Daniel Berkowitz received his bachelor degrees in both music and economics from Northwestern University, where he studied trombone with Michael Mulcahy, Randall Hawes and Charles Vernon. He has performed across Europe, Asia, and the U.S., including a residency in China with the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra. As an instructor, Berkowitz held masterclasses in China, and served on the staff of the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts and Northwestern’s National High School Music Institute. From 2008 to 2009, he lived and worked in London, studying with many of Europe’s most well-respected trombonists.

In parallel, Berkowitz worked as an entrepreneur developing the infrastructure for Morningstar’s Pan European and Asian Fund research endeavor. He looks forward to combining his broad musical background and entrepreneurial experience to serve the Abreu Fellows Program. In January 2010, Berkowitz left the Fellows program to become Manager of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA), an El Sistema-inspired program of social development through music created by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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A Talk with Daniel Berkowitz

How did you hear about the Abreu Fellows program?

As part of my research to put together fellowship proposals to study El Sistema, I found this opportunity online. It provided everything I was looking for in one comprehensive program.

Why did you apply?

The Abreu Fellows Program provides a unique opportunity to champion a powerful mission in the U.S. and abroad. As the inaugural group, we can have a significant impact on the lives of many children during El Sistema’s earliest coordinated stages outside of Venezuela.
What tools will you develop during this fellowship and how do you think these tools will be useful in your future post?

This program provides a knowledge-sharing platform that will allow the Fellows to identify best practices and formulate a model for El Sistema’s success abroad. Sculpting this model from a broad collection of perspectives will enhance the way that we collaborate in the future.
Where do you see yourself in five years? What will you be doing and why?

I will continue to find ways to gain new musical perspectives while pursing my entrepreneurial interests. El Sistema provides an avenue for both of these and I look forward to being a catalyst for its success.
Why do you think that music education is important to a child’s development?

From a very early age, this type of education provides a skill set far beyond the discipline of music, including: adaptability, teamwork, diligence, focus, creativity, persistence, responsibility and a sense of purpose. Young musicians also enjoy the enlightening aspects of creating live art. These tools are applicable in any future endeavor.
Regarding the present state of music education for children in the U.S., what has been done right and where do you see room for improvement?

The music education system in the U.S. is both underfunded and undervalued. While we possess some of the greatest orchestras and higher-level music institutions in the world, we lack commitment to the development of younger and at-risk demographics. Our music education system is too often seen as an extracurricular activity, and not used as a vehicle for higher learning and personal development.
How did you learn about El Sistema?

This past January, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela presented a one-week residency in London. This series of workshops and performances were incredibly inspiring and served as a catalyst for my commitment to study and expand El Sistema.
Why do you think El Sistema is unique? What elements made the El Sistema program successful where others were not?

El Sistema possesses a centralized yet flexible nature that is both unique and innovative. The flexibility of each “nucleo” allows for local leaders to tailor the program to fit their community’s needs. The support of the government enhances coordination, collaboration and resource allocation. 

Have you worked with or mentored children in the past?

As part of the staff for the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts and Northwestern’s National High School Music Institute, I have had opportunities to work with some of the nation’s most talented young artists. From teaching music appreciation and free improvisation classes to private instruction, I have always sought to motivate, inspire and spark a creative curiosity for my students.