The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.
News & Resources
On May 26 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. EDT, Americans for the Arts will host an online session about tapping government funding from the American Rescue Plan. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) introduced by the Biden Administration delivers $350 billion in state and local block grants for Coronavirus fiscal recovery.
You may hear the old prejudice that “social” programs don’t produce musical excellence. Sistema NB student Shinie Wagaarachchi just won a major international prize in music performance.
Nancy J. Uscher, Ph.D., Dean, College of Fine Arts and Professor of Music, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Artists’ careers will likely undergo considerable transformation over the next decades, as those trained in arts disciplines increasingly invent their own pathways for the future. As the arts expand their mission to include delivering social impact, not only will artists flourish in new contexts, but also, society may well be repositioned to build richer perspectives around the value of the arts and artists in the world.
Dalanie Harris, Host of Classically Black Podcast
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.
Midcasting* Toward Just Futures: Creative Youth Development’s Waymaking to Systems Change through and beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic
Arielle Julia Brown on behalf of The Lewis Prize for Music Knowledge Generation Team
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, creative youth development (CYD) organizations have been expanding their work to provide greater support to students, families, and communities impacted by the pandemic. To strengthen this response from the field, The Lewis Prize for Music offered a COVID-19 Response grant to 32 organizations of varying size and geographic locations. Totaling 1.25 million dollars, the fund supported organizations that were leading direct response efforts in their communities. These efforts offered mental health support, food access, housing security, civic engagement support, and academic support, among other things, alongside digital adaptation of regular program activities. Additionally, many CYD organizations supported youth engagement in various forms of movement-building, including, but not limited to, the Black Lives Matter movement and work against voter suppression.
Ben Gudbrandson, Artistic Director, Kalamazoo Kids In Tune, in collaboration with Donielle Hetrick, Afterschool Program Manager, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra
My Papa grew up on the oil fields of Northern Michigan in the 1940s. He learned quickly the importance of working smarter, not harder; when anybody was faced with a challenge he would say, “Get a bigger hammer, son.” For a long time, I didn’t understand what it meant. But this year, the Kalamazoo Kids In Tune staff and I have leaned into this idea more than ever.
El Sistema USA has redesigned its former website store into a new “Resource Hub.” Members have full access to its items, including some new resources. Non-members may purchase items for a small fee.
Linda McAlister, Executive Director, Schmidt Vocal Arts; Global Leaders Program alumna
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.
Christopher Schroeder, Executive Director, Boston Music Project
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.
Alex McLeod, Academic Manager and Parkdale Centre Director, Sistema Toronto
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.