The World Ensemble
Dear Subscribers to The World Ensemble ,

Here is your February issue of The World Ensemble. Our editorial this month is from World Ensemble co-founder Eric Booth, writing on the nuances and benefits of competition with some assistance from a ping-pong club in Japan. 

Also offered here: Interculturalism leads to inclusion at the Music Art Project in Serbia; residents of San Antonio, Chile are united by music and the entire community benefits; and a sneak peak at the World Children’s Music Festival 2020, which is sure to steal the show in Tokyo ahead of the Olympic Games. 

Read a firsthand account from a young member of a new national Sistema cohort in the U.S. on her visit to London’s Barbican Performing Arts Centre, where she and fellow students met and rehearsed with Gustavo Dudamel; and finally, we are delighted to introduce you to four new members of our Ambassador program.

If you can, please take five minutes to fill out our reader survey . By answering these questions, you help us gain a clear understanding on how best to serve our readership, ensuring a newsletter that accurately reflects the needs and interests of the El Sistema community. Five random respondents will be selected to win a $25 Amazon gift card. 

Now and always— sh are with us ! We want to know your news and stories so we can share them with your El Sistema colleagues around the world.

The WE Team 

Editorial | Competition, the Sistema Way
by Eric Booth , Co-Founder
The English travel writer Pico Iyer moved to Japan 27 years ago, and his passionate hobby became playing ping-pong at a nearby club. His pleasure in the game comes from the way competition works there, which is so different from the win-or-lose, zero-sum experience of competition in his native England. He says, “When I leave the ping-pong club after an hour and a half of furious exertion, if you asked me, did I win or lose, I couldn’t tell you. I’ve probably played seven games, but nobody keeps track of who’s winning the games. That stands for what the whole ping-pong club is about, which is the sense that everybody should leave in an equal state of delight. This is because in Japan, at least in the context of a club or a community, the most important thing is for everybody to be working together and feeling and thinking together and linked.”

Strength Through Musical Alliance in San Antonio, Chile
by Ivana Cirrincione, Member of Global Leaders Program 2019 Cohort
“The people united will never be defeated!”

This is the battle cry, originally from a famous Chilean protest song of the seventies, that resonates in the streets of Chile in recent weeks. The Chilean people occupied public spaces to demand a fairer state and to fight against inequality and social injustice. The rest of the world watches, shocked, at the tragic occurrences unfolding in the protests, and condemns the violence. As, of course, do I.

I cannot stop reflecting on my personal experience a few months ago in that beautiful country, in San Antonio, a seaport city about 120 kilometers west of Santiago. It was there that I saw firsthand a group of people join forces to achieve change in their community by sharing a unique orchestral experience.

Music of Hope in Serbia: Sistema Connect 
b y Djurdja Papazoglu, Founder and Executive Director,  Music Art Project , and Secretary,  Sistema Europe
Music Art Project (MAP) was founded in 2010 with the mission to contribute to the long-term development of society and culture in Serbia. Four years later, MAP launched the El Sistema-inspired program “Music of Hope” to help as many children and youth as possible appreciate music and enjoy its beauty together. In less than three years, Music of Hope has grown from 30 to 600 children in seven cities through collaboration with public elementary schools, music schools, and cultural and social-welfare centers.

Our main challenge was to integrate our new approaches into the existing music curricula and to teach the music teachers to be open to innovation and more flexible in their work. Gradually, the creative application of the El Sistema methodology brought a fresh approach to music education, with a pronounced social inclusion component. Through our strategic partnerships, we have sought to create fruitful interactions between the “educated music” taught in schools and learning systems such as El Sistema. We designed our programs to nurture flexibility and experimentation because we believe this helps students and teachers develop rich musical knowledge through the creation of original pieces, online and live exchanges, collaborative rehearsals, and engaging performances.

World Children's Music Festival 2020 in Tokyo
by Yuriko Yagisawa, Project Coordinator,  El Sistema Japan
Tokyo is now in high-energy mode, with the countdown to the Summer 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games currently underway. This coming April, we at El Sistema Japan are anticipating another exciting event, the World Children’s Music Festival 2020 in Tokyo.

This spring, around 300 Japanese children will come together in Tokyo, alongside 32 children from eight other countries on five continents. These children will bring many different backgrounds, speak a wide variety of languages, and be with or without disabilities—but all will share the values of El Sistema. They will be accompanied and supported by world-renowned artists who work with or are inspired by El Sistema around the globe.

U.S.A. National Sistema Orchestra members Visit the Barbican
by Gerdlie Jean Louis, student,  Kids4Harmony | 18 Degrees , in Pittsfield, MA, U.S.A.
Since last July, I have had the distinct pleasure of participating in the inaugural cohort of the  YOLA National Institute  (YNI). YNI, an initiative launched last year by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, is an in-depth training program for young musicians interested in pursuing a career in the field of music. It consists of selected members of the YOLA National Symphony Orchestra, an audition-only ensemble that is the first nationwide El Sistema orchestra in the United States and that performs every summer at the  YOLA National Festival .

YNI extends the activities of the YOLA National Festival into a yearlong program. We have traveled internationally and received mentoring from L.A. Philharmonic musicians, chamber music coaching, support with the college application process, and career guidance.

This past November, we had the exciting opportunity to travel to London together for a six-day residency at the Barbican Performing Arts Centre. For me, three experiences there were especially significant: improvisation workshops, a concert, and an open rehearsal led by Gustavo Dudamel. Each of these illuminated the power and potential of music.

The Ambassadors' Exchange
Introduction to the New 2020 Ambassadors
Last year,  The World Ensemble  launched the Ambassadors network to bring students from El Sistema-inspired programs around the world closer together. This year, that work continues with four new Ambassadors. These incredible musicians from Serbia, Uganda, Utah, and California will join six returning Ambassadors to continue their work.

We hope that you have enjoyed the insights and updates from our young musicians and look forward to their involvement in new initiatives this year.

Your new  2020 World Ensemble Ambassadors  are:

Pedro Ramos, Horn, Harmony Project (California, U.S.A.):  “There is a sort of zen that I wish to achieve as performer—better described as eliminating consciousness in your art and being one with the instrument’s sound. Music is truly magical ."

Radomir Perišić, Violin, El Sistema Serbia:  “It’s not only about gathering an orchestra and playing, it’s about inclusion too.”

Mary Nakacwa, Flute, Architects of Music (Uganda):  “I am very excited to acquire more skills in music and learn about other cultures around the world.” Check out Mary's video here .

Hannah Christensen, Violin, Sistema Utah (United States):  “When I have had an especially upsetting day, I always enjoy pulling out my violin and playing. Immediately, I am able to relax and feel better.”

The WE Ambassadors are a group of El Sistema student musicians who serve as representatives of their programs around the world.

Aurian White, Sistema Whangarei (New Zealand)
Currently in New Zealand, our summer holidays from school are coming to an end. In December, we had our Bucket Raffle Evening to fundraise for a workshop that teaches members how to repair instruments. It was a fun and successful evening. We raised over $1,000 towards this workshop, which means that many of our instruments can be repaired.

At Sistema Whangarei, we had our extended holiday program—four days of intensive music rehearsals. The new students are involved in the morning sessions, and the advanced students have programming in the afternoon. Many of our older students also assist the instructors in the morning, and some are starting to become instructors themselves. I have been assisting both the students and the tutors. In the afternoon, we started some new pieces that are familiar from famous movie soundtracks, and I was very surprised by the fast tempo of many of them. We start back at school and the afterschool program in a couple of weeks and I look forward to having more to report.

Linet Othieno, Ghetto Classics (Kenya)
In the second week of January, some of us had the privilege to visit Lausanne, Switzerland, for the Youth Olympics 2020. During our week-long trip, we visited some historical sites and attended the symphony orchestra rehearsal at The Métropole concert hall. We learned a lot from their technique and playing, and some of the string players in our group had lessons at the conservatory.

After intense rehearsals during the week, we gave a concert in collaboration with the Lausanne Conservatory Orchestra and Choir, Crescendo con la Musica (a choir from Mexico), and the Ghetto Classics Orchestra . The repertoire included “Safari ya Bamba,” “Pum bum bum Peh,” Danzon No. 5 by Marquez, Bizet’s Carmen Overture, and many more pieces.

With everyone's effort, contribution, and energy, the concert went well. We had so much fun playing and making friends with people from different musical cultures. We all learned so much and appreciate everyone who made our journey possible. Thanks especially to Jorge Viladoms and all the other leaders. We can only say “Asante Sana!”

Timor Sultani, El Sistema Sweden
El Sistema Dream Orchestra in Sweden is a special place to play music because it provides opportunities to everyone through four different groups. Two of our groups are based on the ability level of the players, from beginner to more advanced players. The Working Group is designed to accommodate the schedules of musicians who cannot attend daily rehearsal. The rehearsals are matched to their work needs. The fourth group is made up entirely of parents and volunteers. The Dream Orchestra noticed that many parents spend time at the rehearsals waiting for their children and asked if they wanted to play instruments as well. Many said yes—so now they have their own orchestral group!

On December 15, 2019, all our programs participated in one big concert. We were very happy to see the Dream Orchestra and our musical family together on the same stage.

Stephen Ongoma, Ghetto Classics (Kenya)
In early 2020, the Ghetto Classics program was invited to play in Lausanne, Switzerland, by Crescendo con la Musica, a program founded by the pianist Jorge Viladoms. This music exchange program brought together three groups of musicians—from Kenya, Mexico, and Switzerland—to speak the universal language of music together.

It was a true cultural exchange to hear Kenyan and Mexican music played in the same concert hall. Music unites people regardless of our different backgrounds, social status and race. Let's keep making music together!

Thank you for reading! 

Be on the lookout for additional resources and news later this month.

Don't forget to check out our   WEBSITE   and follow us on social media.

Have an idea for an article, news item, or resource?

NAMM Foundation
Updates to the World Ensemble, including our new website,
have been made possible through the support of the NAMM Foundation.
Subscribe Today
To receive monthly issues of our newsletters:
 For more information:
The Ensemble newsletters are sent in collaboration with: