Setting the Stage for Sistema

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Setting the Stage for Sistema

Ronnie Ragen, Founder/Director, Music for the Very Young


Music for the Very Young (MVY), Trenton Music Makers’ early-childhood music and movement program, was created in 2000. Our goal was to serve Trenton’s pre-K children, teachers and families, not only by creating joyful and interesting early musical experiences for the children, but also by weaving music and movement into the fabric of the preschool day, and engaging the children’s families in their music learning. We worked closely with the school district and with Music Together, creators of the music resources used in MVY, to ensure we addressed district goals with high-quality materials. Weekly classes led by early childhood music specialists, PD workshops for classroom teachers, family music parties – all these create an immersive music-making opportunity that is very much aligned with Sistema practice.

MVY succeeded beyond our expectations. Classroom teachers reported using music throughout the day to ease transitions and support learning. District music teachers found our 4-year-old MVY kids better prepared for their classes than first graders without MVY experience. Research funded by a federal grant showed that MVY kids were better prepared to enter kindergarten than the control group. And parents told us their children LOVED music and asked when and where they should start them on an instrument.

So, of course, we started an El Sistema-inspired afterschool program. Trenton Music Makers Orchestra was introduced in 2015; it currently serves 115 children grades 3-8. We introduced Pre-Orchestra for second graders this year; more expansion is planned. MVY sets the stage for TMM in essential ways

• MVY children enter kindergarten as comfortable, confident music makers, better prepared to undertake instrumental instruction.

• MVY parents recognize the value of music making in their children’s development and are motivated to advocate for and actively support such opportunities.

• MVY builds strong connections with the district, helping to build district support for strong, immersive music making throughout the school years.


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