Saturday, December 11, 2010

Last Week 2010

We only have one more week of seminars for 2010 and we will be spending most of it in New York visiting Anne Fitzgibbon's Harmony Program. Our schedule in New York is packed. Some of the highlights are dinner with Jamie Bernstein, a meeting with people at the League of American Orchestras, and a trip to the TED offices. All this in 3 days! After that we are back in Boston tying up loose ends and then breaking for the holidays. I am especially looking forward to this break because for me it means I get to see my daughter and my husband whom I've missed dearly these past months in Boston.

This past week we've been talking a lot about marketing, budgeting and fundraising. Ellen Pfeifer, NEC's public relations manager talked to us about press releases, mailing lists, and media. We also talked a lot about online marketing.

Now I have a list of things I need to get done in order to bring myself up to date with all the social media resources starting by linking all of my different accounts. I would like to invite all of you to follow me on twitter if you are not already.
You can follow me @ mariemontilla

I have a private profile on facebook but on my list is to create a facebook PAGE which I will let you know when it's up.  Until then, have a great weekend!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Fact Finding

This past week, we've been talking about case-for-need documents in seminar. While Baltimore was filled with hands-on experience of working with children and seeing the difference music makes in their lives, this week we are focused on how the planning process can be the difference between success and failure.

As musicians and teaching artists we take so much for granted. We forget, or may even be unaware, of the amount of work that goes into planning to make our programs possible. If you work in a large arts organization like an orchestra, music conservatory, or even for a small music school or community music initiative, chances are you are aware of some of this to a degree. Theory of change and return on investment are two things I am focusing on this week. So many of us know about the benefits of El Sistema, so many of us are music education advocates, but how many of us really know about the theory behind the approach? How many of us can articulate well how music education can impact a child's world?

If you can change the possible outcomes, if you can change the educational trajectory of a child's life, that is the key element out of which everything else is driven. We can hypothesise, we can predict the outcomes, but part of our design is to study our own outcomes and that is where our successes await. "Organizations that are built well are built to learn".

Right now I am thinking a lot about outcomes. I am thinking a lot about attempting to change people's behaviour over time. That my friends is the "art of the possible".

I realize after all these weeks of seminars that I am in a "fact finding state". This of course is just a stage in the planning process, but I know now that it is an important stage. I am figuring out what it is that I can build, and more importantly, that I want to build something that can bring about change.

I feel that a lot of what we have been covering in seminars this year has been exploration. It is only now that I feel like I am at a "point of departure". This is the stage of development that I am in right now, and I look forward to sharing with you more on where I go from here.

I am starting to think like a program director and am filled with ideas worth building. I just want to end by saying this:

"That which can be built can be improved" I look forward to sharing my 'notes' with you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Baltimore Deconstructed

A couple of weeks ago the Abreu Fellows went on a trip to Baltimore. We stayed at a lovely hostel at Peabody Conservatory and were hosted by the Baltimore Symphony's OrchKids program. We were invited guests brought in to teach and observe and this blog entry is about that experience. What is the  OrchKids program? It is an El Sistema inspired program running in West Baltimore. On their website it says they are "planting seeds for a bright future". They operate in an elementary school and offer after-school music instruction 5 days a week. They work in partnership with the school district, the symphony, and collaborate with the in-school music and band teachers.

I went to Baltimore not with a critical eye, but rather with a magnifying glass. Looking to observe and learn as much as I could, I found myself trying to identify the elements of El Sistema that were being applied successfully. After all, one of the recurring questions I hear from organizations interested in using the El Sistema model is "how can it be applied to our kids, our communities, we are not Venezuela". I was looking back at my notes from our session with Eric Booth from October and was reminded of two of the most important factors that define an El Sistema program:

#1. Fun
#2. Every Child is an Asset

I saw this in Baltimore. The kids are clearly having fun, they show up! All day in their classes they look forward to after-school when they get to play their instruments. And the system of equity that OrchKids uses is a simple structure that helps every child feel like an asset: equal inclusion! The performance we put together used the choir, the brass, the woodwinds, the strings, the bucket band, and even the pre-K and kindergarten students had their part. In our final performance we even gave the audience a part to play!

Another important element of El Sistema is the use of performances as a tool for teaching, which is why we didn't go to Baltimore for 5 days to observe, or just teach. We went to put together a performance. Yes, a performance! 10 Fellows, over 100 OrchKids, 5 days (dress rehearsal was on day 4!). This was the perfect example of music education happening on a stage.

The next point I would like to talk about is one that was highly debated amongst the Fellows: scaffolding. How do we build the steps towards accomplishments for the students to feel successful at every step? We had them play music we were sure they would be successful performing. This is education based on the pleasure system. Because we gave the kids music and parts they could master and do well in 4 days, their feelings of joy and satisfaction during and after the performance were very high.

In the end, our experience in Baltimore was one of great collaboration and unforgettable moments. We met great kids with "bright futures" and came back with a renewed sense of confidence.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Back from Baltimore

I am back from Baltimore where I spent the week with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's OrchKids program. The program director, Daniel Trahey, gave us the opportunity to put together a performance with all the students enrolled in the OrchKids program. We arrived on Monday and by Friday we had a concert ready. It was a wonderful experience and one I am anxious to blog about but I need some time to fully digest the experience. I will be back soon to share with you my notes on my week with OrchKids. What I can tell you now is that OrchKids IS El Sistema! I was excited to see that the movement for social change through music is alive and strong in West Baltimore, a place in desperate need. Thank you to Dan, Nick, Molly, Rafaela, Jill, Ms. Jeffreys, and to all the wonderful children for allowing us to come and work with you. It was truly an unforgettable experience. I can't wait to go back!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

At the CORE....

"At the core is the belief that every child can excel"

We are building a new world based on this idea. In the discussions that take place around our conference table, the use of negatives is rare. We talk about the future, we talk about possibilities, we talk about strategies and how to implement them.  The work we are about to dive into calls for a great deal of self-assessment and planning. We are talking about impacting the world, specifically the world of children. At the core is the belief that every child can excel, and this is why we are determined and dedicated to see El Sistema USA succeed.

This week we have been hearing about case-for-need documents, delphi survey techniques, contracts, funders, capacity building, and social entrepreneurialship. We have been talking about cost-per-child, return-on-investment, and program benefits. The through-line that makes sense of all of this is always clear to us: we want our programs to have successful impact on the community. El Sistema USA is building that successful track record, from garnering funds at both the local and national levels to getting communities involved with students and parents signing up. Our partnership possibilities are endless. We can partner with  public and charter schools, local youth orchestras, institutions of higher education, and even symphony orchestras.

Our goals are clear and our vision accessible.  TUNE UP Philly is an El Sistema inspired program in partnership with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra and their mission is this:

"We believe that music education is a powerful vehicle for children to master skills that will enable them to acquire valuable tools for cooperative learning, teamwork, academic success and self-esteem." the core is the belief that every child can excel

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Build with vision

We got to spend the afternoon with Sebastian Ruth today. He came to talk to us about "how to build an organization based on what you believe". Sebastian Ruth is founder and artistic director of Community Music Works in Rhode Island and a 2010 MacArthur Fellow.

Sebastian talked to us about what it means to try and engage in social change. We discussed the idea of musicians being social advocates and the role music educators have in influencing their student's participation in a wider civic and cultural world. Sebastian talked about listening to students and really trying to engage their ideas. He made reference to Paulo Freire's book Pedagogy of the Oppressed calling on us to craft our own pedagogy of music.

Sebastian Ruth built Community Music Works based on a servant-leader model. He went into Providence and said "I am here to respect and fundamentally become part of the community" and that's just what he did. He built his organization on a vision that has three important pillars:

1) Reciprocal interaction
2) New Idea or re-imagination of service
3) Teaching and performance are mutually supportive

Community Music Works was founded in 1997. In 2010, thirteen years later, it is a vibrant part of the cultural community in Providence. This year the students of CMW got to meet the first lady Michelle Obama and Sebastian has won the MacArthur Genius grant which is a $500,000 'no strings attached' grant dispersed over a period of 5 years. They serve 110 kids in a three phase program which not only teaches music but also civic values. CMW is a great example of an organization built on vision, and if we learn anything from Sebastian's example it is this:

"It can take a long time to see your vision become reality, but you can have an operational program long before achieving your vision".

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Excellence guided learning / Performance as a tool for teaching

Excellence guided learning is what El Sistema is all about. This is one of the things that we have to establish in our future nucleos. The standard of excellence has to be established and maintained at all possible levels, from the director, all the way down to the individual student.

In a nucleo setting, standard of excellence is established by having high expectations early-on. The most important part of making sure that excellence is achieved may very well be in how these high expectations are handed to students. The word 'scaffolding' has come up a lot in our seminars and we have been talking about the idea of high expectations through manageable goals. This has everything to do with scaffolding. We have to remember that the smaller more attainable goals that we give to students still display a standard of excellence at every level.

Soon we will be heading to Baltimore to visit ORCHkids which is a nucleo attached to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. I am curious to see how the Symphony Orchestra Model works, especially since I will be deciding this year what model I would like to work with or build. What I am most interested to see in Baltimore is how standard of excellence is being upheld.

Our week in Baltimore is going to be spent preparing a performance with the students of ORCHkids. This is important because another key in the success of El Sistema is the use of performance as a tool for teaching.  This week a great question was asked in our Friday afternoon debrief and I would like to pose it to all of you:

How can music education happen on a stage?

In Venezuela, students perform a lot. In a standard nucleo, performance is used as a tool to teach. When we head to Baltimore to work with ORCHkids, we will be doing just that. I would love to hear your comments on this and look forward to reporting back to you on how our week in Baltimore turns out, so let's share 'Notes'

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The power of change

Do you believe in the power of change? This is such an important question and yet a lot of us don't really understand what it means. Answering it inevitably carries implications that we may not yet be ready to handle. Some of these implications can take shape as assumptions, some may be inferred, but we cannot deny the connection that links them to the ultimate answer which is deeply rooted in personal truth, trust, and ultimate conviction. After all, what is belief if not something we regard to be true. When we talk about things that are true we talk about validity, accuracy and facts. But how do we make the connection from fact, to truth, to change. How can we validate something that has not yet happened? To believe in the power of change is to accept that we are talking in the abstract based on a knowledge of experience of change that may or may not apply to the current change we are after.

Here is a simpler and more practical way of looking at this. How do I put into writing in a grant document that the change that I so passionately believe in has not yet occurred in measurable verifiable action?

Let us center this argument even more by defining exactly the change on which we base our belief. For us, social change translates to community empowerment. Community empowerment is achieved by enriching the lives of people through commitment and contribution. What are we contributing? Access to a valuable resource: Music!

To allow is to empower. We need to allow kids the chance not only to experience music, but also to learn and participate in music making. I do not mean in run-out concerts and educational outreach programs. Going to a community and performing once or twice and then expecting for people from that community to come to your performances is not realistic. 

The power of change only works if you we stick to our convictions and never jump ship. The data we need to prove the long term life changing impact music education has on young people can only be compiled if we commit to granting access to it to the communities that need it most.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What are we doing?

If you are wondering what we are doing at the Abreu Fellowship Program this is a good place to look. I am writing this blog in an attempt to share with you and in essence give you a bird's eye view of our conference room. The list of speakers who have come in to lead our seminars is impressive, from El Sistema USA senior advisor, non-profit specialists, partnership gurus, scholars on children-at-risk, to authorities on urban education, and El Sistema consultants. We are getting exclusive, exceptional, and expert education in the form of an exercise for the jobs we will hold in the near future.

Fellowship is used sometimes as a synonym for awareness, familiarity, and understanding. At the Abreu Fellowship program, we are practicing all three of these and then some. Our consciousness of topics such as child development, community engagement, creative strategies, program design, marketing, and budgeting is being challenged on a consistent basis through focused seminars guided by brilliant experts in these fields.

In the end, after all the discussions, after studying subjects and deliberating arguments, we don't come up with concrete answers. What we do come up with are a series of potent questions that serve as a pathway towards finding methodology. These questions are powerful and relevant and are crucial in the debate of what we will do in the future. Answering these questions will inevitably shape our strategies and hopefully propel us towards our collective goal. In case you have not heard, our goal is to transform communities through the power of music education. Recent history has unveiled for us the power music education possesses by example: El Sistema Venezuela. Our job is to unfold it and spread it as far as the eye can see. Our eyes are set on making this a reality in communities all over the United States.

I want to share with you some of the questions that are taking shape in our dialogues in the hopes that you might contribute to finding the answers.

I have mentioned in my previous blog entry the idea of "passion driven education", so here is a question for you:

How do you synthesise or structure passion and organization?

Two more questions I want to share with you:

How do you change the perception or the branding of classical music in the United States?

How can what we are doing with El Sistema be an intervention for kids in poverty?

These are some tough questions. We hope to find the answers to these questions and to the dozens more that directly shape our approach to successfully implementing the El Sistema model in the U.S.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Connecting and Engaging Communities

How do the arts connect to communities? In the United States right now there are so many arts organizations that have been around for decades, yet so many of them find the task of connecting to their communities to be a real challenge. Arts education and outreach programs exist in almost every major city in America, yet somehow they are not fully succeeding at engaging their surrounding communities. These organizations need to find a new model for reaching out to their audiences and most importantly, they need to identify a successful way to activate and sustain their audience's engagement.

In Venezuela, El Sistema has managed to connect to their communities by using music as a "vehicle for  development". Their model is innovative but has a clear mission.Their approach of "sharing the knowledge of music with under-served populations" has produced such a clear outcome that the whole world is paying attention and now wants to learn.

Arts organizations in the US can learn a lot from this Venezuelan model but may not have the time to go and observe El Sistema for weeks or months, although some have. Some of the important lessons to learn from El Sistema aren't new ideas, they are just ideas that have not been implemented here before, at least not with the proper dedication of time and energy. If there is one thing I would underline that has to be done, it's the investment of time. Time could mean years, and years translates to a big financial investment for a lot of these institutions. But that's what it takes. We cannot expect to build sustainable community engagement in a few months, or with a handful of run-out concerts or music workshops.  If we want to really create interest we have to impact crowds and target arts education in innovative ways. We have to use alternative pedagogy, what some expert teaching artists call "passion driven education".

Some of us may have a hard time adjusting to these ideas. Our personal backgrounds and ways of doing things can "conflict" with the El Sistema model. If you find yourself in this position, I encourage you do investigate just a little, and identify for yourself the successes of this model. I admit I am an advocate for El Sistema. My job is simple, as Eric Booth describes it: "the purpose of advocacy is not to change what people think but to change what people do, and what people do is based on what they believe. If you change what people believe, you can get them to change". As an advocate for El Sistema USA, I am dedicated to changing how arts organizations approach and interact with their communities and am on a quest to challenge what they believe they know to be true about community engagement.

If you have any thoughts, please comment.....

Let's share 'Notes'

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What is "El Sistema" ?

I knew about "El Sistema" long before I went to live in Venezuela. I had put together an idea in my mind of what it was based entirely on snippets of information I had gathered from meeting musicians from Venezuela. My husband (Venezuelan clarinetist Jorge Montilla ) had told me quite a bit about it because he grew up in it and has been and still is an active member and teacher in "El Sistema" for 30 years now. But it wasn't until I became involved in "El Sistema" that I really understood what it was all about. Nothing could have prepared me for what I witnessed in Venezuela. I remember someone telling me that the "most important thing happening in music today is happening in Venezuela". A quote I later found out came from the video "Tocar y Luchar" which is a documentary about “El Sistema”. What I saw, heard and experienced in Venezuela made that statement come to life. I tried to explain to my friends what life is like in Venezuela for musicians and music lovers with words. Words like: unbelievable, astonishing, exciting, mesmerizing, and moving came to mind. But sometimes words are not enough. Sometimes you need some hype and mass media coverage to get a point across and this is what is happening now with “ El Sistema”. I can tell you that the hype and excitement about” El Sistema” is for a good reason. “El Sistema” is changing the world of classical music as we know it. Change is here, and change is not only good, it's exciting and is filling us with great expectations for the future. When was the last time you thought about the future of classical music and felt excited or hopeful? For me, “El Sistema” is the future of classical music. I am choosing my words very carefully here. I am not saying that “ El Sistema” is the future of classical musicians, or the future of orchestras, or the future of music education. I mean it is the future of everything we know that encompasses classical music. Before I get into that though, I want to write a little more about what I saw and heard during my 3 years living in Venezuela.

In 2007 I moved to Venezuela with my husband Jorge and our then 3 year old daughter Lilian. My husband immediately started playing as Principal Clarinet of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra. I, on the other hand, did not start working immediately; I wanted to get to know Venezuela a little and especially the local community where I was going to be living. But, what better way to get to know your community than to dive right in and start working, right? So that's what I decided to do. Looking back, I have to say that I was very fortunate and lucky to have gotten the opportunity to teach and be a part of "El Sistema" in Venezuela. It turned out to be one of the most inspirational jobs I've ever had. I worked at the "Nucleo San Antonio de los Altos". I taught violin to children and youth ranging from ages 6 to 20. I lead sectionals for orchestra, and conducted orchestra rehearsals and concerts. The "Nucleo San Antonio de los Altos" had only been operational for a year when I joined the staff of teachers. In the time I spent teaching there, I got to see the 'nucleo' grow and blossom. They are in their fifth year now and have become an important part of the community of San Antonio de los Altos, a small town located about 10 kilometers from Caracas. They serve over 400 kids 6 days a week, 3 hours a day, and offer orchestra and choir. The kids perform for virtually every local event and the surrounding community shows their support by attending concerts which usually are standing room only because the seats fill up quickly.

So, how does "El Sistema" achieve this? How do they build small community music schools that grow to take on central roles in the lives of the cities they serve? They do it through passion, love, and hard work. Teachers in 'nucleos' in Venezuela are passionate about their work, they love the children they work with, and they show up Monday through Saturday to demonstrate their passion, love and dedication. The end result speaks for itself and all the hype and mass media coverage is trying to show the world how this concept of passion, love and hard work is changing the face of classical music. I worked in "El Sistema" and saw first-hand the passion and love teachers and directors have for their students. I can attest to the kids presence 6 days a week, 3 hours a day, working hard and having fun in the safe environment their 'nucleo' provides. I've seen people walk into our concerts just because it's the local kids performing. There is something special about kids performing that warms our hearts. And in Venezuela, "El Sistema" has tapped into our universal need to see children succeed because somehow, their success is our success. Their achievements are our achievements. We find comfort in the knowledge that children are not out creating mischief, but rather they are in a safe place working hard. There is nothing nobler than a life with purpose. And the 'nucleo' provides that purpose to hundreds of kids who otherwise wouldn't know where to turn to or what to do. Tavis Smiley came to interview us at the Abreu Fellowship program this week and made a comment about how so many kids today seem lost and are searching. They are searching for purpose, and "El Sistema" is filling that need by putting a musical instrument in the hands of thousands of these kids and giving them free membership to a kind of fraternity that is inclusive and welcoming. And that fraternity is orchestra!

Can you imagine a world where orchestra is cool? A world where enjoying classical music is not elitist, but rather a natural and wonderful thing to do? This is how it is in Venezuela. They use classical music and orchestral repertoire in their 'nucleos' and because they have been doing this for over 35 years in local music schools all over the country, in Venezuela, classical music is cool. It is not elitist, it is inclusive and for everyone. I know that "El Sistema" is a lot of things, but to me it really is the future of classical music. "El Sistema" is a world where classical music is shared. Those of us who are lucky enough to have studied classical music know all of its benefits and music educators have for many decades tried to convince the general public of its value. "El Sistema" has found the perfect pathway to making this available to everyone, by placing classical music in the heart of the communities that are furthest from it. We can talk about the resulting social changes that have occurred because of this, but what I want to focus on today is how "El Sistema" has gotten hundreds of thousands of people excited about classical music. We can be optimistic about the future of classical music because "El Sistema USA" is spreading the seeds of excitement and optimism throughout small communities all over the U.S.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Let's Change the World

Let's change the world! Sounds ambitions doesn't it?

Well, we at the Abreu Fellowship Program think it is possible. I am honored to be part of an amazing team of Fellows and fortunate to be in an environment where people are excited about the future of music education.

This week I got to meet Tony Woodcock, president of the New England Conservatory. His excitement and energy is infectious and his belief in the power and potential of this program is inspiring. This year we will be having sessions with him regarding presentation and public speaking. But what's most exciting is the opportunity to exchange ideas with a person who is actively revitalizing the world of music and challenging others to do the same. If you are not familiar with Tony Woodcock, I invite you to listen to a presentation he gave recently at the Salzburg Global Seminars. Click  here to listen to his presentation.

How can we change the world? "Let's be Creative". Tony Woodcock invites us to re-evaluate our role by asking these questions:

-What is the role of a musician?
-What are the skills needed for contemporary society?

Creativity is not lacking in musicians and at NEC, Tony Woodcock is teaching us to trust and empower musicians because, together we can change the world. But how? Well, first we have to have a plan!
On Tuesday October 5th, Greg Kandel will be speaking to us about strategic planning. Kandel is a “partner of Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc., a consulting firm serving the American cultural community since 1983 through strategic planning, executive search, and organizational analysis”. He is also a contributor for the resources section on the National Endowment for the Arts webpage. You can Click  here to read his paper The Art in the Process of Planning . I am excited to hear what Greg has to say to us. I was recently reading a draft copy of one of Greg Kandel’s papers, and in it he quoted Eleanor Roosevelt:

“Only those who can see the invisible can accomplish the impossible!”

I agree with that statement 100%. And in order for us to change the world, we have to believe in a vision that although today may seem impossible, tomorrow will transform our world. For us music educators, musicians, and parents, El Sistema is providing us with that vision. A vision of a tomorrow where children who are considered ‘at risk’ now, will be empowered to take ownership of the world and contribute to our collective future. All through the power of music education.

On the evening of October 5th, I will be participating in a panel discussion at NEC entitled “Changing the World: Musicians and Social Action”. It is part of a Career Strategy Workshop Series offered to students, alumni, and the public. Click here for more info. I invite you to come. I also invite you to comment on my blog so…..

Let’s Share ‘Notes’

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Noteworthy Fellows

This week I am in full preparation mode as I get ready to move to Boston. In 12 days my journey as an Abreu Fellow will officially begin. I am looking forward to meeting the 9 other distinguished fellows and I am excited to finally get to meet Tony Woodcock, president of the New England Conservatory. I can't wait to get started!

I keep getting exciting news about last year's fellows from Stephanie Scherpf, managing director of El Sistema USA and I wanted to take a moment and share with you some of these news bites.

Dantes Rameau who is an Abreu Fellow Alum recently launched the Atlanta Music Project. "Modeled on El Sistema, Venezuela’s nationwide system of youth orchestras, the Atlanta Music Project is a 5-day-a-week, after-school, youth orchestra and choir program targeting underserved communities in metropolitan Atlanta"
Mayor Kasim Reed officially announced the opening of the city of Atlanta's Cultural Centers, one of which will house the Atlanta Music Project. I want to congratulate Dantes for his hard work and dedication to the realization of this wonderful and inspiring project. A project which was established back in February of 2010 and is now a reality, bringing music education to kids who otherwise could not afford it.

Another Abreu Fellow Alum, Katie Wyatt, has "officially launched KidZNotes, an El Sistema inspired in-and after-school program that provides orchestra music training in the poorest neighborhoods of Durham, North Carolina". KidZNotes has partnered with Duke University, the East Durham Children’s Initiative, Durham Public Schools, Durham Parks and Recreation, High Strung Strings, and the Durham Symphony to fulfill their mission which is to "combat poverty, strengthen inner-city education, and foster positive decision-making to unlock the world". Through classical and orchestral music training modeled after Venezuela's El Sistema, KidZNotes is off to a great start "unlocking the world" for underserved kids in Durham. Congratulations to Katie Wyatt and KidZNotes!!

I hope to follow in their footsteps and am certain that by the end of this amazing fellowship, I will have all the tools I need to make that happen. Everyone deserves music, and I want to make sure to carry-out the dream of inspiring people who believe that we need to "educate the whole child", and part of that education includes the gift of music.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share with me, I'm all ears!

Let's share 'Notes'

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Only two more weeks until I move up to Boston. Thanks to my brother-in-law who is the king of online travel bookings, I have my flight date set. Boston here I come!

Just a few months ago I was waiting with anticipation to hear from the Abreu Fellowship Program. Waiting to find out if I had been selected to participate in this year's group of distinguished Fellows. Really my anticipation was accompanied by  fear and anxiety because let's face it, no one likes to be rejected. Fortunately I did receive the long awaited acceptance e-mail and all of my anticipation was replaced with excitement and joy. Summer months have past quickly with a lot of time spent planning and organizing in order to make my move to Boston smooth and worry-free.

Keeping with the theme of anticipation, I have been in preparation mode for the past couple of weeks now. Just making sure I have everything I need to have a successful experience at the NEC. I purchased a new laptop and am doing my best to remember how PowerPoint works because I have to give a brief presentation on day 1 of the Fellowship!  I am thankful to all my college professors who insisted on making me stand in front of the class and present my work, I have a feeling I will be tapping into all their tips and  recommendations soon!

Apart from preparing presentations I have been doing a lot of reading. Guided reading! Erik Holmgren, Education Director for the Abreu Fellows, has sent out a wonderful list of articles and materials to all of us anxious Fellows and that's what I've been focusing on lately. If you have some time and would like to take a look at some of the articles I've recently been reading, I recommend the NEC's "Journal for Music Education". In here you will find an article by Jose Antonio Abreu himself (Founder of Venezuela's El Sistema)  and an interview with Mark Churchill (Director of El Sistema USA).

I am anticipating a lot of wonderful things to come but most of all I am hoping to inspire and be inspired. The Fellowship has not even started officially and yet I feel like my journey has already begun. Let's take this journey together. If you have any feedback on the NEC's Journal articles, please post your comments here as I am looking forward to hearing from you. Until next time,

Let's share 'Notes'

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Welcome to my blog!

Hello and welcome to my blog!

I have been living in San Antonio de los Altos, Venezuela for almost three years now and have had the unique privilege of teaching and conducting in a local Nucleo which is part of El Sistema Venezuela.
I will be relocating soon to Boston where I will participate in the Abreu Fellowship Program at New England Conservatory.
I am excited about being a part of El Sistema USA and am looking forward to a journey where I will learn the skills I need in order to take on a leadership role in a future El Sistema project.

I will be sharing with you my experiences throughout the year as much as possible. Feel free to comment on anything you read here. I look forward to hearing from you.