The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.
News & Resources
Americans for the Arts has launched a Cultural Equity Resource Center. Like their widely used Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center, this will be updated regularly with information about programming, resources, and news to assist all in achieving our racial/social justice goals. They will keep adding to it—upcoming is a directory of equity consultants and service providers. If you have a resource to add, let them know.
To honor the four decades of service that Leni Boorstin has dedicated to the Los Angeles Philharmonic in shaping their community and learning programs, with a central role in launching YOLA, the L.A. Phil has created The Leni Boorstin YOLA Administrative Fellowship. This is a paid annual fellowship for two young people, to provide YOLA graduates an even greater role in shaping its future. Working alongside staff members at the new Beckman YOLA Center at Inglewood, they will contribute to the learning programs and build connections in the community.
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.
Hillary Harder, Program Director, ECoSistema, Indiana
In Elkhart County, Indiana, our goal is to provide all people with equitable access to quality music education from birth to young adulthood. We believe music is a birthright for every child in our community—that the extraordinary benefits of music education should be built into the fabric of every young person’s upbringing. It’s not a coincidence that the name of our program, ECoSistema (Elkhart County El Sistema), means “ecosystem” in Spanish: we believe that the El Sistema-inspired field can have the greatest impact when we take the overlapping systems already in place in our community and build music into them.
A new organization has been launched in the U.S. to address the racial inequities in music education. Decolonizing the Music Room is a non-profit organization that aims to use research, training, and discourse to help music educators center the voices and experiences of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian people, challenging the historical dominance of white Western European and American music, narratives, and practices. In their own words: “We at DTMR aim to disrupt the minimization and erasure of non-dominant cultures and identities in the field of music education to build a more equitable future through our work.” Resources include suggested reading, podcasts, firsthand accounts from other music educators, video blogs, and more. We are resharing this The Ensemble resource for our international readers, as music educators across the world continue to look beyond the Western canon.
While living in Sweden over the past year, I observed that the education system excels at nurturing student autonomy. Sweden is a small country with only a handful of classical percussionists (or any instrument) at each university. Many professors teach part-time and are seldom on campus, particularly at my host institution, Örebro University. In response, students often initiate repertoire selections, schedule ensemble rehearsals, and coach themselves. Without the constant direction of teachers, they must formulate musical interpretations and direct personal growth.
Janielle Beh, Bilal Asify, Piano Faculty, Afghanistan National Institute of Music
Afghanistan, a land that weaves a vibrant tapestry of cultures and peoples, continues to undergo conflict even after decades of unrest. Its people keenly feel the heartaches of incalculable loss but continue to persevere. Through this war-weary land, a river of cultural, musical, and artistic heritage flows from the civilizations of the Persia-Central Asia region and the Indian subcontinent. That river was forced to become subterranean in the late 20th century, when the country was embroiled in civil war, but it is now rising to the surface once more.
Myth and drums are a potent combination. I first encountered the use of drums in men’s circles when I attended a workshop for a rites of passage group led by Dr. Kwa David Whittaker—Nana Kwa, one of my eventual mentors. After I witnessed him playing the djembe drum while relating a powerful story to the group, I knew I wanted to find a way to incorporate the drum into my own work. Before long, I was down in the basement of my house, alone, practicing drumming while reciting mythological stories.
How do you describe your program to funders? What stories do you tell, and how do they affect your students? These were some of the questions explored in a session called “How We Talk about Our Programs: The Stories We Tell Ourselves,” that I facilitated alongside Dr. Tia Harvey of Accent Pontiac at the El Sistema USA Symposium in January 2020.
Many music for social change organizations want to respond to racial justice demands in every way they can, and engaging their Boards is a common strategy. A good, free, two-part webinar series from Nonprofit Quarterly shares effective ways to involve your Board: “Beyond the Board Statement: How Can Boards Join the Movement for Racial Justice?” See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.