El Sistema—thoughts?

Jennifer Visick said: Feb 25, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

I live near LA and, with the fast approach of Gustavo Dudamel coming in as the LA Philharmonic’s new Director, I am hearing a lot about “El Sistema” (of Venezuela) from which he comes and about how people are eager to apply its principles here.

It reminds me of stories I heard about when Suzuki’s ideas about music education first came to the US and how excited music teachers were to apply Suzuki’s principles in the US.

  1. I wonder if there are things to be learned by comparing what has happened to the Suzuki method since then and what is happening with “el sistema” now?

  2. Does anyone know more about how it actually works (practically speaking)? Articles and news stories seem to imply an early emphasis on serving the poorest communities, making free instruments available to anyone who will practice, getting students into orchestras as soon as possible, and using classical music to teach a new culture—one article even referenced that “pop music wouldn’t work” because that’s what they have at home on the radio—dad may turn it on and get drunk to that, but making classical music is like going to another world. There’s an emphasis that it fulfills a spiritual need and a social purpose, rescuing “at-risk” children from falling into criminal activities and/or depression, poor work ethic and poor academic performance, etc. There’s an implication that orchestra is kind of like a soccer team—everyone plays soccer on the street kids help each other—being on a professional team is a coveted and inspiring spot—If you take news articles at face value it seems that 30 years of “El Sistema” in Venezuela has made playing classical music into something as widespread and as culturally embraced as playing soccer.

Will it work to transport such a thing to the US?

Connie Sunday said: Feb 25, 2009
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
670 posts

Hi RaineJen:

I saw the films about this, and the concerts on tv. I think it would be a great idea to apply to US communities. But I wonder (unfortunately): do you think US students are too self-centered, spoiled, lacking in discipline, and so on…. I wonder.

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:

Jennifer Visick said: Feb 26, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

I was more thinking—are most US children too rich? I mean, in the sense of the average family being too materially affluent.

What I’ve read implies that “El Sistema” works partly because it’s a conduit away from the life of poverty. You don’t spend all that time practicing and in after school music programs if you’re enrolled in 7 other after school activities.

The LA Phil initiative that’s trying to import some of what works in “El Sistema” to the Los Angeles area seems very interested in reaching “the underserved”—in other words, making a (extracurricular?) program that bridges the gap between free outreach type “introduction to music” workshops or field trips, and long term programs (that cost money).

On the other hand, the idea of creating a culture of music—where participating in musical groups is “in” or even “expected” of almost everyone in your school—I have seen this happen in the schools of affluent neghborhoods so I know it’s not impossible to create that type of “everyone participates” culture.

Connie Sunday said: Mar 5, 2009
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
670 posts

The first video is about Jose Antonio Abreu, who is the charismatic founder of a youth orchestra system that has transformed thousands of kids’ lives in Venezuela.
Here he shares his amazing story and unveils a TED Prize wish that could have a big impact in the US and beyond:
http://www.ted.com/talks/jose_abreu_on_kids_transformed_by_music.html (18 min)

And finally, here’s the amazing El Sistema Orchestra from Venezuela led by Gustavo Dudamel, himself a product of the El Sistema project. Gustavo is the new musical director of the LA Philharmonic!
http://www.ted.com/talks/astonishing_performance_by_a_venezuelan_youth_orchestra_1.html (17 min)

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:

Cynthia Faisst said: Jul 31, 2009
Cynthia FaisstViolin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
126 posts

I shared the video ” Tocar Y Luchar” which is a documentary about Abreu’s work with the children and parents in my urban Santa Ana Strings Program. Their faces lit up with amazement and interest. They had never seen that many musicians in an orchestra filled with young people who looked like them. :O

They play an amazing Mambo on YouTube. :!: I hope you all get to see it. They really show us how to make the music come alive. :mrgreen: They have several excellent performing organizations on YouTube right now. The Latin American composers are wonderful. But they also do great justice to some heavy hitters.

When you see some of the clips on YouTube of the beginning students you know that their teachers are not isolated from concepts and methods that are moving through the Suzuki Community. We should take it as flattery not rivalry.

I’m wishing I had the facilities to share this kind of content more easily with my urban students on a regular basis. Right now funding is a real tug of war.

Anyone with a heart to do music work in our urban communities should check out the websites above and contact the New England Conservatory of Music about their project with El Systema. It would be wonderful to have some young Suzuki raised musicians represented in that program as interns. I think they are simply interested in getting the best methods that work and using them to the best effect possible. I think it would please Sensei to see his work taken to the next level.

Where will our next scientist, researchers and technologist come from? Not to mention just plain adaptive , resourceful and talented all round community leaders.

El Systema has a great social philosophy for music. El Systema is not under their Education Dept but under Health and Social Services in Venezuela. Their goals were to do a social healing but the out comes end up being some great music.

Ms. Cynthia
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Jennifer Visick said: Dec 11, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

Been thinking more about this recently.

Noticed that the description of El Sistema USA—http://elsistemausa.org/el-sistema/the-formula/ could have just about every other sentence lifted directly from (or transferred into) a description of Suzuki teaching philosophy, with minimal changes.

Alison Fujito said: Sep 14, 2011
 6 posts

I know this thread is 2 years old, but I found it by googling “el systema and suzuki.”

I only just recently stumbled across some info about El Systema, and immediately thought how Suzuki-ish is it, and I wondered if anyone else saw the similarities.

Not that I’m accusing El Systema of copying anything from Suzuki. I don’t even think it’s important to label them as different, because they are parts of the same whole: THEY WORK. Not just for teaching music, but to change lives.

Anyway, it’s all fascinating, and I certainly hope to see more of BOTH (El Systema and Suzuki) in the US!

Ruth Brons said: Sep 14, 2011
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
West Orange, NJ
150 posts

Yes, El Sistema—and its different adaptations in various countries—has definitely struck a strong chord with me….how could it not, after working as a Suzuki violin teacher for decades and seeing how profoundly it enriches and shapes the lives of children and their families?

In fact, last week I was fortunate to be able to meet and learn more about it from Juan Antonio Cuellar, President of Fundación Nacional Batuta [the El Sistema sister program in Colombia]. Fascinating and inspiring!

Here is one of the better articles I have found on the subject on the subject:The Five Fundamentals of El Sistema, By Jonathan Andrew Govias

Best Wishes,

Ruth Brons

Rachel said: Jul 25, 2012
 19 posts

Stumbled upon this thread, which is now almost a year old.
The movement continues to gain attention and followers, and in some areas schools are being designed around El Sistema’s philosophies.

This one in the greater (urban) Boston area is just one example: http://conservatorylab.org/

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