the ensemble

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

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.

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.

News Notes, December 2020

12-03-2019

Creative Youth Development (CYD) is a theory of practice integrating creative skill-building, inquiry and expression with positive youth development principles. These principles can fuel young people’s imaginations and assist in building critical learning and life skills.

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.

Rotating Student Leadership Roles at Tocando

11-06-2019

Widening participation is one of the goals of Tocando, an El-Sistema inspired program in the U.S/Mexico border city of El Paso, Texas. Students attend the after-school music program Monday through Thursday to receive tutoring, musicianship, and strings instruction. One of Tocando’s distinctive features is the emphasis on developing students’ sense of agency and ownership by giving them rotating job-based assignments. I had the opportunity to observe this process in my role as a researcher for my dissertation study.

News Notes, November 2019

11-05-2019

El Sistema USA recently announced the launch of the El Sistema USA Working Groups. These groups provide both a virtual and in-person space for leaders to come together to discuss and share best practices and challenges they face.

Fostering Environmental Stewardship in Sistema Programs

11-02-2019

One of our core tenets in the El Sistema movement is that great music education can be more than training on an instrument—it can create better citizens who contribute positively in all aspects of our world. We teach our students to take care of their instruments, the facilities they use, and their classmates and communities.

Editorial: November 2019

11-02-2019

In 2019, many organizations in the United States are examining societal oppressions that affect our communities, and we look for ways to adopt new practices in our educational spaces around diversity, equity, and inclusion. To make progress, it’s critical to examine our work in new ways if we are to have an impact in countering oppressive practices. 

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