From the Editor

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

From the Editor

Tricia Tunstall


We’re ten years old!

2008 saw the beginning of most of our oldest programs, including OrchKids in Baltimore, the Harmony Program in New York City, and Orchestrating Diversity in St. Lous. YOLA began in 2007…but its first rehearsal with Gustavo Dudamel was in 2008. So I think we’re safe to consider this year the tenth anniversary of our emergence as a national movement.

In the Sistema spirit of continual inquiry, I’d like to celebrate this anniversary by focusing on questions. Movements, like people, are most vividly defined by the questions they ask. So: what were the main questions we were asking, ten years ago? And what are the main questions we are asking now?’

According to my notes and my memory, the main question people were asking ten years ago, hands down, was: How does El Sistema work in Venezuela? Usually followed quickly by: How can we make it work like that here?

And then, in short order: How do we find funding? Where do we find instruments? And where, oh where, is the pedagogy handbook? We were immersed in the “how-to” of beginning.

Fast-forward ten years…and our collective inquiry has undergone a sea change. As our lead article notes, the overarching question at the recent Take A Stand conference was: How do we support student voice and empower students to become leaders? This question seems to be top of mind everywhere; at the January El Sistema USA Symposium, there were sessions on student-led learning and collaborative composition. Instead of focusing only on how we teach our kids, we’re now asking how we can let them lead.

There are other new and urgent questions now, involving how to address structural racism…how to appropriately transfigure our repertoire….how to attain long-term sustainability…and how to form coalitions in our field, for collective impact.

The inquiry seems more mature now—more responsible, more self-interrogating, more ambitious. In the words of Bravo Waterbury’s Calida Jones, we are getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. We are beginning to grow up.


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