Long-term In-School Partnership Programs and After-School Educational Programs

Now in its fifth year, El Sistema Lehigh Valley (ESLV) is transforming the lives of low-income students in the neighborhood of East Allentown through the power of music. In the five years since the program’s founding, there have been striking results in terms of student academic performance, attendance, and social behavior, strengthening chances of high school graduation and successful citizenship. This after-school program is helping to build a healthier community in a place that faces many socioeconomic challenges. ESLV started with 60 students and has grown to 105 in the current school year. The Allentown Symphony Association partners with the Allentown School District and other organizations at United Way Community Schools to increase the program’s collective impact. ESLV operates its main site at Roosevelt Elementary School, a recognized community champion and Title I school, which has won accolades for its striving performance. At this site, students in grades one to five receive ten hours each week of stringed instrument and choral instruction as well as homework tutoring. To maintain longitudinal engagement, a second ESLV site was established to serve 22 students in grades six to ten who have advanced to South Mountain Middle School. A month-long summer session is scheduled for July 2016.

  • Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, MD, for OrchKids

OrchKids: Planting Seeds for a Bright Future, is the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s flagship ‘music-for-social-change’ initiative. OrchKids was launched in 2008 at one school with just 30 students. Eight years later, it has grown to become the largest performing arts program offered in Baltimore City Public Schools. OrchKids is both a long-term in-school program and an intensive after-school program, delivered in partnership with the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS) and various cultural, civic, and educational institutions. Calling on the tenets of El Sistema including consistency, intensity, access, and excellence, OrchKids combines musical and social services to help students achieve their fullest potential and strengthen the communities in which these at-risk youths live and attend school. The 2015-2016 school year marks OrchKids’ eighth in operation. Each of the program’s four Title-I elementary school sites welcomed a new “class” of pre-K (starting age three) participants while participating OrchKids students matriculated into the next grade. Additionally, OrchKids’ launched its sixth site at Patterson Park Public Charter School adding 175 OrchKids to the program and increasing the number of students served to well over 1,000. OrchKids continues to be a model for El Sistema programs worldwide, regularly hosting visitors who study and learn what makes this program so successful.

  • El Paso Symphony Orchestra, TX, for Tocando

The El Paso Symphony Orchestra’s ongoing after-school program inspired by the El Sistema movement is called Tocando (toh-cahn-doh) – “to play.” Its intended outcome is to empower children in challenging social and economic conditions to improve their sense of community and opportunity through immersive music learning and performing. A primary goal is to improve students’ academic performance using music education as a vehicle for children to acquire valuable tools of teamwork, self-confidence, leadership, and academic success. Tocando serves seventy-five students in grades two-five, at two Title 1 elementary schools. Students participate through full scholarships provided by financial supporters, four days per week, Monday-Thursday, from 3:15-5:30pm. To keep students engaged on a year-round basis, Tocando also offers programming during the summer and intersession breaks. Tocando reaches students with high-quality teaching artists, professional development, and performance opportunities to expand their exposure to the arts.

Empire State Youth Orchestras has provided free private music lessons to economically disadvantaged students in New York’s Capital District for nearly two decades. The remarkable success of the Sistema movement spurred the organization to seek additional ways music might be used to build sustainable communities where families can thrive. In partnership with the Schenectady City School District, Empire State Youth Orchestras developed CHIME: Creating Harmony Invigorating Music Education. This year, CHIME will provide weekly lessons for 35 middle school students during the school day, and daily, ensemble-based instruction to 42 first-fourth graders afterschool. The organization predicts that students in the afterschool program will exhibit increased pro-social behavior and increased executive function skills, including working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control, all of which correlate to academic success. Through the community partnerships, CHIME will extend beyond each child to exert a positive influence on their families and schools and on the broader community.

The Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (MYO) is a youth and family development program of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra that aligns musical and social goals to engage at-risk youth and set them on course for graduating from high school, transitioning to college, and ultimately achieving future economic and social stability. MYO reaches 235 students and their families in the most challenged Indianapolis neighborhoods and guides them toward graduation through family-centered music education, positive role models, mentoring, and support services (with approximately 85 sessions per student). MYO is proud to report that since 2008, 100% of its high school seniors have graduated and 100% have transitioned to post-secondary education. The 20th Anniversary Season of MYO will see a renewed focus on strengthening an already successful program and deepening the experience of MYO students, families, teachers, and partners. Support will be used to fund MYO’s professional development program and to support a new school partnership with IPS Nicholson Academy.

Juneau, Alaska Music Matters (JAMM) is an El Sistema-inspired program partnership between the Juneau School District and the Juneau Symphony that uses the power of music and the social experience of the orchestra to inspire and motivate 600 elementary students, most of whom are low income and ethnically diverse, in three schools in Alaska’s capital city. Through school and community partnerships, JAMM works to fulfill its mission of access and equity, academic success, and student, parent, and community engagement. Four musicians selected through an audition and interview process will complete intensive coursework for a Masters of Arts in Teaching and K - 12 music certification at the University of Alaska Southeast, during which they will intern at JAMM sites and perform in eight Juneau Symphony concerts. Outcomes of this project serve the stated needs of four primary project partners: 1) An increase in Symphony musicians; 2) Increase in music staff at JAMM schools; 3) Four musicians well equipped to teach in public schools in Alaska and beyond, and 4) an increase in awareness and support for music within the community. The project targets four Masters of Arts students/musicians who in turn work with hundreds of elementary students, Symphony musicians, and the community at large.

Kalamazoo Kids in Tune (KKIT) program is an innovative after-school music and youth development program executed through a partnership with a social service agency, Communities in Schools, and Kalamazoo Public Schools. The KKIT philosophy is that all students can achieve academically, musically, socially, and emotionally by participating in a rigorous program with high expectations. Setting KKIT apart from other similar programs is the recruitment model, in which spaces are first offered to students who struggle with academics, behavior, oror school attendance; the integration of mindfulness practice into all areas of the program; the involvement of KSO musicians; and opportunities for routine, substantive involvement of Kalamazoo Junior Symphony members as mentors in the program. The program is free to participants and provides 33 weeks of activity plus a six-week summer program. Each week includes a daily nutritious meal, four hours of music instruction in groups and ensembles, 40 minutes each of mindfulness practice and academic clubs, two hours of homework, and bussing home. KKIT serves 85 students of diverse ethnicities, largely African American (55%), Caucasian (20%), and Hispanic (18%). More than 80% of students in the school are eligible for subsidized meals, and Woods Lake Elementary is a Michigan Priority School (performing in the lowest 5%).

Kidznotes will serve approximately 220 students from Durham and 110 students from Raleigh in the 2015–16 academic year. In order to impact populations in need, Kidznotes partners with Title-1 public schools in which over 40% of students live in poverty. Kidznotes students receive an orchestral instrument of their own and eight-ten hours each week of instruction in choir, orchestra, music theory, and band for 40 weeks of the school year at no cost. Students participate in three after-school sessions per week and combined orchestra rehearsals each Saturday. Kidznotes also hosts a three-week summer camp, providing 24 hours of instruction each week for a total of nearly 500 hours of instruction every year. Kidznotes strives to inspire intellectual, social, and emotional development by engaging children in an after-school program dedicated to learning classical music. This project will increase impact as Raleigh enrollment expands to 185 students.

Youth Orchestra LA (YOLA) breaks down the economic barriers to receiving a high-quality music education by providing free after-school instrumental instruction, ensemble performance opportunities, and academic support to children in underserved communities. Though students enter the program with little or no understanding of musical concepts, within months they are performing in ensembles and on stage with the LA Phil’s professional musicians in front of large audiences. More than simply a music education program, YOLA is intended to act as an agent of social change—connecting children and their families to a musical experience with the potential to transform the community, create opportunities for achievement across social strata, and instill a sense of self-worth in its participants. The children who participate in Youth Orchestra LA and the YOLA Neighborhood Project live in neighborhoods that fall into the lowest socioeconomic sector in the nation, with 75% of families’ household incomes at or below $20,000 per year. Neighborhoods served by YOLA have significant immigrant populations and among the highest population densities in the country. Over 50% of the adults in YOLA neighborhoods lack a high school diploma, and rates of incarceration are disproportionately high, portending a bleak future for many children. YOLA currently serves 730 students at three program sites. Students receive 700 hours of instruction per year including instruction, sectionals, and tutoring four nights per week and rehearsals on Saturday mornings.

NJSO CHAMPS is an intensive afterschool music program inspired by the El Sistema model. The program serves students at University Heights Charter School, where the population is 100% minority and 85% low-income. Students reside in Newark, where 32.6% of families with children are living below the poverty line. NJSO CHAMPS addresses the school’s need for a dedicated instrumental instruction program and the community’s need for arts enrichment that empowers students to succeed. The NJSO seeks to introduce this model to the Newark Public Schools over time. The primary activities of NJSO CHAMPS include up to 30 weeks of hands-on instruction, musicianship lessons, workshops by professional musicians, student performances and peer exchange opportunities for up to 60 students, grades three-eight. These activities seek to develop students’ abilities to appreciate, understand, and perform classical music. They also develop students’ perseverance, prosocial behaviors, intrapersonal skills and academic achievement. NJSO CHAMPS was expanded this year to include third graders, six guest artist workshops, a summer camp with the El Sistema New Jersey Alliance, and several community-based student performances.

New West Symphony Harmony Project is a youth development program that promotes the healthy growth and development of children through music. The program currently serves 140 low-income students from Title I Schools in Ventura, CA. An affiliate of Harmony Project Los Angeles, the program provides tuition-free afterschool music instruction for children in third grade through high school graduation. The goal is to bridge the socio-economic and academic gap, in partnership with the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD), through instrumental music education, which is currently nonexistent in the elementary schools. In addition to group instrumental music lessons, students participate in ensemble rehearsals, performances, assessment “juries,” musical exchanges, and peer mentoring/leadership. The intended outcome is that students show improvement in their grades, test scores, and program attendance throughout their participation, and that all students graduate from high school. The program aims for VUSD middle and high school music programs to be more socio-economically and ethnically diverse, thus more accurately reflecting the community. Each student attends classes two-five days per week, depending on their age and level, and receives four-eight hours of music education per week. By collaborating with students, families, and local partners, the program strives to build a stronger, healthier, and more musically engaged community.

Youth Orchestra of St. Luke’s is a transformative cultural resource for children in the underserved community of Hell’s Kitchen. Through immersive musical study, mentorships with Orchestra of St. Luke’s musicians, and access to cultural experiences, children and families benefit from the myriad advantages of musical study. After two successful years, YOSL focuses on expanding program commitments and community involvement during the 2015-16 season. The program will serve 103 children (a 20% increase) through rigorous after-school music instruction, inspired by El Sistema’s collaborative approach. More than 1,000 program hours will be offered through rehearsals and supplementary programs with partners at Carnegie Hall, New York Youth Symphony, and mission-aligned organizations. Beyond YOSL’s daily activities, participating families will receive free tickets to OSL performances where students can see their musician mentors performing at the highest level of artistic excellence. YOSL is a strategic area of growth for OSL, which endeavors to deepen relationships with the local community and serve as a model to other orchestras seeking sustained community engagement.

San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory’s Community Opus Project conducts four afterschool programs providing free music instruction and performance opportunities for 350 primarily Hispanic, low-income students in Chula Vista, CA. Most are in third through sixth grade; 35 are in middle school. Elementary students meet for two-hour sessions twice a week for 34 weeks. The middle school students have been learning music for four-five years and are in a chamber music program that meets with the Music Director for one hour per week in groups of four-five. As a result of Opus, the Chula Vista Elementary School District committed in 2013 to restore music education for its 30,000 students. The afterschool programs serve students attending schools that have not yet hired a music teacher and students who desire a more advanced music experience. The numbers of students served doubled this year at the District’s request. The afterschool programs are part of a collaboration among SDYS, the District, and other local partners to build an affordable community-based comprehensive music learning experience for Chula Vista’s youth.

The Endangered Instruments Program (EIP) serves public middle school students who are already studying an instrument in their school but are willing to transition to a less-studied “endangered” instrument (oboe, bassoon, viola, double bass, French horn, trombone, and tuba). Southwest Seattle String Project (SW Strings) serves elementary and middle school students attending schools in the Southwest “pathway” of Seattle Public Schools, especially members of minority groups that have been identified by the district as having less access to instrumental music programs. Southwest Seattle is a highly diverse part of the city and has the district’s highest participation in free or reduced priced lunch programs (62.6%). The Secondary Orchestra Mentorship Program helps secondary school band teachers who teach orchestra, as well as orchestra teachers who need to improve their string pedagogy skills. String students of these teachers receive up to fifteen hours of free instruction during demonstrations of string pedagogy techniques by their teachers’ SYSO coach/mentor.

Bravo Waterbury! serves 226 inner-city children living in poverty in Waterbury, CT. Students receive vocal, percussion, and instrumental music classes four-five days per week, from two and a half to three and a half  hours per day, eleven months per year. Each child receives 200 sessions per year. Personal and social development are encouraged through group participation, resulting in positive measurable outcomes. Artist-teachers provide 11,600 hours of instruction, with students performing in a safe and supportive environment. More than 15,000 audience members will attend one of Bravo's more than 50 concerts and workshops.

Yakima Music en Acción (YAMA) is an after-school music-based social action program established in 2013 at Garfield Elementary School, a Title I school in a high-crime, high-poverty area of Yakima, Washington. YSO has funded a Teaching Artist Program since 2014, through which musicians from the symphony roster serve as teachers and mentors for YAMA students; the program currently serves 66 students from ten schools, grades three-eight. With ten hours per week of intensive orchestral training over 28 weeks in a supportive team-based learning environment, students develop cognitive and non-cognitive skills and social connections which help them overcome barriers to success. YAMA will develop Yakima Symphony Orchestra’s Teaching Artist program with an emphasis on retaining and advancing older students, as well as helping sustain basic administrative functions of the core YAMA program.