August 2020

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

True Cultural Responsiveness

09-01-2020

When the pandemic exposed our nation, much of our work evaporated, leaving us only with what we have done, what we planned to do, and the reality of where we are. Undistracted, we began to address systemic racism with the urgency and furious passion it deserved. My heart swelled to see friends from all backgrounds join the fight, vocally and physically. With no gigs and a shrinking amount of teaching artist work, I felt less afraid of being blacklisted and freer to eradicate systemic racism.

Lessons in Listening

08-05-2020

Buffalo Public School #45 is the go-to public school for newly arrived refugees in Buffalo, NY. Speaking dozens of different languages and dialects, many of the school’s students are displaced from countries across the world. As we sat down in front of them, we introduced ourselves, our instruments, and the music we were about to play. Our audience was quiet, even distant. But as we placed our bows on our strings and the first notes emerged, everything changed.

Mentorship and Peer Collaboration at MusikSak

08-05-2020

MusikSak is a socially motivated string orchestra program based in Aarhus, Denmark. Both cellists, we founded the program in early 2015 after visiting El Sistema in Venezuela in 2013 and volunteering in two different programs (Oficina dos Sonhos and Atitude Cooperação) in Natal, Brazil in 2014.

Editorial: Music, Standing Still

08-05-2020

A guest editorial during a global pandemic. What to write, what to say? For every person and every organization dedicated to bringing people together with music: what does this pandemic mean for our work if we are literally prevented from bringing people together with music?

Concert at Your Door: Moments of Solidarity between Eswatini Students and Korean Musicians during Lockdown

08-05-2020

The lingering pandemic has reminded us how capable we are of influencing each other’s lives. We have seen that without kindness, love, and patience, we can never achieve true justice and unity in our global society. In these past months of solitude, communities are naturally turning to music as a universal language, sending love, hope, and empathy to people all over the world. In the small, landlocked southern African country of Eswatini, we have witnessed miraculous moments of solidarity between musicians in South Korea and Eswatini through our program, Africa Ntjilo Empowerment.

Raising a New Generation of Musicians in Afghanistan

08-05-2020

Afghanistan, a land that weaves a vibrant tapestry of cultures and peoples, continues to undergo conflict even after decades of unrest. Its people keenly feel the heartaches of incalculable loss but continue to persevere. Through this war-weary land, a river of cultural, musical, and artistic heritage flows from the civilizations of the Persia-Central Asia region and the Indian subcontinent. That river was forced to become subterranean in the late 20th century, when the country was embroiled in civil war, but it is now rising to the surface once more.

Creating an Anti-Racist World

08-04-2020

As I write this, the rapid increase in global coronavirus cases telegraphs the continuation of online learning in the fall for most schools around the United States. The video of George Floyd’s murder on May 25, reminiscent of the visual horror of Emmett Till’s murder in August of 1955, has ignited peaceful protests around the world that have contributed to changes in American society we were sure we’d never see: the renaming of the NFL’s Washington Football Team, the removal of the Confederate emblem from the Mississippi state flag, the banning of the Confederate flag by NASCAR and the Pentagon. All segments of society, including the arts and arts education, have been called to reflect on the reality of white supremacy, systemic racism, and our individual and collective bigotry that resists empathizing with or listening to the truth of anyone but ourselves.

Editorial: August 2020

08-04-2020

For me, as for many, the pandemic has been a time of Janus-like reflection—simultaneously looking back and making plans for the future. I’ve been reflecting about the early years of the El Sistema movement in the United States: we were driven by Maestro Abreu winning the 2009 TED Prize, the fiery Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, the appointment of Gustavo Dudamel to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the growing media attention on El Sistema. We had that fire-in-the-belly impetus to found new organizations across the country, with dreams of a new wave of music education.

Centering Students in Their Own Mythologies

08-04-2020

Myth and drums are a potent combination. I first encountered the use of drums in men’s circles when I attended a workshop for a rites of passage group led by Dr. Kwa David Whittaker—Nana Kwa, one of my eventual mentors. After I witnessed him playing the djembe drum while relating a powerful story to the group, I knew I wanted to find a way to incorporate the drum into my own work. Before long, I was down in the basement of my house, alone, practicing drumming while reciting mythological stories.

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