Program Design

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

Crossing Borders: A Musical Passport to the World

04-07-2020

Each spring, the students of BRAVO Youth Orchestras in Portland, Oregon take the stage alongside professional musicians with international backgrounds in a celebration of the world of music called Crossing Borders. BRAVO’s young musicians have played jigs from Ireland, lullabies from Morocco, bossa novas from Brazil, Latin pop from Mexico, a French-Canadian fiddle concerto, and so much more. Their professional collaborators have included jazz pianist Darrell Grant, electric looping violinist Joe Kye, Trinidadian neo-soul singer Blossom, and world-renowned Irish fiddler Kevin Burke, among others. Crossing Borders is a highlight of BRAVO’s program year and also serves as our primary fundraising event, generating needed revenue to support our rigorous after-school music programs in priority schools. Our audiences are delighted to see a full student orchestra (strings, winds, and percussion) playing music from so many traditions alongside their professional musical partners.

The Ubuntu Music Program: Strengthening Community through Music and Athletics

04-02-2020

The Playing For Change Foundation has been working in Rwanda since 2011, using music and sports as tools for positive change and education. Ubuntu is a Bantu word that means “humanity towards others”; the Ubuntu Philosophy is a humanist concept that could be summed up as “I am because we are,” and is based on the idea that there is a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. This way of thinking inspired the name of our program in Rwanda: the Ubuntu Music Program.

Harmonizing Across Many Languages

02-04-2020

At Sistema New Brunswick (NB) on Canada’s east coast, we’ve recently faced a unique challenge with broad implications: How best to integrate students of disparate languages into one program? What began in 2009 with one centre and 50 children has grown to over 1,200 children daily, in ten locations, all learning and playing orchestral music. Until September 2019, however, all of these students worked in their own districts, using their own languages.

Meet “The Queen of Paradise Orchestra”: A New Program in Papua New Guinea

01-08-2020

In 1975, the year El Sistema was founded in Venezuela, a tiny new country was founded on the other side of the world: Papua New Guinea. One of the world’s least explored and most rural nations, PNG would seem to have little in common with the homeland of El Sistema. But in 2019, El Sistema came to Papua New Guinea.

Key Learning from the Field: Trust and Empower Your Community

01-07-2020

In the summer of 2014, I arrived on a rainforest island called Pohnpei, in Micronesia (a country in the region of Oceania) to teach high school English. When the school lacked the resources to enable students to explore their passions for music and basketball, the students and I started looking for solutions. This initiative evolved into The International Sports and Music Project (ISMP), an organization that uses sports and music as powerful tools for mental health.

It (Still) Takes a Village

01-07-2020

What does it mean to teach with a village mentality? This is what we do every day at the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (MYO). Families learning alongside one another is at the core of our program.

Mourning and Honoring a Student Leader

01-07-2020

The hours, days, and weeks following the death of Draylen Mason at the hands of a serial bomber in March of 2018 are difficult to look back upon. To lose any student is indescribably tragic, but losing Dray was a deep and personal anguish to all of us at Austin Soundwaves (ASW); he was, and continues to be, the heart and soul of our El Sistema-inspired program. In mourning, we learned how much we at ASW depend on our students, sometimes leaning on them just as much as (or more than) they lean on us. Their strength was remarkable during that time, and the energy that typically fuels teenage intransigence was instead diverted two-fold into leading music-making and creating remembrances for Dray. We grieved and didn’t simply move on. And though it would have been easy to focus on the perniciousness of the circumstances, we felt a grave and humbling responsibility to persist in recognizing and commemorating Draylen’s growing legacy.

Editorial: December 2019

12-03-2019

Right on time, after ten years of start-up and growth, Sistema programs in the U.S. are entering a new phase, in which we are ready to embark on an exploration of the “Q” word: quality—an essential building block of excellence.

Teaching Habits of Mind

12-03-2019

Nearly a decade ago, I helped transform a public elementary school in Alameda, CA into an arts-integrated elementary school, Maya Lin School. Through this, I learned about the Studio Habits of Mind (SHoM), a framework for learning. Developed by a team of researchers and educators at Harvard’s Project Zero, the eight SHoM are: develop craft, engage and persist, envision, express, observe, reflect, stretch and explore, and understand arts worlds.

Sistema as School: WHIN’s Ways of Being

12-03-2019

As the world has seen El Sistema stretch far beyond the barrios of Venezuela, musicians, educators and citizen artists around the globe have been experimenting with how to use the principles and ideologies of Maestro Abreu in new and exciting ways. In northern Manhattan, that experiment takes the form of the WHIN (Washington Heights & Inwood) Music Community Charter School, an inclusive full-day charter founded on the principles of El Sistema.

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