancement we have long sought?

Redefining a Residency: Reflections on Our COVID Year Collaboration

10-05-2021

We decided to start with a small idea: to have one of the musicians in the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) join the advanced piano students in our program for a few Zoom sessions. Our thinking was that it could be almost like a masterclass, with the musician talking to the students about their experiences and coaching them on musical concepts. Our only concern was whether piano students would be able to relate to and make meaningful connections with a string player.

Collaborators in the Key of Change

10-05-2021

Society’s highest goal for children in foster care seems to be keeping them out of trouble. But their social workers ache for more. In our conversations, they were drawn to the idea of offering children a path to rare and significant personal success, including new skills and disciplines that would change their future.

Expanding Into College-Level Music Courses for High School Students

09-07-2021

Teaching music theory is tricky. College-level music theory courses tend to focus exclusively on either Western European classical conventions or on jazz. Rarely are these two models taught side by side, as they use different vocabularies to describe musical phenomena. Both models have their advantages, but both are limited. Make Music NOLA has been working for years to develop a curriculum that teaches both side by side.

Browsing the Digital Landscape for New Teaching Practices

09-07-2021

While we have watched the country begin to reopen in recent months, the pandemic’s ever-changing impact on the educational landscape has not subsided. Arts education workers have faced unrelenting challenges in this ongoing moment of adaptation and innovation.

As a jazz musician and teaching artist, I experienced this firsthand. And I had no experience in any kind of teaching that didn’t involve music students in a room together. Fortunately, I found three online platforms for jazz education that offer a wealth of good teaching and learning opportunities, and I spent some time this year trying them out with student-colleagues.

Finding the Musical ‘Meeting Point’ Our Students Seek

09-01-2021

For the peoples of the Middle East, especially, this is a crucial time to question the hegemony of Western classical music and to reassert their own musical traditions. During the last five years, I’ve been able to observe the way this has played out in the historical regions of the Armenian Highlands and Mesopotamia, where both Armenian and Kurdish musical traditions—two traditions with a common root—are indigenous.

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