What is El Sistema?

The idea of El Sistema has been entering conversations about American music education. The title is tossed around and linked with success stories of famous musicians such as Gustavo Dudamel. A simple internet search provides inspirational videos and images of joy and triumph. There exists, however, some confusion over what exactly El Sistema is. The simplest answer: It is an idea. With roots in the impoverished barrios in Venezuela, it is an idea that has spread from South America to the United States and abroad as a way to offer children a way out of the cycle of poverty they have been presented with through the values and skills learned through music. Though the structure of the American El Sistema-inspired programs varies, they all are based on the belief that every child is entitled to the opportunity to learn an instrument despite their financial or social standing.

 

So what is El Sistema?

 

Dr. José Antonio Abreu founded what we now know as El Sistema in Venezuela in 1975, building it from a group of eleven children to a national state-funded program with locations throughout the country. His goal was to provide children with a safe place to be after school and give them the skills and opportunities to find an alternative to the pervasive cycle of poverty. Since the program is free of charge, any child is able to attend El Sistema regardless of economic status. Each site, or nucleo, has orchestral and choral programs as well as folk, jazz, and special needs classes. The world-renowned Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra is one of the top orchestras to come out of this system, as well as the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel.

 

In 2009, Dr Abreu was awarded the TED Prize. With this comes the opportunity to share a wish with the world. His was for the United States to set up a series of El Sistema inspired programs throughout the country for the benefit of impoverished youth. According to El Sistema USA, today there are over one hundred registered El Sistema-inspired programs throughout the nation. This wish has spread abroad to other countries on all seven continents excluding Antarctica.

 

The programs in the United States, while they carry the values and goals of Dr. Abreu’s original mission, have some significant differences in structure. El Sistema itself is not a curriculum, but Venezuela has a national one that can be adapted at the local level. The United States does not have a set national curriculum for music education, therefore it is decided by each individual program. El Sistema is also not a pedagogy. While it provides a programming structure and mission, the methods used in the United States vary depending on the program. Funding has been an issue as well; since the programs are not nationally sponsored, they need to find outside funding. This can be done through fundraising, school systems (depending on who is sponsoring the program), grants, or other avenues. Currently, only one program in the United States has been funded directly by a municipal government.

 

For more information:

http://www.elsistemausa.org/el-sistema-in-the-u-s.htm

http://www.ted.com/talks/jose_abreu_on_kids_transformed_by_music

 

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Announcing the Launch of the Johnson String Project!

Johnson String Project LogoJohnson String Instrument is proud to announce our partnership with the new non-profit organization the Johnson String Project. You can find more information on the Facebook page and in the press release below. Keep following our blog to learn more about El Sistema and the Johnson String Project.

Johnson String Instrument Launches Lending Library

Johnson String Instrument, a leading online resource for stringed instruments, has created the Johnson String Project (JSP), a charitable foundation whose goal is to provide high-quality instruments to children who live in underserved communities and who are participating in El Sistema-inspired programs in Massachusetts. Supported by a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), the Johnson String Project has created the first musical instrument lending library in the world. Students will be able to exchange and upgrade instruments as they grow and develop as musicians.
“The Johnson String Project recognizes that these programs are critical to the development of young minds,” said Anita Walker, MCC Executive Director. “It is the first organization in the world to build an instrument library to remove a significant barrier to musical education.”
The overall goal of the Johnson String Project is an expansion of Johnson String Instrument’s belief that all students are entitled to a high-quality instrument.
“Encouraging a love of music and enabling it with high-quality, well-maintained musical instruments is what the Johnson String Project is all about,” said Carol Johnson, founder of the Johnson String Project.
The Johnson String Project will officially be kicked off with a gala fundraising event on June 7th at their location in Newton, MA.
“In our conversations with program directors we learned that many of them have a hard time getting enough funding for the instruments as well as their upkeep. This grant and future donations will keep that from being an issue,” said Johnson.
Using musical education as a vehicle for social mobility was pioneered by El Sistema. Founded in Venezuela in 1975, the program uses music to teach values and skills that empower children to break the cycle of poverty. Many of the programs that benefit from this library are inspired by the original Venezuelan system.
Each $200 donation provides a student with an instrument for one year. Johnson String Instrument will be supporting the foundation with direct and indirect contributions.

Gut Feeling: A Look at String Players of the Past

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Welcome to our blog  about stringed instruments, players, and composers of the Baroque period!

We at Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins are very interested in early music and period instrument performance practice, and hope this blog will be a valuable resource for our readers. We will present regular blog posts for you to learn about stringed instruments, string players, and composers throughout the periods of music history.

If you are a player interested in playing a period instrument, you can find about the Baroque model violins, violas, and cellos available for trial and sale at Carriage House Violins. View our selection of instruments on the Carriage House Violins website, and please feel free to contact us for more information!


Below is a list of blog posts contained in Gut Feeling: A Look at String Players of the Past, presented by Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins:


 

Arcangelo Corelli

Arcangelo Corelli

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Arcangelo Corelli (1683-1713) is one of the eighteenth-century’s best-known violin players and composers. Although Corelli wrote a limited number of pieces, his compositions are a very important contribution to the violin repertoire, and greatly advanced violin technique. He composed 6 collected works, including sonatas for violin and basso continuo, trio sonatas (a multi-movement piece for 2 violins and continuo), and concerti grossi (a 3-movement concerto for more than one solo instrument and orchestral accompaniment).

Biography

Corelli was born 1683 in Fusignano, a small town between Bologna and Ravenna, into a wealthy family. Having first studied music with a priest in the nearby town of Faenza, Corelli moved to the musical city of Bologna in 1666 to continue his studies when he was just 14 years old.  Bologna was home to many of Italy’s finest composers and musicians, including Giovanni Battista Vitali (1632-1692) and Giuseppe Torelli (1658-1709), and the young Arcangelo flourished among these prominent musicians, matriculating in the prestigious Accademia Filharmonica di Bologna in 1670.

Corelli’s place as one of the most prominent violinists in Italy took hold shortly after his arrival in Rome around 1675. He performed in high-level concerts for many of Rome’s prominent figures, including Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili (1653-1730), an influential figure and a strong patron of the arts. Throughout his musical career, Corelli took on many roles beyond performing and composition, including conducting orchestras and directing theatrical productions. Corelli passed away in 1713, and was buried in the Pantheon.

Featured Pieces

Opus 1, a collection of 12 trio sonatas (church sonatas), was dedicated on April 30th, 1681.

Sonata “La Folia”, for violin and keyboard; Opus 5, no. 12 (1700). This sonata is based on a popular dance melody known as “la folia” (the folly) that originated in Portugal. The dance gained popularity throughout Europe in the 16th–18th centuries, and was used in over 150 compositions.

The Christmas Concerto for 2 solo violins, string orchestra, and continuo; Opus 6, no. 8 (1714). This popular concerto grosso  was written for Christmas, with the given title Fatto per la notte di Natale (“Made for the night of Christmas”).


 

This article about Corelli is the first installment of JSI’s blog:

Gut Feeling: A Look at String Players of the Past.


Musicologist Stephen Loikith holds Bachelor’s Degrees in music from Lebanon Valley College and a Master’s of Fine Arts from Brandeis University.  His research focuses on producing specialized concerts in the Boston area, including a concert in 2014 for viol consort produced as a part of Sudbury’s and Wayland’s 375th anniversary celebrations.  Additionally, he is a free-lance French hornist.  Stephen has been a part of Johnson String Instrument since 2009, and is a part of the Receiving and Inventory Control department.