Latin America

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

The Abreu Chamber Choir

01-06-2021

The Abreu Chamber Choir (ACC) is a vocal group formed by young Venezuelan singers who grew up in El Sistema programs but are currently residing in several countries in Europe. The group was founded because of a desire to return to making music with colleagues and friends. We have organized a number of concerts, collaborative learning days, and training workshops for young singers and conductors, continuing the legacy and visionary teachings of Maestro José Antonio Abreu.

Road Tripping through Mexico with Linda and the Mockingbirds

12-02-2020

“Hey, Verenice! We are taking a bus with Linda to Sonora—we’d like you to join us with your fiddle.” I was in my third year at UC San Diego when Eugene Rodriguez, Founder and Director of Los Cenzontles, called me with an invitation to take a very special trip. Just a few months later, I was on a bus to Sonora, Mexico with Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, several Cenzontles, and many more family and friends, embarking on a musical journey that was filmed to create Linda and the Mockingbirds.

El Sistema Venezuela: Academic Strategies in Times of Confinement

11-04-2020

As the new school year takes off, we think it is a good moment to reach out to our friends in Sistema-inspired projects around the world, to share our experiences in teaching and caring for our kids throughout the months of quarantine.

Shaping Curricula to Overcome Resource Scarcity

10-07-2020

The first time I smelled tear gas, it was a January morning around 10:00 a.m. I was sitting in the car alongside Franco Toro Contreras, the Music Director at Enrique Soro Music School in Quilicura, Chile. Franco picked me up every morning from Monday through Friday at the “Zona Cero” in Santiago, ten miles from the school. Against a backdrop of political and economic upheaval, we drove every morning through the smell of tear gas that had been deployed against protesters the previous night. Despite this troubled socio-political situation—and the fact that I was teaching summer classes—I noticed that attendance never wavered throughout my time at the school.

Dispatch from the Venezuelan Diaspora

09-02-2020

I first met Anthony Pérez more than a decade ago in Venezuela; he was a promising trumpet player from the Andean state of Táchira. We worked together on several occasions, as his energetic performance and manner made him a fantastic interview subject regarding the work of our orchestras and chamber ensembles. His story—a young boy in the town of Rubio rising to be one of the main brass players in the Simón Bolívar Orchestra—made for terrific press. You can see him playing alongside his peers, his hair slicked back, in YouTube clips of the legendary 2007 BBC Proms performance, led by Gustavo Dudamel, that introduced the orchestra to the world.

Musicaustral Nurtures a Modern Latin Folk Music Community

08-05-2020

The story of Latin American folk music in 20th century Chile illustrates how artists reflect and impact societies. One of the most important figures of this period was Violeta Parra (1917-67), a visionary artist and activist known as the “Mother of Latin American Folk.” Parra led the Nueva Canción Chilena, a revival of Chilean folk music and traditions. Her life and work inspired generations of musicians who gave voice to social and political movements throughout Latin America.

Prioritizing Families in NEOJIBA’s Virtual Programming

07-01-2020

NEOJIBA is a public El Sistema-inspired program in Brazil, founded by Ricardo Castro in 2007 and implemented by the State of Bahia through the Secretariat of Justice, Human Rights, and Social Development (Secretaria de Justiça, Direitos Humanos e Desenvolvimento Social). One of our most critical components is the Social Development Sector, which is composed of eight professionals with educational backgrounds in social work and psychology. These professionals work daily to ameliorate socioeconomic and educational inequalities that confront many of our students, and to provide full access to social rights. They also provide individual and/or group psychosocial appointments for students and their families. Through attentive and qualified listening, our professionals enable families to work through social circumstances and establish intervention strategies. These unfold in a set of actions, tailored to each individual or family, that help participants work through their specific issues.

“Future Farming”: A Case for Investing in Top Talent

06-01-2020

Ilumina is a musical social equity project, chamber music festival, and touring ensemble based in São Paulo, Brazil. Our talent development model is to invest deep, not wide. Each year, we select 25 young South American musicians with extraordinary potential, ages 18-26, using an extremely selective YouTube audition and written application. Our hypothesis (we call it “future farming”) is that deep investment and extraordinary access for potential leaders will sow the seeds for exponential transformation and good teaching down the social and educational pyramid.

Orquesta Juvenil de Curanilahue: Reflecting on the 25-year History of One of Chile’s First Youth Orchestras

05-04-2020

When you arrive in Curanilahue, Chile, one of the first things you see is a large statue of an upright wooden hand. The smaller replicas available for purchase in town read, “Tengo las manos ásperas pero hay pan en mi mesa,” which roughly  translates to: “Though our hands are worn, there is bread on the table.” This blue-collar mantra embodies the economy, culture, and subconscious of the region. From an outsider’s perspective, people are humble and work hard when given the opportunity. Small sheet-metal houses line the streets, and nothing really stands out.

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