In Friday’s (10/23) Boston Globe, Geoff Edgers writes about a new fellowship program at New England Conservatory, “the first wave in the United States of a revolutionary Venezuelan program called El Sistema. El Sistema—officially known as the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras in Venezuela—is unlike any other music education program in the world. Since its founding in 1975, the program has taken more than a million children between the ages of 2 and 18, many of them poor, and provided them with instruments and free lessons, creating a new class of young musicians. … El Sistema USA is the first unified effort stateside. The plan is for the conservatory to train at least 50 people, starting with the first class of 10, over five years to open music educational centers, or ‘núcleos,’ in parts of the United States where children couldn’t normally afford instruments. ‘It’s a really big deal,’ said Jessica Balboni, director of the League of American Orchestras’ leadership academy, which trains future orchestra managers. ‘It’s opening up access and opportunity to poor kids and creating a new model for the music educator.’ … Here in Boston, the fellows are in class most days, learning the history of El Sistema, along with the teaching strategies behind the program. Through a year of work, they’ll develop a curriculum for their own núcleos and learn how to market, raise funds, and run an organization.”

October 23, 2009