Tonight my co-blogger abc41 and I went to a benefit concert/recital in Vallejo, CA, where our church choir director is helping to launch an El Sistema-inspired program, “Awake the Music Vallejo.” More power to them! When I find out if they have a way to collect donations, I’ll update this entry. But in that spirit, I encourage you to explore the map of El Sistema programs in the United States and support one of those.
Perhaps you’ve heard of El Sistema, the marvelous program in Venezuela that provides years of music education for many hundreds of thousands of at-risk kids. Its showpiece, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra – now called the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra – is currently touring the US, to rave reviews everywhere they play. The success of the program has spawned similar efforts all over the globe, including here in the US – where a decade (at least) of budget cuts and sad ideas about education in the arts being a “luxury item” have compelled public schools to eliminate music programs and curricula. Even though study after study demonstrates that music students do better in high school and college.