Teaching & Learning

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

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.

Editorial: February 2020

02-04-2020

Justice, health and music. What do they have to do with each other? I am a family doctor and a social justice person, raised by a social justice mom. I am also the co-founder of BRAVO Youth Orchestras, an El Sistema program now in its seventh year in Portland, Oregon. I helped start BRAVO because I love music and I know that, in the Sistema world, music strongly supports children to become good citizens and self-actualized people.

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.

Resources, December 2020

12-03-2019

If you are inspired by the lead article in this issue of The Ensemble and are interested in starting an El Sistema-inspired school, the Walton Family Foundation: Innovative Schools Program grant can help. They support educators who open all types of K-12 schools, particularly schools that look and feel truly different, achieve unprecedented outcomes, serve high-need students, and embrace successes and challenges to share with other schools.

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.

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.

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.

Ten Years of Learning

06-01-2019

After 10 years of programming at Harmony Project’s YOLA EXPO site, what have we learned?

We have learned that 7 years old is generally too young to start the French horn; it’s better to wait until at least 10 years of age. We learned that it’s best to start classes a few weeks after school starts, and end them a few weeks before the school year ends.

Illuminating True Progress for All Students

06-01-2019

As a Sistema movement, the two main goals we aspire to are musical growth and social growth. We often use some iteration of the motto “social change through music.” However, it is often hard to show data that supports this. El Sistema-inspired programs tend to more easily keep track of information pertaining to musical growth. They accomplish this through playing tests, juries, and concerts.

The Archipelago Project

04-01-2019

The Archipelago Project’s objective is to empower student creativity and ownership by supplying musical knowledge, performance opportunities, and professional models to inspire the next generation of engaged musicians. For the past 15 years, Archipelago Project’s iterative process in curriculum design has resulted in our Musical Leadership Academy, a summer music camp focused on providing a diverse population of students and teaching artists with opportunities to create music together, learn when to lead and to listen, and thrive in the ensemble as a metaphor for community.

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