Teaching & Learning

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

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.

Social Change from Within: Learning Human Values Through Music

03-30-2019

Social change, the primary objective of most El Sistema programs, is usually thought of as an external challenge. Addressing such challenges as poverty, violence, racism, inequitably funded schools, language barriers, and other familiar obstacles to success often involves outside foundations bringing in programs to the communities of need. This work is critical and important, and needs to continue and grow. However, because true change also must come from within a community, looking within ourselves to more reflective practices can help provide context, clarity, and purpose.

EDITORIAL: Inspiration from Venezuelan Master Teachers

03-01-2019

The U.S. El Sistema-inspired movement felt like “a field” at the El Sistema USA National Symposium in Detroit, Michigan this past January, as we honored our lineage together and shared new ideas about how to advance our practice. The symposium brought together more than 200 Sistema colleagues, representing 80 organizations and hailing from 28 different states, for a day and a half of intensive dialogue and interactive demonstrations.  Elsewhere in this issue we will report on some of the key features of the Symposium, but this editorial focuses on one distinctive aspect of El Sistema:  Venezuela.

Developing Teaching Practices from Community Values

02-01-2019

Sistema Whangarei/Toi Akorangi students mostly come from the local Maori community, with Pakeha (white Europeans) and some Asian students, and the program lives by practices that resonate with ancient Maori values, finding approval with the elders. We know that there are more invisible barriers for many in our community, so we continue to inquire into our practices and seek to create the perfect place for all students. With a modest budget, and modest number of tutors, our program relies on young volunteers.  Partnering with Whangarei Girls High School, we have researched the benefits to the young leader of being a teacher or tutor. We use the community terms tuakana for the young leader and teine for the younger learner.

International Teaching Artist Conference 2020

02-01-2019

For those who read about (or joined virtually with) the hundreds of teaching artist delegates from 26 countries at the ITAC4 (Fourth International Teaching Artist Conference) at Carnegie Hall in New York last September, the dates of ITAC5 have just been announced.  The Orchestra of Dreams, South Korea’s remarkable El Sistema program, will be featured prominently, because ITAC5 will happen in Seoul on 15-17 September 2020, hosted by KACES, the South Korean government’s arts education agency (Korea Arts & Culture Education Service).

Collective Composition

02-01-2019

At BRAVO Youth Orchestras, there are ongoing conversations about the impact of introducing collective composition–composing together as a group–often focusing on how it impacts the staff, our students, and our community, and on what it means to facilitate and support a collective musical voice. There’s an active effort to establish equitable practices that reinforce a supportive environment for BRAVO students during creative projects. BRAVO’s central goal is student empowerment to discover what it is they want to say through their music.

Teaching the Future

01-01-2019

The majority of the American music teaching workforce is white. This would not be an issue if it matched U.S. school demographics. However, in city schools where the general population is majority students of color, the music student population is considerably more white. While there are multiple factors contributing to this, it may be best understood as a lack of access to quality music education that provides opportunities for students of color to choose careers in music teaching. The fact that students of color do not see music teachers who look like them is a form of social injustice.

EDITORIAL: International Visitors and El Sistema Programs

12-31-2018

Many El Sistema programs have the opportunity to host high-profile or international visitors, which can be a great opportunity. In Kenya, our experience with visitors has been mixed, with some very positive and some negative experiences, largely depending on the circumstances of their visit. As a result, over the years we have been more selective with potential visitors and careful with the invitations we offer. I imagine this experience is similar to those of other programs, so we want to share our learning, in the hope that it helps others avoid mistakes!

Supporting the Young Artist’s Initiative

12-01-2018

This fall marks the second year of an exciting new talent development program at Play On Philly! Our Emerging Artist Collective (PEAC) is a cohort of nearly twenty students who have demonstrated the utmost dedication and whose families have demonstrated the devotion needed for success. Unlike all other Play On Philly students, those in PEAC receive private lessons and advocacy as they navigate Philadelphia’s musical landscape. As director of this program, I work to show them that a life playing music and immersed in music is a true possibility for them.

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