Take a Stand, Day 3 Highlights (i.e. staying connected and feeling re-energized)

February 2, 2012

As I write this, sleepy-eyed in Washington DC, I am pulling out notes, random handouts and the numerous business cards of like-minded educators and arts advocates to gather together my thoughts for this final post on the Take a Stand Symposium. I slept on and off during the flight from LA, with my brief naps interspersed with readings from Tricia Tunstall’s new book about El Sistema, and my mind racing and re-energized and recommitted to this good work. I must say the wonder of the Sistema movement (aside from the millions of children whose lives have been lifted up, as well as the re-birthing of classical music and orchestras into a new model of hope and a sustainable future), lies with the people behind the movement–the advocates, the educators, the musicians, the health professionals, etc. They are some of the most forward-minded, giving people, with such clear vision and passion to make a difference using music as the means.

The morning began on Wednesday with various sessions related to El Sistema as intervention within LA. Some symposium attendees visited the Renaissance Arts Academy which focuses on academic intervention, Homeboy Industries with a focus on gang intervention, and the Harmony Project and HOLA with a focus on family intervention. I attended the last. The issues of trust, flexibility, understand and access were key issues. We need to meet families where they are, and consider some of the many obstacles that may make it impossible for mother of three to arrive exactly at 3pm for a string sectional. One of the discussion leaders said she thinks in “ish’s” like 3ish, 4ish rather than 3pm or 4 pm. It’s absolutely vital that we also not jump to conclusions, look to see the big picture and consider different perspectives or possibilities if we can in each family situation. Communication and building trust over time is key.

The next session was called Staying Connected, and we brainstormed various ways that the Sistema movement can stay in touch.  There is a new online community for Sistema folks through the League of American Orchestras called League360. Visiting other sites, setting up exchanges and seminarios are important. And at musicassociation.wordpress.com there are minutes and ideas regarding the formation of a national association for Sistema programs.

Yesterday I forgot to mention that there was a session for reading through orchestral rep appropriate for youth orchestras, and so all the teachers had the opportunity to play together. In the future it would be marvelous to see regional teaching artist chamber groups and ensembles. I think the strength of Community Musicworks is that their model includes  performing and teaching, which is a success of their program in my mind.

Speaking of performing, we all had the chance to get some practical teaching strategies in the next session, Tocar y Luchar in the Classroom. I attended the Bucket Band session twice, and hope to incorporate Bucket Band into the Rochester program I am working with.

The day finished with Maestro Abreu sharing stories about the beginnings,difficulties and future for Sistema. An additional treat was that Gustavo Dudamel joined Maestro Abreu on stage as well at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, sending us off back into our communities, reconnected, re-energized, and ready to continue this important and vital work.


–Tricia Tunstall’s new book:  Changing Lives:  Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema and the Transformative Power of Music

–Gustavo Dudamel and Maestro Abreu, Walt Disney Concert Hall

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