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FROM THE EDITOR September 2019
On November 1, 2011, Eric Booth and I published the first issue of The Ensemble newsletter. In my inaugural editorial column, I quoted our Venezuelan friend Rodrigo Guerrero, who had said at the first gathering of U.S. Sistema practitioners: “Look around you. Look to your right. Look to your left. These are the people who are going to help you. Networking is incredibly important.”
Throughout eight years of Ensemble publishing, Eric and I have been deeply engaged in the opportunity to look left, right, and center at the many extraordinary people in the U.S./Canadian El Sistema field, and to provide a forum for sharing ideas, questions, reflections, inspirations – the conversations that create community.
As of next month, a new team will lead these conversations. We are transferring leadership of and to the Longy School of Music of Bard College, an organization with proven dedication to the Sistema mission and with greater capacity than we ourselves have been able to provide. Under Karen Zorn’s visionary leadership, it is unique among conservatories in its consistent engagement with El Sistema. With the guidance of Dean Wayman Chin and COO Ann Welch, and led by Christine D’Alexander as editor, The Ensembles will flourish and grow.
Since 2011, our field has made real progress in fulfilling Rodrigo’s mandate to strengthen intra-Sistema connections, through things like El Sistema USA, national symposia, and regional gatherings. However, we remain almost completely insulated from the rest of the music education ecosystem and the wider public. In the past month, I’ve heard radio and TV interviews with three different U.S. Sistema program leaders. All described the great work happening in their own programs. Not one of them mentioned that there are close to 200 programs driven by the same vision and mission, in the U.S. and Canada.
We like to call ourselves a movement. But this is not how a movement operates. It’s why we remain impotent as a force for systemic change, no matter how much we help specific kids and families in specific places.
So my last advice as editor is this: Look outward. Connect to other music education programs, to elected officials, to thought leaders. Make our wider vision known to a wider public. We’ve become a field. Now let’s become a movement.