Editorials

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

Treasures within a UNESCO Report

06-02-2021

I earned my M.A. degree in educational policy studies from the Institute of Education, University of London (now University College London) a quarter-century ago. In the same year, a seminal report called Learning: The Treasure Within (the Delors Report) was published by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), where I started my United Nations career two years later. This is one of many texts that have made a huge impact on my life; it is always a source of inspiration when it comes to education and learning. Although the Report has been influential among educators, I’ve come to recognize that it is not well known in the sphere of music education, let alone the art and music world in general.

Reflections on Our Shared Lineage

06-01-2021

In October of 2008, sitting alongside Maestro José Antonio Abreu, I experienced a moment of clarity. We were visiting the state of Trujillo in the far-northwest corner of Venezuela, where the state’s six major núcleos had formed a special orchestra to put on a command performance for the Maestro. A group 200 strong, all between 10–25 years old. A breathtaking interpretation of the first movement of Mahler’s First Symphony ensued, the type of concert I had experienced so many times with awe. But then Maestro Abreu addressed the orchestra. He set out his vision for each of their lives, full of contribution, artistry, and joy. At one point he asked, “Who of you wants to be a teacher?” Every hand shot up; every face was shining. My first thought was: “What a beautiful tribute to the community of educators nurturing these young people.” I came away with the profound understanding that teaching was at the core of it all.

The Núcleo as a Safe Space: Continuity, Discontinuity, Contrast

05-05-2021

As a sociologist of arts and culture, I have spent the last 12 years of my professional life studying how music education may serve as a tool for education and social emancipation to youth in socio-economically deprived territories. Though I am a musician (drummer and percussionist), my particular interest is in not only the music teaching methods, but also, more broadly, all the social interactions that happen in and around a núcleo, and how they contribute to the potentially transformative effects on the lives of young people.

Abandoning Classical Music Escapism and Redefining Excellence

05-04-2021

In a lot of ways, I was steeped in Black music growing up. It wasn’t until college that I realized there were areas where someone needed to actively be advocating for Black music. I wasn’t totally aware of this because I grew up surrounded by and participating in gospel music, one of the most deep-rooted musical traditions of Black America. When I started studying piano, I was introduced to what many of us know as “classical music,” and began to learn names like Haydn, Bach, and Mozart. This is also the point in time that I usually reference as the beginning of my musical training. Only recently did I notice that distinction, and the reason why is directly tied to what that “musical training” looked and felt like. Though I had been making music for some time, the centering of Western European classical music as the pinnacle of musicianship affected how I thought about my own music-making. Eventually, I realized that this limited musical perspective was doing more than creating a hierarchy—it was inhibiting musicians from tackling crucial and relevant issues, and hindering equity.

Four Steps to Cultivate Creativity for Good

04-07-2021

In November 2019, I wrote an article for The World Ensemble titled “We Have Work to Do in How We Describe Our Work,” issuing a call to socially motivated music programs to more authentically and effectively describe the outcomes of the socially engaged music education they deliver. Since that time, we at Creative Generation—a global NGO working to inspire, connect, and amplify young creatives catalyzing social change—have sought to more closely align the ways we describe our work with our organizational values.

Ensuring Equity and Anti-Racism in SEL

04-06-2021

Social-emotional Learning (SEL) has served as a foundational tenet of the El Sistema movement for over two decades, even before that acronym became widely known. Sometimes referred to as character strengths, soft skills, or life skills, SEL encapsulates a desire to instill children and youth with the non-academic emotional and social skills necessary for school and life success. El Sistema programs can enhance social-emotional learning through a number of means that have been described here, here, here, and here (and in the feature article of this issue here).

Arts Education and Human Capability

03-03-2021

Knowledge, as widely understood, is the engine of modern economic progress. In that sense, education, as part of knowledge, is a driver of economic development. That’s why the idea of “human capital” augmentation is preached so widely in development discourse.

Merging Our ‘Why’ with the Community’s Needs

03-02-2021

My recent election to the position of Board Chair of El Sistema USA is a great honor for me, especially since I am following in the footsteps of my inspiring friend and mentor Christine Taylor Conda. Since then, I have reflected on how I can best serve the communities that comprise our membership and the greater field of music for social change.

Global Bonding through the Arts: The Latin American Art for Social Transformation Network

02-03-2021

The idea that arts and arts education can propel social transformation is emerging as a crucial force in every part of the world. And yet the programs devoted to this idea are often small, underfunded, and local in scope. To create a genuinely powerful movement, we need greater interconnection. A good first step in the process of worldwide connection is the forging of regional, intra-continental networks.

Words Matter, More Than You Think

02-02-2021

If I were King of Arts Education, I’d post an edict banning five words: amazing, fantastic, unbelievable, outstanding, incredible.

Most music educators use those words a lot, and always with good intent. They want to encourage, celebrate, and motivate their students. The words express the enthusiasm and affection they feel for their students. The King supports all of that. The edict has its eye on the cost of that impulse when it results in hyperbolic acclaim. Cumulatively, the cost is high.

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