2021: A New Chapter in Our Work Begins

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

2021: A New Chapter in Our Work Begins

Tricia Tunstall, The Ensemble News, Advisory Editor


Does the phrase “international economic development” put you in mind of high-powered farm equipment and global trade policies? Think again—it may also refer to community-centered ensemble music education. Increasingly, thought leaders around the world are looking to the arts and creativity to address critical economic and social problems and to achieve the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The U.N. has declared 2021 to be the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. (You can see the full year calendar of activities here.) Already, two events last month marked this trend. One, a web seminar on January 25 that was sponsored by The U.N. Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD) in partnership with the Missions of Indonesia and Onan, invited participants around the world to a “Trade Policy Dialogue” exploring the potential role of the creative industries in attaining the SDGs and contribute to pandemic recovery. Attendees varied from economic policy experts to performing artists and included many representatives of music for social change organizations.

The other event, on January 24, was a world premiere of the film “See Me: A Global Concert,” part of the opening ceremonies of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The presentation of this cinematic montage of global music at the world’s foremost gathering of economic policy elites was a powerful statement of the growing importance of the arts in the international development conversation. The film’s performers range from students to superstars including Yo-Yo Ma and Marin Alsop; among the student ensembles featured is the orchestra of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), a Sistema-inspired program in Kabul, Afghanistan. The film can be viewed online here; the ANIM ensemble is featured starting at 11:20 in the video.

We all know from experience that the work we do is transformative for individuals and for communities. The 2021 International Year of the Creative Economy invites us—in fact, it obligates us—to think bigger. Our New Year’s Resolution might be to think of government agencies, NGOs, and other funders of international development initiatives as important partners and supporters of our work. The work of artists and arts educators is a potent driver and energizer of progress toward virtually every Sustainable Development Goal, everywhere in the world.


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