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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.

Instilling Cultural Pride and Self-Belief in Cape Town’s Youth

04-07-2021

Predominately Black townships surrounding Cape Town, South Africa are still recovering and rebuilding after the devastating effects of Apartheid. Segregated communities, limited economic opportunities, and poor educational resources compound each other and block youth from determining their own futures. It was in this context that Playing For Change Foundation (PFCF) established its first music program at a secondary school in the township of Gugulethu, which comprises a mainly Black population in the Western Cape district, in 2010. Six years later, we officially established the Imvula Music Program, operating free of charge at different elementary and secondary schools across the Gugulethu, Philippi, and Nyanga townships outside of Cape Town.

Sparking Curiosity and Innovation through Community Outreach

04-07-2021

Economist John Maynard Keynes once wrote, “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” Often, in new program development, cultural innovators must look past ideas that become too comfortable and too safe in order to create a “wow” idea. In working with the Global Leaders’ Program (GLP) 2021 cohort, our group of changemakers has been challenged to push through old stereotypes and ideas to pioneer new ways of thinking. Through these creative pathways, arts organizations will be able to curate and implement thoughtful programming for their communities.

School Youth Orchestras in Rio de Janeiro: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Development

04-07-2021

Morro da Providência, a vast hillside favela (slum) in Rio de Janeiro, is the oldest favela in Brazil. In 2011, over a hundred years after it was first occupied by unpaid war veterans and freed slaves, a group of local residents passionate about social change launched the Cultural Association Amigos da Providência. During the past decade, that association has developed into the Brazilian Institute of Music and Education (IBME), which pursues artistic, educational, and professional training projects for children, adolescents, and young people in the public school system.

Bosnia’s House of Good Tones: Expanding the Scope of a Music Program

04-07-2021

Have you or your colleagues ever thought about responding to pandemic hardships and political tensions by building a multi-media center? The Sistema-inspired House of Good Tones (HOGT) in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina not only thought about that, but did it—and it’s a less improbable response than you might think.

World Children’s Music Festival 2021 in Tokyo: Let’s Play, Sing, and Strive

04-07-2021

Back in 2018, the Friends of El Sistema Japan organization made a plan to host a “World Children’s Music Festival” in Tokyo in April 2020. Of course, the pandemic made this plan impossible. But the organization was determined to make it happen in 2021.

Amplifying Youth Voices during the Pandemic

04-06-2021

For over a year now, our team at Boston Music Project (BMP) has worked to develop new and creative ways of engaging with youth virtually, using music and art to offer a first step in social-emotional learning (SEL) and healing during the pandemic. Because we are a Social-Emotional and Wellness Portfolio Partner with Boston Public Schools, the district-wide pivot to remote learning provided an opportunity for us to expand our existing music to more students throughout the city. Through a new partnership, a group of 25 eighth-graders from Boston Public Schools worked alongside two BMP teaching artists (Minjin Chun and music technology specialist Josh Wareham), a collegiate intern (Brandon Volel), and me to compose original music aimed at capturing the creative spirit, diversity, and youth perspectives during remote learning. This three-month residency resulted in two multi-movement digital music compositions, “Caged Bird” and “Reflections,” released on BMP’s SoundCloud channel on February 4, 2021.

In Toronto, a Student-Driven Social Curriculum Inspires New Learning

04-06-2021

When Toronto’s schools closed in March 2020, we knew we were in for a challenging spring of adapting to the technological and musical challenges of remote learning. We also knew that students would be struggling with feelings of isolation, anxiety, and boredom, and it would be vitally important for us to offer help with these emotional and social challenges. Luckily, we were somewhat prepared for the transition, thanks to our Social Curriculum activities. These activities had the potential to be a key support for our students and staff—as long as we could figure out an effective, accessible way to adapt them to the online format.

Safe Passage through Music for the Children of Armonia Cuscatleca, El Salvador

03-03-2021

Looking back, Pablo is sure it was the all-night music-making that inspired him.

Born in war-time El Salvador, Pablo Mendez Granadino grew up in Los Angeles after his parents had fled from their village, San Pedro Perulapán. There had been musicians in his family for generations; he studied violin as a child and taught for five years at L.A.’s Harmony Project, an El Sistema–based music project for children from underserved communities. Chances to return to El Salvador to see his extended family were few and far between; when he went back to San Pedro in June 2015, it had been 15 years since his last visit. He was 30 years old.

From Inside the Global Leaders Program: Thought Experiments for Shared Inspiration

03-03-2021

Editors’ Note: Have you and your colleagues ever allowed yourselves the luxury of imagining a community-building event or concert that’s much more ambitious than anything you’ve ever done before? If so, wouldn’t you have welcomed help from advisors who could bring broader perspectives from the fields of social science, education, and civic policy?

Exploring Partnerships: Working Together to Enhance Community Engagement

03-03-2021

As the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic approaches, many musicians continue to be isolated from their communities. Lockdowns, travel bans, and limits on in-person gatherings all pose challenges to creating meaningful interactions through music. Yet the importance of engaging with our communities through music has never been more apparent.

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