News & Resources
The Ensemble Evolves with Its Community
It’s hard to see changes in the whole when you are busily absorbed in your part. The old forest-tree problem.
Often, of course, that’s not true in artmaking. When artists are in their groove, they are unusually adept at sensing and understanding the relationship between part and whole. Elliot Eisner, one of the leading scholars of arts education, stated that the understanding of parts and wholes is an under-acknowledged essential life skill and professional skill, and it is taught better in the arts than than anywhere else in schooling. You know this in your own experience—when an orchestra is working well, each musician’s concurrent awareness of their own part in relation to the fullness of the whole ensemble is one of the greatest skills of awareness and intelligence that music develops in learners.
However, that dual awareness is hard to sustain while running and teaching in busy music-for-social-change programs—it’s not easy to keep everything working and to simultaneously sense the evolution of the field in North America and beyond.
For the team that produces The Ensemble newsletters, our work provides us the good fortune of learning from programs and practitioners around the world, and being able to track overall trends and changes. It’s part of our mission to keep you aware of the field’s overall developments, from our perspective, even as we bring you news of specific ideas and initiatives.
Five years ago, we realized that it no longer made sense to separate “El Sistema-inspired” programs from other programs that are similar in mission and practice. Therefore, we changed our subtitle to convey the more inclusive embrace of the whole like-spirited field of music for social change.
The change you will see in the next issue of The Ensemble is another evolutionary step. We’ve realized that this field we are making together is no longer usefully separated by national or continental borders. Practitioners travel across borders; challenges are common across borders; the experiments and discoveries in one place are increasingly relevant and valuable in others. And the solidarity we need to grow in power as a movement is stronger when it’s active across borders.
So, the two separate Ensemble newsletters, one for North America and one for the rest of the world, will become one.
It will be called The Ensemble, and it will embody the growing unified vision of the field. Reflecting, enabling, and amplifying our field’s vision and inquiry has always been our editorial mission, and now this new global dimension of the field will be expressed in the single issue that arrives in your inbox on the first Tuesday of every month. Each issue will include articles from North America that the rest of the world can learn from, and articles from the rest of the world that North Americans will learn from. The Ambassadors will be there, bringing in youth energy and inquiries from around the world. (We will be expanding the Ambassadors soon, by the way, so get your nominations ready.) The Resource Basket will still arrive mid-month as usual, filled with possibilities for the whole world. We’re mindful of the fact that we all have too much to read these days, and we hope this change will give you just the right number and variety of articles to dig into each month.
The newsletters continue to be published by Longy School of Music of Bard College, whose commitment makes it all possible, and our home base continues to be our website: ensemblenews.org, which has an easy-to-search archive of all past articles.
We are confident this development will help us serve you and the evolving field even better. Let’s all celebrate that the field has matured and expanded so much that an evolutionary step toward greater unity seems natural.