Oregon BRAVO Youth Orchestras

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

Out of Our Comfort Zones: Inviting communities to teach us how to serve them well


What makes a community beautiful is the diversity and the village mentality established before we arrive. We can’t serve a student and not have connections with their family. And we can’t have relationships with a family and not have connections with the village and community they love.

Editorial: February 2020


Justice, health and music. What do they have to do with each other? I am a family doctor and a social justice person, raised by a social justice mom. I am also the co-founder of BRAVO Youth Orchestras, an El Sistema program now in its seventh year in Portland, Oregon. I helped start BRAVO because I love music and I know that, in the Sistema world, music strongly supports children to become good citizens and self-actualized people.

Elevating the Holiday/Winter Concert


Every year, one of the highlights of the winter concert at Sistema Ravinia in Chicago is the moment when the young musicians whack their guests on the head. Let me be more specific: the real highlight is when one young musician almost whacks a guest on the head with a boomwhacker the size of a pool noodle.

Working with Urban Youth


As a teacher, musician and administrator in an El Sistema-inspired program, I ask myself four principal questions every September. First, Who are our students? In my community, they are generally black and Hispanic, from low-income and/or single-parent households or dual language households. In choosing how to shape ensembles and repertoire, I rely heavily on my students’ backgrounds; I often make choices that help them learn from one another about their different languages, holidays, and cultures.

Summer Camps for Young Sistema Musicians


In the vast network of Sistema-inspired programs across the U.S., there is nearly as vast an array of summer programs. Each summer camp has distinguishing features, but all are united around a common purpose: preventing “summer learning loss.” Every executive director and program director surveyed for this article told me that summer programs are important bridges of learning between one year and the next.

The First Annual Symposium of El Sistema in the USA


The symposiums I’ve attended in my professional career have run the gamut from too much academicism to too much mutual reinforcement among like-minded individuals. But neither was the case at the 2018 El Sistema USA (ESUSA) National Symposium, held during a surprisingly snowy January weekend on the campus of Duke University. There was certainly a prevalence of head-nodding among the nearly 200 attendees, but it was the kind of agreement that symbolized an eagerness to challenge and to improve.


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