Establishing an Sistema-based program in Australia.
Establishing an El Sistema-based music program for children in communities in Australia involves incorporating the basic fundamentals of El Sistema – as practised both in Venezuela and in several nations around the world. Typically it includes the following:
- The provision of a free to the child, community-based, intensive music program for children, within the community of an orchestra, based on instrument tuition in the context of ensemble and choir;
- Making music and the creation of music available to all who want it - being inclusive;
- Child-centric and focused;
- Learning by doing;
- Seeking and developing excellence in their music making;
- Providing a rich and powerful repertoire of music;
- Encouraging the natural inclination of children to share and help each other learn things they know - every child is a teacher;
- Providing love and joy through attention and application - always encouraging, never demoting;
- Providing a safe environment to both fail and learn;
- Allowing children of all backgrounds and upbringings to work together in mutual harmony
Such programs are community-based and extensible. A pilot can easily be migrated to a full school community-wide program.
Very importantly however, Sistema-based programs are not simply viable for disadvantaged communities, but for any community. The disadvantaged ones however, are those who have most to gain from this program as their needs for the benefits it offers are great. It is in such environments that the greatest social good can be realised. Inevitably however, it must be for any child, within the vicinity of a Sistema program to be able to apply and join. It is inclusive – not exclusive.
A partnership and collaboration model
El Sistema-based programs are quite complex and require several areas of expertise and support, in enabling the program to run with flexibility, intensity and the right mix of social and musical enterprise.
The recommended program model is a “partnership” or collaboration between a local community, a school(s), regional business, local government, state government, a regional symphony orchestra and Sistema Australia. This enables the component organisations to each do what they do, well – the solution becoming “greater than the sum of the parts” – and spreading the load of the delivery of the program to the community as a whole. This is why the collaboration model is being reproduced across the world, because it enables communities to establish high calibre programs both effectively and efficiently.
There are three distinct beneficiaries from the development of El Sistema-based programs:
The children – who are exposed to music, to the creation of an orchestra and choir community, and to a new perspective on life – as capable, creative and positive human beings. They gain not only the intrinsic values and benefits of music, but also the extrinsic ones - Children with a music background listen better, concentrate longer, think more clearly, work happily in abstraction, are less distracted in class and tend to be high achievers in all fields of study. Countless studies have show this to be the case.
The Parents – who will gain happier, more socially adept children, who are working well academically as well as musically – and some peace of mind, time to themselves and their work (when the children are no longer home alone, or having to be picked up at 3PM, or potentially roaming the streets). It has the potential to provide a future for their children.
The Community – who will get the benefits of a youth who are less disconnected from their community – where the young people are prevented from being exposed to delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse and crime – but instead are safe, becoming socialised and occupied with a worthwhile activity making music for and within their community.
The partners also stand to gain much from this program.The face of music and performance is changing and we all need to be across these and discover new ways of teaching, of preparing musicians, of raising adaptive, clever children to adulthood – so that they can be the best they can be – as musicians or in whatever profession they pursue.
The difference between El Sistema and other programs
While there are several music programs across Australia which offer free music programs for disadvantaged children, the El Sistema-based program being offered is the only one which offers an intensive after-hours, orchestra and instrument-based, non-selective music program. Also it provides a free instrument as well as free tuition for every child.
It works on the basis that the best way to become a musician is to be a musician – to learn on the job – to learn by doing, and refining as you go, or put more simply still, “music first, refinement second”. This too is unique. It has no auditions, no examinations, and is about positive encouragement in music making.
It is the only program that we are aware of which provides all of this, after-school, for multiple days per week with up to 10 hours of tuition, each and every week of term.
Uniquely, El Sistema focuses entirely on classical music, the orchestra and choir. It is not about hiphop, rock music or jazz, as important as these genres are.
Beautiful music, is beautiful music whatever the genre, so children love the music they play just as much as the popular music on their iPods.
Very importantly it is taught by wonderful teaching artists – those who play professionally, as well as love to teach children. Typically they are, young, passionate, musicians, and qualified music teachers, given specialised training to help them with the specifics of Sistema-based programs, and teaching within this framework.
Few programs deliver both a positive outcome socially and give children and young people opportunities to become wonderful artists as well! Many will go on to take music and music education as their career path, and far more still will go on to industry but will take their love of music and their joy in playing it into their communities.
For more details on establishment of such programs, please contact Sistema Australia.