Eric Booth

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

Words Matter, More Than You Think

02-02-2021

If I were King of Arts Education, I’d post an edict banning five words: amazing, fantastic, unbelievable, outstanding, incredible.

Most music educators use those words a lot, and always with good intent. They want to encourage, celebrate, and motivate their students. The words express the enthusiasm and affection they feel for their students. The King supports all of that. The edict has its eye on the cost of that impulse when it results in hyperbolic acclaim. Cumulatively, the cost is high.

A Letter from the Founders

01-06-2021

Let’s bring in the new year with a quick look back. We launched The Ensemble a decade ago to help strengthen the emerging movement of United States and Canadian programs inspired by Venezuela’s El Sistema. Five years later, we realized the global Sistema-inspired movement was developing so fast it required a newsletter of its own, and we started The World Ensemble. We started these newsletters because we wanted you to hear one another’s voices. And we wanted the world to hear all of your voices. It’s a continuing joy to help programs in far-flung places connect with, support, and learn from each other.

U.S. Sistema Programs Respond to Pandemic

04-02-2020

In the U.S., Sistema programs shut down in early March—first one, then a few, and within a week, all of them. As safety issues were clear, there was little energy wasted on resisting the hard choice. All the predictable, wonderful energy that had been building toward culminating projects and special fundraising events was immediately redistributed into three basic concerns: money questions (Can we keep paying staff? Can we raise the money we need in other ways?), event questions (How do we provide a sense of celebration and culmination for the year’s work?), and student learning questions (How do we keep the learning going online?).

Competition, the Sistema Way

02-05-2020

The English travel writer Pico Iyer moved to Japan 27 years ago, and his passionate hobby became playing ping-pong at a nearby club. His pleasure in the game comes from the way competition works there, which is so different from the win-or-lose, zero-sum experience of competition in his native England. He says, “When I leave the ping-pong club after an hour and a half of furious exertion, if you asked me, did I win or lose, I couldn’t tell you. I’ve probably played seven games, but nobody keeps track of who’s winning the games. That stands for what the whole ping-pong club is about, which is the sense that everybody should leave in an equal state of delight. This is because in Japan, at least in the context of a club or a community, the most important thing is for everybody to be working together and feeling and thinking together and linked.” (You can hear an interview with Pico Iyer about his ping-pong experiences here.)

Transition Time: A New Home for The WE

10-02-2019

It’s exhilarating to make something new. Anyone who’s ever started a “music for social change” program, or any kind of new program, or even any work of art or craft, knows that feeling.  For us, starting The World Ensemble in January 2016 (as a companion publication to The Ensemble, which we started in 2011) was exhilarating—it was downright thrilling, in fact—because we knew were creating a medium for communication and exchange for the worldwide Sistema movement. We were creating something needed and helpful where before there had been nothing.

EDITORIAL: The Transformative Power of Big

09-02-2019

I have been lucky enough to attend the last three gatherings of the global Sistema’s biggest events—Side by Side by El Sistema Sweden, Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra, and the YOLA National Festival.  There is no getting around it—these are gigantically complex efforts to design and manage, and they are expensive.

EDITORIAL: How to Change the World—That’s All

07-02-2019

Why do some innovations make a lasting change in a field?  Think about Apple computers and iPhones.  Billy Beane’s 2002 Oakland Athletics baseball team that brought deep statistical analysis of players into the profession.  Venezuela’s El Sistema.

EDITORIAL: Inspiration from Venezuelan Master Teachers

03-01-2019

The U.S. El Sistema-inspired movement felt like “a field” at the El Sistema USA National Symposium in Detroit, Michigan this past January, as we honored our lineage together and shared new ideas about how to advance our practice. The symposium brought together more than 200 Sistema colleagues, representing 80 organizations and hailing from 28 different states, for a day and a half of intensive dialogue and interactive demonstrations.  Elsewhere in this issue we will report on some of the key features of the Symposium, but this editorial focuses on one distinctive aspect of El Sistema:  Venezuela.

FEATURE: The Americas Take On Collaborative Composition: A Right Answer to the Hard Questions

05-24-2018

It’s even more important than I thought.  The Ensemble and The World Ensemble have published positive pieces in the past about the Collaborative Composition (CC) work that Dan Trahey leads with other teaching artists in support, but this was the first time I witnessed most of the full process.  It is educationally and artistically powerful, and bursting with potential for the El Sistema-inspired movement.

From the Publisher

07-01-2017

How much should teaching artists in El Sistema-inspired programs be paid?

It’s a fool’s mission to come up with a hard number, because there are too many variables and particularities to factor in. But I can bring some hard-number research to bear on the question.

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