December 2021

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

“We Still Have Much to Learn”: Culturally Responsive Teaching in Elsipogtog First Nation


When anchoring your children in their ancient Mi’kmaq culture is critical to your future, as it is in Elsipogtog First Nation in eastern New Brunswick (Canada), how do violin or cello lessons fit into their education? This question has been at the forefront for both Sistema New Brunswick and Elsipogtog community leaders for the past five years. Thankfully, through the wisdom and generosity of those community leaders, an answer has begun to emerge.

The Life of Jorge Peña Hen, Part IV: An Enduring Legacy


Maestro Peña’s music school concept was truly revolutionary in its academic structure. It represented a total curriculum change—different methodologies, new motivations, and participation across several orchestras and bands of different levels. However, the budget allocated by the University only supported a violin studio, a piano studio, and a singing studio. It would require a lot of resources to finance a music curriculum that featured teachers who specialized in all instruments, the purchase of those instruments, and reliable infrastructure.

Opening Doors at Sistema Cyprus


From moment one, the children were eager to hold an instrument in their hands and make their first attempts at producing sound. Before long, we needed more space to hold multiple lessons concurrently. That need led us outside; our cellists took to the streets for their lessons. Passersby were fascinated to see these local kids playing beautifully right in front of them and began asking about the music project. We found another room to host lessons soon enough, but our time rehearsing outside led us to an important realization: maybe we should keep the doors open more often.

Music Endures at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music


The ANIM campus had long been a target of Taliban terrorism, not only for its musical focus but also for its male/female coeducation and promotion of women. Its visionary founder/leader, Ahmad Sarmast, had once been injured in a terrorist bombing.

In August, the peaceful campus, which included dormitories and a performance space, was taken over almost immediately by the Taliban, who are now using it as an operations center. Since then, we have been holding our collective breath, worrying about the safety of ANIM’s hundreds of students and faculty.

Survey for Black Teaching Artists Seeks to Advance the Field


Last month, we shared news that the Black Teaching Artist Lab (BTAL) and Creative Generation (CG) organizations had partnered to conduct original research on the needs and experiences of Black teaching artists in the U.S. That research is happening right now, and you may be able to help.

The El Sistema World Conference, September 2021


I was happily surprised by the fresh air and vibrant energy the Caracas conference organizers were able to summon—even online. For three days, we were virtually sitting at the same table with our peers on faraway continents, listening to each other despite extreme time differences, learning, laughing, and growing. It was an instance when virtual technology allowed us to do something we had never actually done before.

Global Working Conditions for Musicians: An Unchanged Status Quo


Even as many of our grassroots initiatives declare the importance of supporting musician change-makers—and call for our institutions to actively participate in that support through their practices—the attitude of those core institutions seems unchanged, even after two years on hold. The high global incidence of orchestra dismissals is distressing, as is the non-transparency of some orchestras and conservatories.

Putting Music at the Center of Global Development Conversations


Why is music almost entirely absent from global development conversations, outside of staging benefit concerts?

This is one of the questions that led me to launch two organizations in recent years, Sound Diplomacy and the Center for Music Ecosystems. I realized that in the key conversations that drive development decisions across the world, there is little understanding of the value of the music ecosystem and what it can bring to human development.

Ambassadors’ 2021 Online Musical Pen Pal Project


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