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

From the Editors

04-01-2018

On March 24th, as I worked on putting this issue together, I listened to a live stream of the rally in Washington, D.C. I heard young person after young person speaking truth to power about their lived experiences of gun violence. And another voice was suddenly present in my head, more seasoned but still resonating with the urgent aspiration of the young people’s voices. “Put a violin in the hands of a child,” said that voice, “and the child will not pick up a gun.”

Student Empowerment in Music Learning

04-01-2018

Students as leaders. Increasingly, teaching artists in U.S. Sistema-inspired programs have been thinking about this important idea.

In February, a group of music teaching artists and program directors came together for a PlayUSA workshop on “Empowering Students to Lead.” PlayUSA is an initiative of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute that supports quality instrumental instruction reaching young musicians in local communities across the country. The workshop brought together faculty from 13 PlayUSA grantee organizations, including Sistema programs and other instrumental music education organizations, to focus on student agency in musical learning.

Setting the Stage for Sistema

03-01-2018

Music for the Very Young (MVY), Trenton Music Makers’ early-childhood music and movement program, was created in 2000. Our goal was to serve Trenton’s pre-K children, teachers and families, not only by creating joyful and interesting early musical experiences for the children, but also by weaving music and movement into the fabric of the preschool day, and engaging the children’s families in their music learning. We worked closely with the school district and with Music Together, creators of the music resources used in MVY, to ensure we addressed district goals with high-quality materials. Weekly classes led by early childhood music specialists, PD workshops for classroom teachers, family music parties – all these create an immersive music-making opportunity that is very much aligned with Sistema practice.

From the Editor

03-01-2018

Many of us know by heart this quote from José Antonio Abreu’s televised TED talk in 2009: “Orchestra and chorus are much more than artistic structures; they are schools of social life, because to play and sing together means to intimately coexist toward perfection and excellence.”

Stronger Together: The Longy Sistema Side By Side

03-01-2018

At a Celtics game in Boston’s TD Garden this past January, the national anthem was played by an ensemble making their arena debut: the Longy Sistema Side By Side Orchestra, made up of graduate students at the Longy Conservatory and students from El Sistema-inspired programs in the Boston area and in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. For the young Sistema players, it was an unforgettable moment. For Longy, it was a milestone in its mission to support connections between music education and social justice.

Get Comfortable……Being Uncomfortable

02-01-2018

What a great opportunity it was to be together with over 100 leaders, teachers, students, and curious individuals this past weekend at the El Sistema USA first-ever symposium. You could feel the excitement, energy, and buzz around Duke University as we took over the Nelson Music Room with live performances, slideshows, and plenary presentations. I believe some of our plenaries really gave space for people to think, reflect, and then hopefully plan a course of action.

From the Editor

02-01-2018

Every gathering of music educators gets amped up when, at long last, the kids play. The ESUSA symposium last weekend was no exception. After two days of talks and workshops, we gathered in a concert hall to hear actual students – from Durham’s Kidznotes, Baltimore’s OrchKids, and Chicago’s CHIMOP – actually make music.

The First Annual Symposium of El Sistema in the USA

02-01-2018

The symposiums I’ve attended in my professional career have run the gamut from too much academicism to too much mutual reinforcement among like-minded individuals. But neither was the case at the 2018 El Sistema USA (ESUSA) National Symposium, held during a surprisingly snowy January weekend on the campus of Duke University. There was certainly a prevalence of head-nodding among the nearly 200 attendees, but it was the kind of agreement that symbolized an eagerness to challenge and to improve.

Arranging to Play Bernstein’s “Somewhere”

01-01-2018

How I wish that my father, Leonard Bernstein, had lived long enough to witness El Sistema. If he had, he would surely have been its most fervent champion. He’d have loved the way this multinational movement combines two of his strongest lifelong commitments: sharing the joy of music with young people, and striving to make the world a more just and peaceful place.

From the Editor

01-01-2018

“Good job!”

As teachers – especially as teachers with a central goal of helping students develop self-esteem – how many times a day do we say that to kids? In my private teaching practice, I too say it often. When a child works hard, plays well, and looks expectantly at me, it’s almost reflexive.

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