North America

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

The First Annual Symposium of El Sistema in the USA


The symposiums I’ve attended in my professional career have run the gamut from too much academicism to too much mutual reinforcement among like-minded individuals. But neither was the case at the 2018 El Sistema USA (ESUSA) National Symposium, held during a surprisingly snowy January weekend on the campus of Duke University. There was certainly a prevalence of head-nodding among the nearly 200 attendees, but it was the kind of agreement that symbolized an eagerness to challenge and to improve.

Arranging to Play Bernstein’s “Somewhere”


How I wish that my father, Leonard Bernstein, had lived long enough to witness El Sistema. If he had, he would surely have been its most fervent champion. He’d have loved the way this multinational movement combines two of his strongest lifelong commitments: sharing the joy of music with young people, and striving to make the world a more just and peaceful place.

From the Editor


“Good job!”

As teachers – especially as teachers with a central goal of helping students develop self-esteem – how many times a day do we say that to kids? In my private teaching practice, I too say it often. When a child works hard, plays well, and looks expectantly at me, it’s almost reflexive.

In Response to Disaster


Hurricane Irma will go down as one of the most intense hurricanes in history. Causing widespread devastation and flooding, this 650-mile-wide storm left millions without power and destroyed one out of every four homes throughout our home state of Florida. The panic before the storm was clear, but it was its humbling aftermath that inspired me to think about different ways to help those most affected.

From the Editor


A U.S. El Sistema program made some national headlines this month: YOLA, the youth orchestra program of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will be getting a new music center designed by Frank Gehry. Gehry is the celebrity architect responsible for Walt Disney Hall, the L.A. Phil’s famously fantastical concert hall. The YOLA center, at 17,000 square feet, will allow the program to double its participants within the next five years.

Developing Student Leaders


When I began the Corona Youth Music Project in 2010, I was already aware of two feelings: a fear of “founder’s syndrome” and a conviction that young people can accomplish more than they get credit for. In addition to CYMP’s musical and social goals, therefore, a third goal has always been to create an organization whose community can step in and move it forward.

In Alliance: More than the Sum of Their Parts


“Hey, did you hear that other group playing our song? I wonder how they knew it?” said one incredulous young cellist to another, after hearing another El Sistema group play “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” at the Fiddle and FaLaLa Fest.

With that one simple question, a child’s world opened up. If he had never heard “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” before he learned it as part of his journey with the Paterson Music Project, how could he guess that anyone else could play it?

The Sistema Wisdom from Texas Marching Bands


Deep in the heart of Texas, football and band are king. The size of our high school stadiums alone could make most colleges across the nation a little jealous. Two-a-days (and sometimes three-a-days) apply to the football team and the marching band alike.

Aligning for Impact


There are rooms in which arts education programs fight for airspace. In state assembly rooms, legislators apportion tax revenue to parklands, regulatory agencies, and (if we’re lucky) arts councils. In school principals’ offices, budget committees decide what is core and extracurricular, compulsory and optional. And in kitchens or living rooms, family decision-makers make similar hard decisions for their children.


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