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

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