The World Ensemble
Dear Subscribers to The World Ensemble,

Here is your March issue of The World Ensemble. Our editorial this month is from Rodrigo Guerrero, who played a central role in El Sistema Venezuela for many years, reflecting on El Sistema's 45th anniversary and the legacy of Maestro José Antonio Abreu.

You will learn about a small music school in the Bolivian Amazon that has persisted for nearly 25 years; the SphinxConnect conference in Detroit, Michigan, which addressed the underrepresentation of people of color in classical music; and the World Youth Forum in Egypt last December, which echoed El Sistema principles in unique and fascinating ways. Also, read about a promising program helping foster young Filipino talent and enjoy a synopsis of the El Sistema Academy 2020 in Sweden, which focused on the question "How do we determine success in arts education?" And, of course, we provide updates from our ambassadors around the world.

If you can, please take five minutes for our read er surv ey, to help us understand how to serve you better. Five random respondents will win a $25 Amazon gift card. And, as always, please share 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 | El Sistema Venezuela Turns 45
by  Rodrigo Gue rrero, freelance consultant and longtime Subdirector of International Relations and Institutional Development for El Sistema Venezuela
Last month, we celebrated another landmark year for El Sistema Venezuela. In its 45 years of activity, this institution has created an unfathomable number of transformative experiences for the people of Venezuela and the rest of the world. This anniversary gives us an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of now three generations of Venezuelan youth, and the legacy of our dearly remembered Maestro José Antonio Abreu.

I look back into my own experiences of the unseen yet vital infrastructure that has allowed this endeavor to function in harmony as well as creative chaos. In my almost two decades of service, I was privileged to witness so many memorable things: a class of toddlers learning how to hold a bow, deftly moving their fingers whilst singing about funny spiders; the grandeur of Debussy’s La Mer , conducted by Claudio Abbado and performed by a passionate youth orchestra in the packed house of a free concert in Caracas; the joy and pride of hearing the chords of our Venezuelan music echoing through Salzburg’s Mozarteum, as the high notes of an incredibly talented trumpetist had the locals rising to their feet to dance to Caminito de Guarenas ; then, during Mahler 2, noticing Maestro Abreu madly signaling to the trumpet player to take care of his lips and save something for the next day’s concert; and after all that, walking into a room full of educators, entrepreneurs, conservatory leaders, and others who wanted to know more about El Sistema and to take all of this to their own practice and communities.

The World’s Youth Call for “Arts for Humanity”
by Jeff M. Poulin, Managing D irector, Creative Generati on
Sinai, Egypt is a fascinating place. Sitting between Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East, it exists “where civilizations meet.” This theme echoed throughout the halls of the International Congress Center in Sharm El Sheikh last December during the World Youth Forum.

Under the auspices of His Excellency President Fattah Abdel el-Sisi and through the substantial investment of the Egyptian government—millions of Egyptian pounds—the World Youth Forum hosted over 7,000 young people from over 180 nations. This group of under-30 creatives, entrepreneurs, budding diplomats, and others offered diverse perspectives on myriad topics, including artificial intelligence, blockchain, international affairs, peace, food security, and the arts and creativity. After several days of workshops and discussions, they announced 10 recommendations for the United Nations and governments around the world.

Ang Misyon: Continuing the Mission of Nurturing Young Filipino Talent  
by Jennifer Rivera, Partnerships and Communications Officer, Ang Misyon, Inc.
The El Sistema-inspired program Ang Misyon, in the Philippines, has made the cultivation of a national youth orchestra one of its main priorities since it began eight years ago. That ensemble, the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth, is now celebrating its seventh year. Under the guidance of Maestro Joshua Dos Santos, the program’s Music Director and Chief Conductor of Orchestras, the OFY has grown both in musicality and in numbers, now numbering 200 “scholars,” as the young musicians are called. They have performed in Malaysia, Qatar, and the US, and continue to focus on musical growth and creation of community.

At the same time, Ang Misyon has reframed the structure of its programs, concentrating its work in areas where most of its scholars come from. Though many are from Province of Rizal, some come from provincial areas as far away as the northern and southern parts of Luzon (Zambales and Mindoro).

Takeaways from El Sistema Academy 2020: The Importance of Reflexivity, Fun, and the Dominant Seventh Chord
by Patricia Abdelnour, former Deputy Director of Internal Relations for El Sistema Venezuela
Sascha Goetzel_ Franka Verhaven and Ron Davis Alvarez at the El Sistema Sweden Academy.jpg
Every year, El Sistema Sweden organizes a three-day symposium, inviting great teachers from Sweden and elsewhere to share their experience and knowledge with an attendee group of music educators who work for social change. I had the joy of attending this year, and I’m still feeling excited about all the things I learned.

Our hosts, Eric Sjöström and Ron Alvarez (respectively, the Executive Director and Artistic Director of El Sistema Sweden), were present throughout the weekend, making introductions and mediating sessions. Ron led several workshops that were as entertaining as they were profound. Stressing the importance of always leaving kids wanting more, he told us, “We always have to end the lesson with a dominant seven chord,” to spark their curiosity. This idea came back again and again in many of the lectures. .

Music Was Made in the Jungle
by Raquel Maldonado, Director, San Ignacio School of Music, & Director, Ensamble Moxos
In a little jungle-engulfed town in the Bolivian Amazon sits a music program that has changed the region’s social, cultural, and artistic complexion: The Music School of San Ignacio de Moxos. The school began without much forethought. Seeing it as an opportunity to pass along the musical legacy of Jesuit missions, a nun of the order of the Ursulines of Jesus opened the school in 1996 to encourage musical learning among her teenagers. Despite its modest aspirations, the school grew into something more impactful than she ever could have expected.

The spirituality of the Moxos indigenous people—whose population was reduced in the 17th and 18th centuries by the Company of Jesus—manifests itself in all their artistic output. One could say that the Moxos people sing and dance in celebration of the virgins and the saints; their musical manifestations are sustained by spirituality, and vice-versa. The Music School of San Ignacio picks up on this legacy, offering a free music education to the primarily Moxo-indigenous population—a unique opportunity for young people. Each year, the school welcomes over 300 children and youths to learn various instrumental disciplines. These students not only receive access to a profession historically reserved for the economic and social elites, but also the opportunity to restore their identity, their culture, and the memory of their ancestors through music. And thanks to the formation of the non-governmental organization Taupadak, the school has enjoyed its own infrastructure and equipment since 2005—allowing students to learn in dignified conditions.

Inside SphinxConnect 2020
by Joanna Borowski, Director of Education, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
The Sphinx Organization is dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. The distinctive mission of Sphinx, within that context, is to address the underrepresentation of people of color in classical music at every level. Earlier this month, artists and arts leaders from all over the world converged on snowy Detroit—Sphinx’s home base—for a week of Sphinx signature programs, culminating in the fourth annual convening of the SphinxConnect conference.

Before the conference kicked off, the Sphinx Orchestral Partners Auditions (SOPA) provided musicians of color the opportunity to play for a panel representing more than 30 partner orchestras. With the goal of job placement in American orchestras, the SOPA auditions are a catalyst for invitations to and/or pre-advancement at auditions, as well as placement on substitute lists. Additional networking and learning opportunities are extended to SOPA musicians who attend SphinxConnect. Running concurrently with the SOPA auditions was a retreat for two cohorts of Sphinx LEAD (Leaders in Excellence, Arts & Diversity), a professional development program for arts leaders of color.

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

Stephen Ongoma, Ghetto Classics (Kenya)
El Sistema Kenya (Ghetto Classics) has come up with an art lab where children between the ages of 5 to 7 can learn music in a safe and clean environment. Most of the arts programs in the community start with students 9 years or older, but this neglects younger children who deserve the opportunity to engage with the arts. The art lab in our community gives young children a way to develop their natural talents from an early age. Children get a chance to be involved in creative workshops and learn to play an instrument. The lab also offers dance and basic drawing. From a young age, these children get a chance to learn how to make instruments, such as percussive instruments using recycled materials. Not only do the beneficiaries acquire self-confidence and practical skills, but they also get the opportunity to meet people outside their usual social group.

Through our art lab, music ignites all areas of child development for school readiness, including intellectual, social-emotional, motor, language, and overall literacy skills. It helps the body and mind work together.
Radomir Perišić, El Sistema Serbia
I am excited to share some updates about recent events that occurred in my community. A lot has happened in the past few months.

In December, my music school, Vučković, hosted two charity concerts. The first concert raised money for a local elementary school dedicated to poor and socially disadvantaged kids. The concert was a celebration of our ongoing collaboration through music, featuring students from both programs performing well-known classical and jazz compositions. With the help of a local illustrator, Bob Živković, students created New Year’s greeting cards that they sold after the concert.

A few days later, the student parliament at my school had another event to benefit the Zvečanska foundation. We chose this charity because they provide temporary care for children with disabilities who are given up by their families. The concert was a spectacular event, and everyone performed like professionals. Events like these make me feel full of love and life.

In January, Music Art Project performed at the International School of Belgrade. Our concert was short but tailored to the incredible students and staff of the school. While we were part of their community, we were surprised by how welcome they made us feel. They prepared for everything and the day was enriching and rewarding. I am excited to continue to build a collaborative community.

Most recently, we had a series of masterclasses from January 28 to February 5 about French Baroque music. We invited famous harpsichord player Jory Vinikour and our great contralto Marijana Mijanović to lead these opportunities. Our musicologist and harpsichord player also presented a few lectures about French Baroque opera and solo harpsichord music.
Axelle Miel, Ang Misyon Cebu (Philippines)
Here at Ang Misyon Cebu (name to be changed soon), we are focusing on skills before we plan our future performances. We’ve been especially focused on posture: how to sit properly while playing, and how to maintain proper finger position over the fingerboard of a violin or viola. We have discussed how posture makes a big difference in both appearance and sound!

For example, here are before and after photos of a viola student. After trying out the correct posture, he exclaimed that it was uncomfortable, but also acknowledged that musical growth would be full of discomfort. It’s great to see how the students are developing values of patience and determination in the program, which is what El Sistema ultimately aims to teach.
Hannah Christensen, Sistema Utah
Sistema Utah has been quite busy! On February 22, our advanced secondary performing group, “Secondary Sistema Strings,” performed side by side with the Utah Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert titled “Strings and Spurs.” The day started with a fiddling workshop, where people from all over Salt Lake City, Utah came to learn about fiddling and improvisation from the bluegrass band Molly in the Mineshaft. Later that night, Molly in the Mineshaft joined us for a concert of music from the American Wild West. This concert consisted of a medley of songs from  The Magnificent Seven , Aaron Copland’s  Rodeo  suite, “The Ecstasy of Gold” from  The Good, The Bad and The Ugly , and  Variations on a Shaker Melody . Songs played with Molly in the Mineshaft consisted of “500 Miles,” “John Barbury,” “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and “Precious Savior, Dear Redeemer.” It was a wonderful day of music-making that we will remember forever!
Mary Nakacwa, Architects of Music (Uganda)
The video I have shared (here) is of a traditional dance performance called Ekitaguluor (you can spot me dancing in the front of the group). This kind of dance from Western Uganda is used to tell stories and celebrate events like marriage and birth. In the video, the men have hats and sticks because this dance is usually performed by cattle keepers and ranchers in the region. The hats protect the men from the sun and the sticks are used to prod the cattle. The women dance with linen cloths in case it becomes cold and they need them for warmth.

The music accompanying the dance is a gospel song, “Kansiime Ruhanga,” that expresses thanks to God for all that God has done for us. I am very proud of the hard work from everyone in Architects of Music, where I continue to learn and grow in my dancing, singing, and knowledge of local instruments.
Thank you for reading! 

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

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