Children from The Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston

Children from The Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Bigger Picture of El Sistema

TWO WEEKS, TWO CITIES: MERIDA AND BARQUISIMETO

Without a shadow of doubt, to see "El Sistema", you have to see more than Caracas.
At every stop anew, I find myself trying to answer for myself that question I came to this year for:

WHAT IS EL SISTEMA??


Obvious quick answer:

TRULY MAGICAL


Beyond that??

It is the idea that every single child in Venezuela and beyond deserves access to free outstanding music education.

How exactly this is done is quite different in different places, as it will be in the US or anywhere else we introduce this idea. In an attempt to show you how many facets this concept has, I will post videos this time, and outline a talk given to us by the main violin teacher in Barquisimeto, Prof. Francisco Diaz
Here's a video of:

BABY CORO in BARQUISIMETO, the Conservatorio where Gustavo Dudamel trained.

I would like to join this choir!!
video

RAVEL's BOLERO performed at
MERIDA SPECIAL NEEDS YOUTH PROGRAM

video

Merida's Special Needs program is dedicated to serving about 35 Special Needs kids every day, morning. The sensitivity, musicality and esp. the DESIRE TO PERFORM at a high level were so obvious and also made showed an El Sistema trait we see everywhere:

CHILD APPROPRIATE, HIGHLY ENGAGING AND EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING TECHNIQUES

You do not see chalkboards, or notebooks, little theory, no teacher I have seen talks a lot, no criticism in the foregound.....But the kids are DOING---playing singing, dancing,...in classes or on their own in a loud corner, or with a teacher, who is solfeging along.....calmly positive, there is never a rush, rarely a schedule, generosity of time and spirit...and there is
MUCH JOY!

Yesterday, I went to the HUGE Conservatorio in Barquisimeto. I was told to come teach at 1. I finished at 6 pm, no breaks, had given 8 "lessons" to very very good players...and there were 4 more. I was hungry and tired, so we agreed to meet again today.


(I was so tired that my eyesight was blurry...)

Two advanced children had begun violin 3 years ago! The 15 year old was playing Lalo and a 9 year old boy played Mozart #3, so elegantly and like a little man. Amazing what you can do when you play 4 hours a day, which is the time they spend here, playing orchestra and preparing for lessons with what must be an

AMAZING VIOLIN TEACHER:
FRANCISCO DIAZ

He took us to his office, an average little room without air conditioning, an old plastic recliner, some plastic chairs, and he launched into an impassioned and impressive speech on what EL SISTEMA is:

A) INCLUSIVE ORCHESTRAL PROGRAM,

MAIN FOCUS IS ON CHILD BECOMING A MEMBER OF A MODEL SOCIETY
= ORCHESTRA

B) INDIVIDUAL GROWTH- SECONDARY

He spoke of 4 levels of instrumental learning:

1) IMITATION
-from the first day, the child sits down in orchestra and PLAYS by imitating
teacher.

2) CONTROL
-learning to be coordinated with others and with written text

3) PRECISION
- fine-tuning individual skills

4) AUTOMATION
-Endless repetitions , (yes, we see this A LOT) bring automation and mastery.

How else to explain the Infantil Orchestra of 350 children ages 8-12 that played
unabridged MAHLER 1 for Sir Simon Rattle last year FROM MEMORY! No music stands!!

In terms of teaching violin, it is very interesting to me that the children are first taught to play the way it feels natural to them and other aspects come later. These refinements are conveyed by traditional methods: much emphasis on correct MARTELE
which, we were told, forms the cornerstone of the violin teaching here. Galamian Sevcik, and all the Wieniwaski's, Lalo's, Bruch's Kreislers are studied by teenagers here. Interestingly, there is no piano playing anywhere, so these pieces are simply performed alone, so far as I have heard.

For Beginners, Barquisimeto uses the

Method Book "All For Strings"

and adds wind parts. He told us that we will either become good arrangers or need good arranger friends! The book is on the stand from the first day, but kids cannot use it for awhile, but they HAVE it and try to read.
Beginning stages are ALL GAMES.


TEACHER SELECTION

For the Young Musicians, the teacher is chosen solely based on his ability to MOTIVATE THE KIDS of the age group you need him/her for. He feels there is no need for academic training or music ed. degrees, but the ability to motivate and engage with kids. If a child shows talent for playing, they can later be with teachers that are more skilled and trained themselves.

This makes a lot of sense, as there is no parent involvement beyond coming to concerts or bringing them in. Once at the school, you see only musicians: young kids, teenagers that double as teachers and Conservatory students and then the adult "master" teachers, like Francisco, that also play in the professional orchestra.

TEAM BUILDING

I asked how this unity of purpose is created that I feel among the faculty, children, parents and staff.

He thought a long time, went deep inside himself, and said:
(this was very moving to me:)

"IT'S ABOUT THE MYSTERY--


Because the most IMPORTANT feature of El Sistema is the

INCLUSIVITY

every child that comes to you is served,

you need to believe IN YOUR HEART that each and every child you teach can be a member of your orchestra. And when you hear the orchestra that contains members that are imperfect, that no one thought could contribute to the sound, and they make beautiful music, and the parents are amazed at what their kids can do, then you know that your work was not for money or for fame, but is paid from Above.

If you can create this dream in yourself and your teachers, if it makes the hair stand on your back, then you will be able to get through the tough times, because they will come. You are dealing with people and you will face challenges, but you keep this Mystery in your mind and you will have strength."


Lastly:

Video of a Special Needs Band in Barquisimeto

Drumset and Piano players both are blind, two members are wheelchair-bound, plus some non-special needs children and their teacher playing Marimba.

video

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Venezuela At Last!!!


video

Click here to see why the world celebrates El Sistema!
To be here and see how this all happened is the culmination of this great Fellowship year!!

We have been in CARACAS,VENEZUELA observing
EL SISTEMA
for
4 days
and I am
COMPLETELY BLOWN AWAY!
For anyone interested in RELEVANCY questions surrounding the art-form of music:

WELCOME TO A LAND OF TRULY GREAT MUSIC-MAKING BY 1000'S OF KIDS AND YOUNG ADULTS!!
300,000 TO BE EXACT...




HOW DOES THIS WORK SO WELL???
HOW DID THIS GO FROM 12 KIDS IN A GARAGE TO THIS?

BELOW: THE SIMON BOLIVAR B ORCHESTRA:
PROGRAM:
BARTOK MUSIC FOR STRINGS CELESTE AND PERCUSSION
DVORAK 8
CONDUCTOR: (a name to remember, she is a strong, musical and deeply committed Leader. She had 6 rehearsals ONLY with this program and a young orchestra that had never played this difficult Bartok before)

ALLONDRA DE LA PARRA
New York born and trained, of Mexican descent-
she gets my highest recommendation.

Our Caracas host has been Rodrigo Guerrero, the ANGEL of our trip. He is FESNIJOV's Deputy Director of International Affairs, he picked us up at midnight and stayed with us through airport customs and Hotel check-in by 2:30 am, came back for us by 9 am to go to the US Embassy for our kind but very scary security briefing....


MOST IMPORTANTLY:

Rodrigo, a very generous man, deeply committed and passionate about the growth and future of El Sistema world-wide, is currently our closest connection to the inner workings of El Sistema. On his amazing Blackberry, he also arranges all of our work and travel plans and answers all of our deep questions about El Sistema, or as they call it here: Foundation for Social Action Through Music.


NOTICE THE AGE-DIVERSE AUDIENCE BELOW. MANY KIDS COMING IN WERE CARRYING THEIR OWN INSTRUMENTS SUPPORTING MY

THEORY ON RELEVANCY:

IT IS VERY VERY EXCITING TO WATCH SOMEONE EXCEL AT SOMETHING YOU ARE TRYING TO DO. IF THESE "MASTERS" ARE YOUR FRIENDS and TEACHERS
(AS WAS EVIDENCED BY THE BEAUTIFUL CHEERING AND CLAPPING AFTERWARDS),
THEN THE
COMMUNITY OF PASSION
IS COMPLETE.
THIS IS RELEVANCY,
BECAUSE EACH MEMBER OF THIS COMMUNITY
IS IMPORTANT.
(THIS IS NOT UNLIKE ANY SPORTS CLUB, WHERE THE PROS FIND FANS TO TEACH AND THE FANS FIND TEACHERS TO ADMIRE AND ENJOY BEING CONNECTED TO)In VZ, THIS SAME ENERGY IS
SIMPLY ABOUT MUSIC ON A VERY GRAND SCALE.
FESNOJIV IS THE ACRONYM FOR THE "FUNDACION", AS PEOPLE SAY HERE.
THEIR BRAND NEW FACILITY "FOR SOCIAL ACTION THROUGH MUSIC" SERVES AS THE HEADQUARTERS FOR FESNOJIV and SERVES AS A NATIONAL GATHERING PLACE
FOR THE MUSICAL EFFORTS in the WHOLE COUNTRY.

IMPORTANT: THE YOUTH ORCHESTRA "NETWORK" IS NOT ONLY ABOUT THESE TOP ORCHESTRAS, ALTHOUGH CONSIDERABLE RESOURCES GO THERE AND THE NATION'S PRIDE IN SHOWING THESE ORCHESTRAS TO THE WORLD AS A SYMBOL FOR VENEZUELA, IS IMPORTANT.

CURRENTLY, there are 300,000 children enrolled in daily music programs in Venezuela. To Rodrigo this number is ONLY so many, (!!) as there are 24 million Venezuelans. There are plans to raise this number to ONE MILLION children. To this end, 6 more buildings of this size are in planning stages, throughout the country. El Sistema has grown UPWARDS for 35 years, making this center in Caracas symbolic for what has been achieved: a network of youth music programs that give free outstanding music education to any interested customer for the purpose of
SOCIAL CHANGE.
If extraordinary talent and interest arise in a child, there is a road to Caracas, where children can be trained BY THE BEST to be performers and teachers. As teachers, it is their obligation to go back to the "Interior" where they mostly come from, and bring back what was learned in Caracas.
Here some pictures of this gorgeous space. It is full of life yet so relaxed....I feel so very happy there!
3 OF THE 11 FLOORS

FELLOW FELLOW ADRIENNE TAYLOR, ANOTHER 3 FLOORS...

This Fundacion building is 11 stories high, with COUNTLESS REHEARSAL AND PRACTICE SPACES, EACH ROOM CAREFULLY DESIGNED ACOUSTICALLY TO MEET THE NEEDS OF ITS CUSTOMERS.
THERE ARE 2 CONCERT HALLS IN THIS BUILDING, ONE FOR 400, ONE FOR 800 PEOPLE. I LOVED THE SEATS:
COOL COLORS!!

TODAY, AHOY, VIAGAMOS A MERIDA, UN CUIDAD EN LOS ANDES!!!! IT IS A 12 HOUR TRIP ACROSS THE MOUNTAINS.....GORGEOUS!!


FELLOW FELLOW
PACO AND ME,....
THE NEXT WEEK IN MERIDA IS OUR CHANCE TO SEE THE INTERIOR WORKINGS OF THIS COUNTRYWIDE NETWORK OF MUSIC SCHOOLS FOR YOUTH. WE WILL SEE AT LEAST 3 DIFFERENT "NUCLEOS" (MUSIC SCHOOLS) IN THIS MOUNTAIN REGION.

I WILL BE BACK TO BLOG MORE SOON!

PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHAT QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT BE CURIOUS ABOUT!
I AM IN THE RIGHT PLACE TO ASK FOR YOU....

GOOD BYE FROM A VERY HAPPY ISABEL
THANK YOU TO ALL WHOM MADE THIS JOURNEY POSSIBLE.
IT IS EXTRAORDINARY!