From the Editors
On March 24th, as I worked on putting this issue together, I listened to a live stream of the rally in Washington, D.C. I heard young person after young person speaking truth to power about their lived experiences of gun violence. And another voice was suddenly present in my head, more seasoned but still resonating with the urgent aspiration of the young people’s voices. “Put a violin in the hands of a child,” said that voice, “and the child will not pick up a gun.”
In one of those wild coincidences that afterwards feel inevitable, it was at this moment that I got an email telling me that José Antonio Abreu had just died. This great visionary of our time, who could imagine a cultural outburst of music so powerful as to silence guns, had died just as a million children marched for the same purpose.
Abreu would have been utterly certain that the young people marching in D.C. and elsewhere would win their fight. He trusted young people simply and wholeheartedly. I once asked him in an interview why he had always believed that a national Sistema could be achieved. “I knew it would happen, because of the young people,” he said. At every step in the process, he entrusted very young people with leadership positions.
As it happens, that’s what our April issue is about: empowering our students to lead. Karen Cueva writes about the PlayUSA initiative “Empowering Students to Lead.” Sharniece Adams, a student who has become a program leader, urges us to train our students to lead as well as to play music.
In forming our 130+ programs, we have created rich incubators for focused learning, cooperative learning, and music learning. Now, those of us with older students need to take the next step and begin to learn from them. We need to listen to them, to hear how they themselves experience the intersection of music and social justice. Sometimes, we need to get out of their way, give them agency, and follow their lead.
As we mourn the passing of our great Maestro, we can honor him by following his example of empowering young people. “Trust the young,” he said. “They are always stronger and braver than we are. If we give them the tools, they will create a future more beautiful than we can imagine.”