Editorial: August 2020

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

Editorial: August 2020

Katie Wyatt, President and CEO, El Sistema USA


For me, as for many, the pandemic has been a time of Janus-like reflection—simultaneously looking back and making plans for the future. I’ve been reflecting about the early years of the El Sistema movement in the United States: we were driven by Maestro Abreu winning the 2009 TED Prize, the fiery Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, the appointment of Gustavo Dudamel to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the growing media attention on El Sistema. We had that fire-in-the-belly impetus to found new organizations across the country, with dreams of a new wave of music education.

We sought one another out, virtually connecting our núcleos. Mark Churchill and Stan Thompson spearheaded the creation of the National Alliance of El Sistema Inspired Programs (NAESIP). The process involved many email chains. Skype was our friend. Eventually, with additional support from Duke University, NAESIP evolved into El Sistema USA.

So the U.S. Sistema movement is no stranger to online connection. Now more than ever, we rely on this virtual community. Never have we had more to share, as we navigate the similar and different ways the coronavirus affects communities large and small, homogenous and diverse, rural and urban. We must make every effort to maintain this virtual community as we enter the next phase of the virus. If we actively share our ideas, successes, and failures, our students and families will reap the benefits.

Looking beyond the pandemic, I hope that we deepen our investment in virtual community and commit to inviting more voices into “the room.” The youth of our movement will have the opportunity to lead through the development of regional and national children’s orchestras and a youth council that will guide and advise our work. Our members are leading the way in committing to equity, diversity, and inclusion, asking tough questions that shape training sessions to understand unconscious bias and build anti-racist organizations. The Racial Diversity and Cultural Understanding Committee is responding to the pain and growth of our members’ awakening to the systemic racism present in our organizations.

I see this work toward equity of opportunity, voice, and power as central to our mission. As a movement, we are inspired by the Sistema vision of equipping all people with the resources and environments they need to allow their creative spirits to fly. We hope to lead by example, and to offer our own learning on the path towards anti-racism.


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