"The whole country of Canada seems on fire with the idea that El Sistema programs must be implemented as quickly as possible. One is already flourishing in Ottawa, and another has just been launched in New Brunswick. Spending time with Dr. Abreu is always a profound inspiration. Hearing him express the ideas of El Sistema in even more powerful ways and feeling the energy and hope of the listeners was thrilling. He mentioned the Abreu Fellows several times in his speeches, clearly looking to you as the backbone of the proliferation of El Sistema not only in the US but also in the world. Gustavo Dudamel and the other El Sistema leaders also send their best wishes and congratulations, very much looking forward to see you in Venezuela."
Our week focused on curriculum planning and child development. The Director of Education Activities for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gretchen Neilsen, lead our first three days about curriculum development and introduced me to the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) program. Gretchen is one of the key movers of El Sistema in the US as the key leader behind the LA Phil’s new El Sistema inspired programs and partnerships and she didn't withhold any wisdom or advice. She personally listened to my ideas and helped me to make sketches of how best to implement the nucleos I plan to start next fall. For each idea, we went through these steps:
- What's the local environment and context
- Project Goals: What are the broad long-term desired results of my project
- Project Resources: What resources are you investing in this innovation to achieve your project goals? (human, financial, organizational, and community resources)
- Project Activities: Using these resources, what activities are you carrying out to achieve your project goals?
- Project Outcomes: What measurable benefits (to your internal and external stakeholders) do you expect over time as a result of your project activities? What are the broad long-term desired results of your project?
- Project indicators: What are the indicators you will track to measure the progress towards your project outcomes?
Once I answered all of these questions, I had a pretty good model to help me design my curriculum and strategic plan for my programs. These are plans that are being used to explore the possibilities in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Reading (PA). I can't wait to reveal how those plans take shape into nucleos. Stay tuned!
We also spent the week with Sebastian Ruth from Providence, Rhode Island's Community Music Works program. He talked about the differences between working with beginning students and intermediate/advanced students (aside from the literal curriculum) – also thinking about working with students over time and how this impacts program design; general issues of motivation; working with multiple cultures and ethnicities of students in an urban area. What an impressive program!
We had Eli Newberger come speak with us about child development issues that might come up in our work – including how to motivate students, and how to handle behavioral issues. I believe we have become partially literate in understanding boy and girl developmental differences, particularly in early and late adolescence. We grasped a sense of some of the important entry points for music in children's lives. Eli has written an amazing book, "The Men They Will Become" - I hope you get a chance to read this book!