February 2019

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

The Ambassadors’ Exchange: February 2019


In the dictionary, “home” means the house of a family. We all know the importance of having a place to call home, to bring together all people in one place, and, in Sistema, to make the musicians of an ensemble feel more like a family.

Wider reach for the youngest; new fun for the oldest


Ottawa’s OrKidstra program has innovative programs growing on both ends of the students’ learning journey with them, like bookends.  On the “entry” side is meeting prospective young students in schools.

Developing Teaching Practices from Community Values


Sistema Whangarei/Toi Akorangi students mostly come from the local Maori community, with Pakeha (white Europeans) and some Asian students, and the program lives by practices that resonate with ancient Maori values, finding approval with the elders. We know that there are more invisible barriers for many in our community, so we continue to inquire into our practices and seek to create the perfect place for all students. With a modest budget, and modest number of tutors, our program relies on young volunteers.  Partnering with Whangarei Girls High School, we have researched the benefits to the young leader of being a teacher or tutor. We use the community terms tuakana for the young leader and teine for the younger learner.

International Teaching Artist Conference 2020


For those who read about (or joined virtually with) the hundreds of teaching artist delegates from 26 countries at the ITAC4 (Fourth International Teaching Artist Conference) at Carnegie Hall in New York last September, the dates of ITAC5 have just been announced.  The Orchestra of Dreams, South Korea’s remarkable El Sistema program, will be featured prominently, because ITAC5 will happen in Seoul on 15-17 September 2020, hosted by KACES, the South Korean government’s arts education agency (Korea Arts & Culture Education Service).

La Red, in Medellín, Colombia:  Paths of Movement and Transformation


La Red is transforming. Based on the achievements of twenty-two years of experience, and on the recognition of its work on improving the quality of life in Medellin, we take on the wonderful challenge of exploring other ways to continue building citizenship through art. The city is a living organism in constant movement, and some of the concepts that nourish our program (childhood, youth, citizenship, and social transformation, among others) are closely related to the rhythm and dynamics of our cities. It is our responsibility to be, rather than perceptive, sensitive to the different realities, since those determine the coherence and relevance of the actions of our program.

2019 Cohort of Global Leaders Program Gathers in Chile


Thirty-eight members of this year’s Global Leader Program cohort traveled to Chile for two weeks last month to learn, collaborate, build relationships, teach, and put into action their passion for harnessing the power of music to serve community and education.  Each one came away with a deeper commitment to their aspirations and heightened zeal for their work as cultural agents, social entrepreneurs, and teaching artists.

Improvising with Visionary Young People


I co-founded the Visionary Youth Orchestra (VYO) along with Jessica Jones in New York in 2010. The idea of our project was to provide a workshop/ensemble of young musicians to explore structured free improvisation in a large ensemble setting. The results have been remarkable – this innovative group has garnered great praise in its eight years, and recently had the honor of performing at the Cecil Taylor memorial in NYC.

FROM THE EDITOR, February 2019


A few weeks ago, several dozen students from the Trenton, NJ Sistema program Trenton Music Makers began their New Year by visiting the campus of Princeton University, a 20-minute drive but a world away from their daily lives. They were jittery with excitement as they piled into a classroom in the university’s Woolworth Music Building, took out their instruments and began to tune. It wasn’t so much Princeton that gave them the jitters; it was the fact that they were about to play for one of the greatest maestros in the world.

Collective Composition


At BRAVO Youth Orchestras, there are ongoing conversations about the impact of introducing collective composition–composing together as a group–often focusing on how it impacts the staff, our students, and our community, and on what it means to facilitate and support a collective musical voice. There’s an active effort to establish equitable practices that reinforce a supportive environment for BRAVO students during creative projects. BRAVO’s central goal is student empowerment to discover what it is they want to say through their music.


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