You May Not Know It, but Your Next Appointment Could Be with the Queen of Paradise

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

You May Not Know It, but Your Next Appointment Could Be with the Queen of Paradise

Marshall Marcus, Founder and President, Sistema Europe


It was one of those moments that goes so far beyond probability that you just have to laugh. There I was in September, at home in London, following a WhatsApp group of attendees at El Sistema Venezuela’s first-ever World Congress. At 21:51 U.K. time, a message popped up in the group chat from someone I’d never heard of, Padre Miguel de la Calle in Papua New Guinea. “Felicitaciones a la gente del Sistema en Venezuela por la realización del primer Congreso Mundial, realizando otro sueño más del Maestro Abreu!” wrote Padre Miguel, “we are here with the Queen of Paradise Orchestra team, tocando y luchando!”

Hmm, I thought—an Argentinian Padre running what had to be the most beautifully named orchestra in the world, across the oceans from Venezuela, Europe, and quite a lot of other places. Given the time zone difference, I guessed it must have been about 7 a.m. the next day in Papua New Guinea. I couldn’t resist crossing the international date line and messaging the Padre back. I did some searching online and received some video from Padre Miguel, and I saw the great work that he and his team were doing—in no little way, no doubt, as a result of having a Venezuelan Music Director, Maestro Jesus Briceño. The local circumstances looked so different from what I was used to that I couldn’t help digging deeper into the Queen of Paradise Orchestra story.

Padre Miguel and I got talking online and I discovered that his program was soon going to be in need of new string teachers, and maybe someday even a Music Director to succeed Maestro Briceño. There was something about Padre Miguel’s online manner—modest, even humble, thoughtful, deeply aspirational, and utterly committed in his work—which was so typical of the music for social change movement that I instinctively wanted to help.

And here is the part the Ensemble newsletter folks didn’t know I was going to write: this is a story that seems to me the perfect proof for why we need an online publication like The Ensemble, a central place that can bring together everyone in the world interested in music for social change. That’s thousands and thousands of people, hundreds of countries, many different cultures, and one (very, very) big idea.

I remember that last month’s Ensemble took us to Bosnia, Israel, Ireland, and Los Angeles. In the previous month, I think I’d seen pieces about Armenia, the U.K., Kenya, and Chile. Much of this reading contains resonances and coincidences that go far beyond probability. I guess it’s a lesson for all of us, reflecting the fact that we are a field whose work can open us up to inspirational human endeavor literally anywhere and everywhere. Have a read of The Ensemble, and in today’s networked world, you could end up on the other side of the globe. And not just that; the newsletter is a factory, if you like, for empathy.

So, for sure, somewhere out there in the world are the right next generation of string teachers for the Queen of Paradise Orchestra: probably young and dynamic, independent-minded, fired up and well-versed in Sistema methodology—and, probably, explorers who might just like the idea of a journey around the world. And I’m wondering: are you that person? You may not know it, but your next appointment may be with the Queen of Paradise.