Are young musicians in El Sistema programs aware of the global Sistema movement? Some have met through joint performances, but what about students in countries that are farther away? Do students in Brazil, for example, know of their music peers in New Zealand or Kenya?
The World Ensemble has always been about building cross-cultural bridges between Sistema-inspired programs, leaders and teaching artists. But we’ve decided we want to do more to help students connect across cultures—after all, young people are the foundation of Sistema; they are our entire purpose! So we created the World Ensemble Ambassadors network. Thanks to funding from the Foundation of the National Association of Music Merchants, we designed this initiative to serve two purposes:
(1) To connect students in global El Sistema-inspired programs with one another, so they can share in the mutual struggle and fun of learning a musical instrument, support each other, and develop a sense of belonging and an appreciation for other cultures.
(2) To help the World Ensemble collect news from Sistema-inspired programs.
Our initiative began this year with the recruitment of our first group of Ambassadors. In future years, we plan to open the application process to all Sistema-inspired programs, but because this first year is a trial/pilot, we reached out to specific programs that have worked with us in the past on other projects. We requested applications from young musicians, ages 13-20, who play an instrument (or sing) in an ensemble, and who understand the value of communication and teamwork. Another requirement was that WE Ambassadors have access to e-mail and social media platforms, either personally or through their programs. In this initial year, we asked that students be fluent in either English or Spanish. In return, we will provide each Ambassador with six hours of support in the form of instrumental (or other music) lessons from renowned musicians or academic and professional advising.
Modern technology has made it easier than ever to connect individuals across the world. Our vision is to enable young people to “connect” in a variety of ways, including Facebook or Instagram Live events, photo contests, challenges, and whatever else the WE Ambassadors come up with. WE Ambassadors will be responsible for encouraging their peers to participate in these activities, just as we have always encouraged our subscribers to share with others the many resources, news items, and events we publish monthly. By connecting students as well as teachers and leaders, we can make a deeper impact.
This group of passionate young musicians will serve as the newest leaders of our movement. They are excited to share news updates, videos, photos, social media posts, and more about what is happening within their Sistema programs. They are equally excited to learn from each other and discover how music learning occurs in other parts of the world. Beyond our ideas, these WE Ambassadors bring ideas of their own for how to connect with each other and build a true global community of Sistema musicians.
They will begin this work right away, with a fun January Practice Challenge, where we will encourage young musicians to share their practice goals, tips, and stories on social media, using the hashtags #TheWE and #WEpractice. What do practice rooms and spaces look like in different countries? Do students practice alone or together? How do students motivate themselves and each other to practice regularly? Can we get 100 students to share their practice photos and videos in one month?
Whether or not your Sistema program has a WE Ambassador, we hope you’ll encourage your kids to connect with the Ambassadors’ activities and resources. We all struggle when learning a musical instrument, but when we recognize that we are all in this together – a mutual struggle – it becomes easier through group motivation. From now on, as part of the World Ensemble, you will read regular updates from our Ambassadors, and if you follow us on social media (links below), you can get involved in our activities and help your students realize the true breadth of the global El Sistema movement.
Your 2019 World Ensemble Ambassadors are:
Avery Kennedy, Flute, Sistema New Brunswick (Canada): “As musicians, we all have a lot of struggles, there are those moments that you are proud of, but there is a lot of stuff that you go through – doubting yourself, figuring out where you need help. We need programs that help us share in these struggles and not feel so alone. This will be a forum where students can understand what other people are going through and learn how to deal with problems together.”
Luara Baqueiro, Double Bass, NEOJIBA (Brazil): “My music goal as an orchestra member is to achieve high levels of empathy and be capable of leading the double-bassists (in Brazil we call the group that plays your instrument “naipe”, and the leader “chefe de naipe”).”
Linet Othieno, Saxophone, Ghetto Classics (Kenya): “My goal is to become a teacher and share my time with others. I want to practice, make it a routine, do more and work hard; being a part of this program would help very much.”
Aurian White, Cello, Sistema Whangerei (New Zealand): “As this is all new to me, I know there will be challenges but I am willing to face these head on and do my best to overcome them.”
Timor Sultani, Violin, El Sistema Sweden: “Me and some friends (all were refugees) played for the people who first thought ‘most refugees are bad people’ but after we played some of them came to us and said ‘we love you.’ I think the music is very effective.”
Stephen Ongoma, Violin, Ghetto Classics (Kenya): “First of all music is the only thing that reaches people of different status or background. Through music learning one is given knowledge which can be used to create awareness of social problems to be addressed. This is possible as it has worked in my life.”
Gizelle Polanco, Cello, Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (United States): “In the rather divided world we live in today, it’s important that something as prevalent and boundless as music is around to let people with different points of views and opinions appreciate something together.”
Jesmar Rodriguez, Double Bass, Fundación Musical Simón Bolívar (Venezuela): “En esta nueva etapa reforzamos con más motivación y actitud todos nuestros conocimientos que nuestros maestros nos legó porque El sistema de Venezuela es como una gran familia llena de valores y conocimientos que a través de la música nos permite seguir creciendo a un nivel personal, musical y profesional” “In this new stage we reinforce with more motivation and attitude all our knowledge that our teachers gave us because The Venezuelan system is like a big family, full of values and knowledge that through music allows us to continue growing on personal, musical and professional levels.”
Jennifer Ong, Viola, OrKidstra (Canada): “For ensembles, the greatest part is being able to build communities by playing music together, even if we do not speak the same language because the use of music is powerful enough to build strong connections between my peers.”
Amira Axelle Miel, Violin, Ang Misyon (The Philippines): “I love it when I meet people and have ordinary fun with them in conversation, but then we sit down in the orchestra together and we’re all focused and determined to perform beautiful music. I love that switch from knowing them as every day friends to seeing them as the talented musician they are. The magic of being a part of the whole music-making experience and knowing that we all have an important role to play never gets old.”
Author: Graciela Briceno, Managing Editor, The World Ensemble
Date Published: 31 December 2018