This post discusses El Sistema-inspired programs located in Massachusetts. For more information about El Sistema in Venezuela and the United States, please see our previous post, What is El Sistema?
Eight of the country’s registered El Sistema programs are located in Massachusetts, with the majority being in the Greater Boston area. Programs are located in Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, Roslindale, Pittsfield, Dorchester, Hyde Park, Roxbury, and Jamaica Plain. Each program serves a different type of community, but almost all of them serve schools where the majority of children are on free or reduced lunches or communities that are left needing in other ways. Five of Massachusetts’ programs operate within Boston Public Schools: El Sistema at Conservatory Lab, Josiah Quincy Orchestra Program, Bridge Boston, Margarita Muniz Academy, and musiConnects.
New England Conservatory has historically been a supporter of national El Sistema-inspired programs. From 2009-2014, the school had a Sistema Fellows Program, also referred to until 2011 as the Abreu Fellows Program. It was designed as a professional training program to prepare students to create, head, manage, and teach an El Sistema-inspired program in both the United States and abroad. With only 10 fellows per year, it was a highly selective program. Fellows gained experience through local programs, once established, as well as first-hand experience in Venezuela. They were also required to spend one year after graduation working with El Sistema initiatives. Many of the current programs operating in Massachusetts were created and run by former Fellows, including Bridge Boston, Conservatory Lab, Josiah Quincy Orchestra Program, and Revolution of Hope.
The Longy School of Music at Bard College also has a long-standing relationship with Massachusetts’ El Sistema programs. Most directly, they run an event called Sistema Side by Side. Begun in 2014, it is a series of concerts that bring together the different El Sistema programs in Massachusetts to play with members of the Longy Conservatory Orchestra under the guidance of varying conductors. They attend joint rehearsals and perform a concert together. The most high-profile conductor of the series to date was Gustavo Dudamel in March of 2014. The school also has a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Music degree that trains and certifies students to teach in El Sistema-inspired programs. Based in Los Angeles, CA, the program is part of a greater partnership with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its affiliated El Sistema-inspired programs. This initiative promotes the spread of music education’s social impact to under-serviced areas. In addition, all students of the conservatory, regardless of degree program, take a year of classes that provides them with the skills and experience to put together a community musical presentation that is both meaningful and educational. It culminates in a student-created project that is then brought to a location in the community. Many times this is one of the state’s El Sistema programs but it can also be hospitals, prisons, or community centers.
On the state level, the Massachusetts Cultural Council has created a program through their Creative Youth Initiative to benefit the growing number of El Sistema programs in the state. Called SerHacer (To be, To make), it is designed to help the organizations through what the MCC describes as “technical assistance, grants, and convenings.” It was put in place to help facilitate access to these programs for the growing number of children and families currently living in poverty. With the help of this initiative, Johnson String Instrument intends to expand its contribution to the Massachusetts El Sistema community.
For more information on Massachusetts El Sistema-inspired programs:
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