Teaching & Learning

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

Music as a Birthright in Elkhart County

10-06-2020

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.

Decolonizing the Music Room

09-16-2020

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.

Teaching Artistry as a Balance for Cultural Education Mentalities

09-02-2020

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.

From Lapu-Lapu to Toledo: The Influence of El Sistema in Cebu, Philippines

09-02-2020

Most of The World Ensemble reporting for the Philippines thus far has been about the Sistema-based program Ang Misyon in Manila, the Philippine capital. Unbeknownst to many—including myself, I must confess—there are many other robust Sistema-based programs all over the country that are equally worthy of feature but have not yet been given due visibility. In this article, I feature five such programs in Cebu, the place I call home. It is my hope that my writing this will pave the way for more equitable coverage.

Brazil to the Silk Road, Handmade Drums to Pro Tools: How two youth music organizations in the UK are maintaining engagement and exploring new territory

09-02-2020

With the continuation of lockdown halting all live music activity, orchestras and ensembles are becoming more and more accustomed to this new ‘Zoom’ reality. In this article, I mention two recent online musical events I’ve been involved with, specifically the National Orchestra For All’s (NOFA) Online Summer Course and Jubacana’s Summer School. I also contribute my own observations about each occasion given that both events were the first of their kind for the respective organizations.

Student Voices Take the Lead during YOLA National at Home

09-01-2020

For close to a decade, the month of July has meant national Sistema gatherings hosted by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and this year was no different—except that it was extremely different, because it was all virtual: YOLA National at Home.

Lessons in Listening

08-05-2020

Buffalo Public School #45 is the go-to public school for newly arrived refugees in Buffalo, NY. Speaking dozens of different languages and dialects, many of the school’s students are displaced from countries across the world. As we sat down in front of them, we introduced ourselves, our instruments, and the music we were about to play. Our audience was quiet, even distant. But as we placed our bows on our strings and the first notes emerged, everything changed.

Editorial: August 2020

08-04-2020

For me, as for many, the pandemic has been a time of Janus-like reflection—simultaneously looking back and making plans for the future. I’ve been reflecting about the early years of the El Sistema movement in the United States: we were driven by Maestro Abreu winning the 2009 TED Prize, the fiery Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, the appointment of Gustavo Dudamel to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the growing media attention on El Sistema. We had that fire-in-the-belly impetus to found new organizations across the country, with dreams of a new wave of music education.

Centering Students in Their Own Mythologies

08-04-2020

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.

The Importance of Mission Statements

07-07-2020

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.

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