I have mentioned in a couple of settings lately that I was pleased to be part of the El Sistema USA East Coast Seminario on the weekend of May 3. I thought it would be appropriate just to say a few words here about the event and the impact that these programs are having in the lives of so many children.
The East Coast Seminario is a gathering of students and teachers from El Sistema USA programs up and down the East Coast of the United States. The event was hosted by KidZNotes in Durham and included programs based in Miami, North Palm Beach, Atlanta, Newport News, Durham, Raleigh, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley PA, and Connecticut. There were around 200 students involved. They spent the weekend rehearsing and getting to know each other as musical colleagues and friends. El Sistema USA is, at its core, a social change program. Classical orchestral music is the vehicle for that social change and opportunity.
The event was simply awesome. Many times throughout the weekend I found myself profoundly moved by various little things. I know that in many ways, I am a musician as a result of the amazing social experiences that I had as a kid with classical music as the driver for the experience. I loved going to District, Regional, and All State Orchestra. I loved summer music camp at Edinboro University of PA and Westminster Highlands. I couldn't wait for the Indiana HS/Holidaysburg HS Orchestra exchanges. I loved the Indiana Youth Orchestra, lessons with Mrs. Johnson, and IUP symphony rehearsals. All of these great musical and social experiences shaped me. At the East Coast Seminario, I could see this happening for all the kids that were there. There were smiles, laughter, games, running, jumping, wonderful meals spent together, practicing, rehearsing, jamming, and beautiful music that was being made by all the students. There was, in a nutshell, a flurry of interaction, learning, and expressing. It was awesome.
I was also stuck by the instructors. First, I am reminded almost daily that I am not getting any younger. These programs are all being run by an impressive set of young adults. (I am proud to say that two of the organizations are being led by former students of mine, Calida Jones for Bravo Waterbury, CT and Katie Wyatt for Kidznotes in Durham.) I was certainly struck throughout the weekend that these folks who are leading all of the organizations that were in attendance have so much going for them. They are passionate young musicians, educators, and humanitarians. They work unbelievable hours and have a true sense of mission in their work. They live the program. I have always said that music education is a mission. The El Sistema USA programs take that concept to a new and different level. These programs give kids love, hope, and a sense of the greater good. How fortunate are the kids that are in their charge and their families.
These programs are really mostly in their infancy. They are a few years old and still working to gain and keep their financial footing. Through El Sistema USA, lives are being changed. In encourage you to consider donating either your time or money to one of these programs. They are headed in the right direction and you will be blessed by supporting this fine cause.