Expanding the Ways We Evaluate Excellence

For twenty years, the initiative Animating Democracy, from Americans for the Arts, has been the most prominent national organization supporting arts for social and civic change in the United States.  A few years ago they produced a significant report called Aesthetic Perspectives, which provides a fresh framework for understanding and evaluating the quality of creative work that happens at the intersection of arts and civic engagement.

This report is particularly valuable for Sistema-inspired programs, because it opens up multiple ways we can evaluate quality and advocate for excellence in our programs. The report illuminates eleven ways in which excellence can be considered in such creative work, in place of the singular aesthetic of mainstream classical music. The very nature of Sistema programs is to aspire to social change first, and musical excellence as a means to it, so this new framework supports a wider view that is attuned to our programs. 

Recently, an additional report has been completed that explicitly explores the Aesthetic Perspectives for teaching artists. Teaching Artist Companion to the Aesthetic Perspectives Framework is written by Dennie Palmer Wolf (of WolfBrown; she is one of the foremost researchers on U.S. Sistema programs) and teaching artist Jeannette Rodríguez Píneda, with contributing teaching artists.  Although Animating Democracy is based in the U.S., this new aesthetic perspective has resonance for artists who work in music for social change programs around the world. 

Author: Eric Booth, Publisher, The World Ensemble

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