While attending a recent conference, I had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation about the National Network of Youth and Children's Orchestras of Venezuela, commonly known as "El Sistema" (the system). Started in 1975 in an underground parking garage by José Abreu with just eleven students, El Sistema has grown into an international phenomenon with programs spanning the globe.
During the session, the presenter spoke of the passion and sacrifice of El Sistema teachers. He spoke of their rich curricula that took their student musicians from zero to the national concert stage. He spoke of its power to transform lives and lift children from dire circumstances to some place better. He spoke of the fact that this program gave its deserving students the skills, musical and otherwise, to lead successful and productive lives. He showed multiple videos with young children smiling, happy, and making music with trumpets, violins, and flutes.
It was a provocative and evocative session, but something was amiss or missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but then it hit me. What was missing in the presentation was YOU! After all:
- Don’t you teach kids music with passion?
- Don't you sacrifice personally and professionally to be a teacher of music?
- Don’t you (or your colleagues) start kids from zero and take them to the national stage?
- Don’t you work with kids from dire circumstances?
- Don’t you give kids the skills needed to be successful in all of their lives?
- Don’t you create smiles and joy with trumpets, flutes, and violins?
The answer is YES!
In Venezuela, El Sistema is servicing a country where music is NOT a part of the school day, where music is not a mandated curricula, and where children don’t have access to ensemble experiences, which is tragic. But in America, WE are “the system.”
As the world recognizes and celebrates the work that they do, LET'S ALSO CELEBRATE THE WORK THAT YOU DO!
While were at it, let’s also recognize the fact that America has time and time again made the conscious choice to make music a part of EVERY child’s life. Let’s spread the word that there are a tireless group of college educated music evangelists traveling from cafetorium to cafetorium and eating lunch out of their cars to do so. Let’s rejoice that we have national events, competitions, and festivals that allow our students to perform in the finest of halls and receive feedback from the most qualified adjudicators. Let’s celebrate that we are not teaching in an underground parking garage but in well equipped facilities. Let’s celebrate that America stands alone in this world in it’s commitment to make music accessible to EVERY child that wants it, everywhere in this land as a part of the their school day.
Listen, we’re all trying to move the SAME needle in the SAME direction. And I say BRAVO to the good people of El Sistema, What they are doing, both abroad and here in America, is INCREDIBLE and I believe that José Abreu deserves a Noble Peace Prize for his work in Venezuela.
But if they give one to him, they're gonna have to print 122,000 more of them for each one of you.
Wouldn’t that be a special treat for Teacher Appreciation Week?!