Latin America

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

An Unusual Orchestra Creates a Transformational Work of Art


On November 5, 2021, an audience of three thousand packed the Movistar Arena in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the premiere of a work that would have been deemed extraordinary under any circumstances: a brand new part-symphonic, part-operatic, part-pop musical theater show based on a child-centered fable written by a French aviator during the Second World War.

The Life of Jorge Peña Hen, Part IV: An Enduring Legacy


Maestro Peña’s music school concept was truly revolutionary in its academic structure. It represented a total curriculum change—different methodologies, new motivations, and participation across several orchestras and bands of different levels. However, the budget allocated by the University only supported a violin studio, a piano studio, and a singing studio. It would require a lot of resources to finance a music curriculum that featured teachers who specialized in all instruments, the purchase of those instruments, and reliable infrastructure.

The El Sistema World Conference, September 2021


I was happily surprised by the fresh air and vibrant energy the Caracas conference organizers were able to summon—even online. For three days, we were virtually sitting at the same table with our peers on faraway continents, listening to each other despite extreme time differences, learning, laughing, and growing. It was an instance when virtual technology allowed us to do something we had never actually done before.

More than Blind Hope: Measuring Social Impact through Music at the Batuta Seminar


Over Batuta’s three decades of existence, though, one question has proven difficult to answer: How do we measure the impact of music in social contexts and avoid wishful declarations that “music itself will do the job?” And so, in celebration of its 30th anniversary, Batuta held an open international forum that sought to tackle this very question, hosting an International Seminar on Music and Social Transformation from September 28 – October 1.

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


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 Life of Jorge Peña Hen, Part II: A Different Kind of Human Being


A young man of only 17, Jorge Peña Hen was already reflecting on serious issues in 1945. In particular, the Composition and Orchestral Conducting student at the National Conservatory of Music in Santiago (Chile) had been influenced by radical new ideas about decolonizing education, and he was taking his new vision to the provinces.

Grants Aid Marginalized Populations in the U.S., East Africa, and Central America


Jewish Helping Hands’ Tikkun Olam Grant Program helps vulnerable populations across the world by supporting projects focused on economic development and social empowerment, with a particular emphasis on those demographics that have been overlooked or marginalized. Projects in the United States, East Africa, and Central America, as well as regions worldwide with impoverished Jewish populations, are given priority. Grants range up to $10,000 for projects in the U.S. and up to $5,000 for projects in other countries. Initial inquiry forms must be submitted by September 14, 2021; invited full applications will be due December 14, 2021. Visit the Jewish Helping Hands website to learn more.

New International Music Festival for Young Musicians in Chile


An Orchestra of the Americas alum has started an international music festival offering young musicians week-long intensive sessions with renowned faculty from the Orchestre de Paris, Metropolitan Opera, and other world-class institutions. The International Chamber Music Festival of Elqui is open to ambitious young musicians studying piano, strings, winds, and percussion, and will take place this November at Chile’s University of La Serena. Check out their website for more information, and follow their Facebook and Instagram accounts for upcoming information on how to register.

The Life of Jorge Peña Hen, Part I: A Giant of Our Cultural Heritage


Winter 2012, La Serena, Chile: an overcast but mild day, with a soft, chilly ocean breeze from the Pacific Ocean’s Humboldt Current. I was with Victor Hugo, a high school friend of mine who had put his trumpet aside to study law and journalism at the university before becoming the editor of a local newspaper. We were both accompanying Don Juan Orrego Salas, a 93-year-old gentleman who was visiting our city to pay a posthumous tribute to a dear friend of his, to whom he had never gotten to say goodbye in person. We bought a bouquet of flowers and entered the front gate of the cemetery without an exact knowledge of where we were going—which was not a problem, since everyone we passed knew the precise location of the memorial to Jorge Peña Hen.

Using Music Learning to Help Our Young People Rebuild Affective Ties


The pandemic has not been just a biological or epidemiological problem. It has also created enormous disruptions in our social and affective lives. Especially in the spaces of education and social interaction, it has inhibited all the imperceptible links that unite us and that allow us to interact socially. For our children and youth, this has produced reluctance, lack of interest and enthusiasm, and, in some cases, depression. A year of isolation changes people—especially young people—and their perspectives on what is important in life.


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