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The Amplifying Voices program seeks to increase the support and promotion for composers of color, make space at the table for them in artistic planning and decision making at major national orchestras, and make major strides toward transforming the classical canon to include an equitable representation of works by composers of color. The Sphinx Organization has chosen New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices program as a 2020 Sphinx Venture Fund Recipient. Read more here.
This month marks the launch of the first El Sistema program in the country specifically dedicated to young people impacted by the immigration crisis at the southern border. The pilot program, in the border town of Tornillo, Texas, will be administered by Tocando, the El Paso Symphony Orchestra’s El Sistema -inspired program, and the Tornillo public school district. Children living with the acute stresses of displacement and immigration will participate in immersive music learning both during and after school. The pilot is funded by NAMM, the Leonard Bernstein Foundation, and private donations—including one from El Sistema Greece in solidarity for serving immigrant children worldwide. The U.S. El Sistema community can support this initiative by offering supplies, visits from experienced teaching artists, or by making contributions. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hermes Camacho, Program Manager, Austin Soundwaves, Austin, TX
The hours, days, and weeks following the death of Draylen Mason at the hands of a serial bomber in March of 2018 are difficult to look back upon. To lose any student is indescribably tragic, but losing Dray was a deep and personal anguish to all of us at Austin Soundwaves (ASW); he was, and continues to be, the heart and soul of our El Sistema-inspired program. In mourning, we learned how much we at ASW depend on our students, sometimes leaning on them just as much as (or more than) they lean on us. Their strength was remarkable during that time, and the energy that typically fuels teenage intransigence was instead diverted two-fold into leading music-making and creating remembrances for Dray. We grieved and didn’t simply move on. And though it would have been easy to focus on the perniciousness of the circumstances, we felt a grave and humbling responsibility to persist in recognizing and commemorating Draylen’s growing legacy.
If you are inspired by the lead article in this issue of The Ensemble and are interested in starting an El Sistema-inspired school, the Walton Family Foundation: Innovative Schools Program grant can help. They support educators who open all types of K-12 schools, particularly schools that look and feel truly different, achieve unprecedented outcomes, serve high-need students, and embrace successes and challenges to share with other schools.
Dalouge Smith, CEO of The Lewis Prize for Music
In the early days of the U.S. El Sistema movement, Maestro Abreu regularly spoke at national conferences. Often during these events, he would state, “El Sistema is not a system.” Yet we all marvelled at the interconnected structure of neighborhood núcleos, regional seminarios, state youth orchestras, and the multiple levels of youth orchestras based at Caracas’s national conservatory.
María Claudia Parias Durán, Executive President, National Batuta Foundation
I met Natalia García de Castro, Executive Director of the Siemens Colombia Foundation, one rainy morning in Bogota in March 2019. On that day, we began to work together to design innovative proposals in favor of children and young people who see in music an option for dignifying their existence.
Eli Rumpf, Public Relations Manager, Weill Music Institute, Carnegie Hall
This year, the fifteen organizations supported by PlayUSA, a national grant-making initiative of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, are focusing on how to maximize their students’ artistic potential while building environments centered on trust and creativity.
Rodrigo Guerrero, Program Manager, SerHacer; Mass Cultural Council
In 2015, the Mass Cultural Council created the SerHacer program, a granting opportunity focused on intensive, ensemble-based music programs that use music as a vehicle for youth development and social change. Inspired by the work of El Sistema, the program supports a wide variety of in-school and community organizations, to expand access to social and artistic music-making opportunities.
A model to adopt? This was the first year of the L.A. Orchestra Fellowship, a two-year intensive for musicians who play violin, viola and cello.
Students from Ghetto Classics in Nairobi have created a new music video that you can view below. For this video, students partnered with SAWA, an organization that partners with local Kenyan women to make beaded decorations for technology like headphones (which can be seen in the film).