Children from The Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston

Children from The Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston

Friday, April 1, 2011


Occasionally what you do coincides with what the Universe would like to get done.

This blog is a tribute to all the wonderful people who have contributed to the amazing fact that in 3 short months we have been able to create firm plans for:

starting September 2011
with 30 children,
grades 1-4!!!!!

I give full credit to the momentum gathered around the ideals of El Sistema: to give ALL children a chance to develop skills they need to succeed in life by offering them a membership to a joyful community of passionate child and adult musicians.

Since the last posting, 5 (FIVE) major Serendippities have happened:


December 23rd:

Thanks to the suggestion by Joan Katz, and continued prodding by David Mayo, I finally visited the Rainey Institute in Cleveland's Hough Neighborhood (E. 55th and Payne), met Lee Lazar , the inpressive Executive Director of the Institute, and within 5 minutes partnered with him to create El Sistema@Rainey. You can check Rainey out at:

I was so impressed.

Their mission: Changing Lives Through The Arts.

El Sistema (as I would say) : Changing Lives Through Orchestra Playing

Serious overlap!!! It has been an institution of 107 years (!!) , older than The Cleveland Orchestra (which was started as an EDUCATIONAL initiative in 1918, to serve the music educational needs of this growing town!! Cool....)/

In December I walked into Rainey's old building, knowing that they were one month from unveiling a proud new facility! You see it on the website above:

Gorgeous spaces, a theater for 200 people, practice rooms, rehearsal rooms, dance studio, outdoor performance space, a KILN, a sewing room.....a large and welcoming community gathering space, and a state of the art industrial kitchen to feed hungry artistic kids.


An incredible spirit! I felt comfortable there the first minute I walked in. This is a place of caring and nurturing. I have not heard a harsh word to a child yet, time moves slowly without haste. It is about growing in your way, about having calm supportive adults around you as you spend a joyful, peaceful, art-filled afternoon or Saturday.



Feb. 3rd: I am in Boston, playing a fund raiser for NEC at a beautiful Club downtown.
I tell the audience that I have hopes to start an El Sistema program in Cleveland at a place close to Severance hall, (renamed for El sistema purposes: perSeverance Hall) that is located in a very distressed neighborhood.
Afterwards, a woman approaches me with a quizzical look and says: Are you talking about the Rainey Institute? Eleanor Rainey was my great great grandmother!

Patty Plum lives close to Boston, is a passionate believer in music education, (taught herself the cello at age 60 and plays very beautifully!), and is truly one of the coolest people in the world. Down to earth, direct.....we hit it off. I have been lucky to spend time walking with her getting to know her. She loves Schubert as much as I do, she loves nature and dogs.. I feel very fortunate for this new friend!

We are hoping to invite her and her 3 brothers, and their wives and children to Cleveland soon and show them Great Great Grandma's new house!

As a result of that bizarre coincidence, Patty invited the director of Rainey and their board member of 51 YEARS! (who still knew Patty's father well), my hero Ted Horvath to come to Boston. We met quite a few of the Rainey descendants, and we saw the Conservatory Lab Charter School together. Half of our party started crying when the kids played "My Funny Valentine".

A truly amazing weekend.


Our First Grant

in March our grant writer angel submitted and received a grant for us from the
---we will receive $60,000 over 2 years. I am so grateful. This helps ongoing fundraising so much!

Eric Booth, Senior Advisor, El Sistema USA
coincidentally hired by Cleveland Orchestra Musicians!

A few weeks ago, we are sent an email from the orchestra committee of The Cleveland Orchestra. They have done a very cool thing: they felt we need a vision as a musician body. In order to truly shape and define our role as artists in our community, we need to come together and hear our thoughts and dreams on the topic.
I am very proud to be a member of an orchestra that is thinking actively about our future in this way.
A grant was applied for and received (BRAVO) from the Mellon Foundation. With these funds, a facilitator was hired. Who was chosen? None other than Eric Booth, Consultant and also, Senior Advisor to El Sistema USA!! We have had many seminars from him here in Boston and I love his thinking, energy and joyful sparkle.


Eric came to Cleveland last week to talk with many orchestra members, and in the evening I kidnapped him and brought him to Rainey to show him around. He LOVED it and has since been feeding us with great ideas on getting a great start to the program.


MAA offers to provide instruments for Year One

After a very positive meeting with MAA about how we will collaborate on this project, they offered to be the official sponsors for our instrument needs for year one! This is a very meaningful and generous gesture and stands for so much, also for the Rainey Community.

The list of supporters that we have gathered in 3 short months for El Sistema@Rainey exceeds even my wildest dreams. I am so grateful for this new path in leading me to be able to meet and discuss ideas with some of our incredible community leaders.

And how could I EVER thank enough the volunteers of our advisory board for the help in these hectic months (ongoing):

Nancy Osgood and David Mayo---You Two have been remarkable through a million meetings with your generosity of time, spirit (and funding!!)

My joy at working on this project with Rainey's quietly forceful Executive director
Lee Lazar grows by the day. We are polar opposites, and it is a good thing this way.

This is an incomplete POST....I will finish later......hopefully you now know that I have not been doing my nails these is the beginning of a joyful and high energy ride!!!

Did I mention that most of my time is spent (online) in Boston?

Thank you to EVERYONE who has made this beginning possible!
AND to The Cleveland Orchestra for giving me the opportunity to pursue this wonderful Abreu fellowship!

More on that fellowship work next time......a whole other new long post!!

By the way:

We Fellows ARE going to Venezuela soon for 5 weeks! April 25-May 30!!
We are so excited!