The Ambassadors’ Exchange, June 2019

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

The Ambassadors’ Exchange, June 2019


Teaching as Learning, by Luara Baqueiro (Brazil)

I started playing double bass by chance, and thanks to my years of study at NEOJIBA, I have hope for a better future through music.  I first felt this hope when I joined the orchestra, and suddenly, instead of playing by myself, I was with 120 other musicians, all of us working together for the same purpose.

Every year, NEOJIBA publishes a notice to students who want to teach private lessons. The program is called PROMS; it is a training program in collective practice and music teaching of excellence, with supervised monitoring. There are other, similar projects, such as “Promulti” (a multiplier musicians project) and “Young Leaders” (a training program in practice and collective music teaching), all aimed at reproducing in real life one of our main mottos: “They who teach also learn.”  These programs are experimental, with students of different ages and levels learning in practice how to teach and help in the most efficient and respectful way. Each program has its own technical features—for example, PROMS works only in places that have instruments and choirs, and the students who participate in the program are all high school graduates. Differently from Promulti, this program allows members to work anyplace and for people with any age and level of study. The Young Leaders participants can only teach the students who play the same instrument.

Beyond providing teaching skills, these programs give young people a better sense of hope about their futures. These lessons expanded my abilities, and instead of only wondering what my life would be like in ten years, I was also wondering about the life of my students. In addition to music, I developed empathy, attention, responsibility, and other human values.

Many young people in my program ask themselves daily if they are doing the right thing, which leads them to go deeper in their practice and study of music pedagogy and social development. How can we help more young people like myself and the rest of the Ambassadors develop empathy, responsibility, discipline, and love for others? Teaching is the answer.

Music in the Museum, by Gizelle Polanco (United States)

This past month, on April 28th, my chamber group was chosen to perform at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in Exposition Park for Kids Discovery Day. The museum was filled with different musical showcases from organizations such as the Colburn School and the L.A. Opera. In the North American hall of the museum, students from the American Youth Orchestra and different sites of the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) performed against a backdrop of animals in various North American habitats. The children and parents watching enjoyed the classical music performances and danced along to the music in front of the stage. The day ended with time for walking around the museum and enjoying the sights.

Arts Performance Week, by Axelle Miel (Philippines)

This month’s highlight definitely has to be our performance at Cebu International School last May 8. It was Arts Week in CIS, and I was able to plan and organize a mini-concert for the Grade 4 and 5 students. To prepare for this event, we practiced almost every day for 3 weeks, even going overtime on some days. Ang Misyon Cebu played pieces from our repertoire such as the “Twinkle Twinkle Theme and Variations”, “A Million Dreams”, “May Song”, and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and also taught the students about the difference between a violin and a viola! I think one surprisingly happy moment was when some of the musicians forgot the notes while playing because they were really nervous about playing in front of an unfamiliar crowd their age for the first time and in a new environment, but we were able to laugh it off with the audience and even share experiences on stage fright in and out of school. Altogether, it was a great musical experience, especially for Ang Misyon Cebu!

ConneXXions 2019: Crossing Distances Through Collaboration, by Jennifer Ong (Canada)

On May 13, a special project of connecting two ensembles from different continents took place with the use of live stream technology. Together, the Brent Youth Concert Band & String Chamber Orchestra in London, England and OrKidstra, in Ottawa, Canada played pieces for and with each other. Making music together and connecting in real time was a monumental moment in these student’s music careers.

The Brent Youth Concert Band & String Chamber Orchestra premiered a 12-minute piece they composed within six hours, with the idea of sea crossing used to help visualize the concept of cross-continent connections. Orkidstra played an arrangement of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and premiered a composition, “On est tous juste humains,” by Élise Gauthier and Marie-Claire Saindon. In addition, the live stream featured two soloists on violin and trumpet.

The two orchestras have been sharing musical ideas throughout the past few months. To conclude the live stream, together they performed a spontaneous, improvised musical dialogue around the theme of crossing distances, including common elements, soundscapes and melodies from Debussy’s La Mer. You can check out the live streams here and here.

The Kenya-Canada Connection, by Stephen Ongoma and Linet Othieno (Kenya)

After a lot of preparation and communication between Ghetto Classics in Kenya and the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra of Canada, the time finally came for the two organizations to come together through Skype.  It was one of those experiences that takes a long time to fade away in one’s mind. First, we had a conversation exchanging information on how each program is run, what projects each is doing at the moment, and what problems are encountered in the programs. Finally, the two groups exchanged a taste of music from the African side (Kenyan music) and the Canadian side.

On both sides, the main problem was poor network connection. Time differences were also a problem.  All in all, however, the exchange program was a success, and both programs learned from one another. Also, I (Stephen) got a chance to interact with WE Ambassador Avery—which was a great thing!  We hope that this is just the beginning of a long and fruitful cooperation between the two programs. #MakingMusicMakesADifference.

Some of the students said it was interesting and that they learned something new. The students are excited and looking forward to having additional connections in the future. For now as an orchestra, Ghetto Classics is working on ‘Danzon No.2’ by Arturo Marquez.