Andrea Profili began her musical studies in guitar and violin at the age of six at the Escuela Juvenil de Música de Panamá. In Panama she studied violin with Horacio Bustamante, and continued with Sarah Johnson at Converse College, where she received a Bachelor of Music in Performance. As a member of Delta Omicron she was awarded the Rob Fund Memorial Grant, which enabled her to study orchestral conducting with Sarah Ioannides and Siegwart Reichwald. In 2009 she began a small after-school program with kids ages 6-12 at the YMCA in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She recently earned a Master of Music Education from Converse College. For the past six years Andrea has been returning to Panama to assist her teacher Mr. Bustamante in developing two nucleos with the Fermin Nodeau School and Samalia in San Miguelito.

Read Andrea Profili's blog.

A Talk with Andrea Profili

1. Why did you apply to the Abreu Fellows Program?

I believe in the mission of El Sistema and I want to be a part of it.

2. What tools will you develop during this fellowship and how do you think these tools will be useful in your future post?

The fellowship will develop skills such as communication and leadership through music education and networking. I hope to achieve a better understanding of the backbone of El Sistema and how those elements can be applied in programs around the globe.

3. Where do you see yourself in five years? What will you be doing and why?

I would like to return to Panama to teach music. Panamanian musicians have a thirst for musical knowledge which is not sustained by the environment. I want to share everything that I have learned and make a difference in my country.

4. Why do you think that music education is important to a child’s development?

Music has the ability to directly change and affect the way the human brain processes information because we learn about the world through our senses. Through meaningful musical experiences, the nervous system is capable of sorting sensory data, thus refining human sensitivity. By fine tuning the senses, thoughts and actions become better organized often resulting in higher adaptablity and creativity, traits which become indispensable in the real world.

5. Write a short analysis of the present state of music education for children in the US. What has been done right and where do you see room for improvement?

Music educators in the US have struggled to integrate music into the school curriculum in order to offer equal opportunity for all citizens to learn music. Few public schools have the budget to offer music classes every day, so it is very difficult to maintain continuity and a constant level of instruction. I would like to see more interconnectedness between professional, youth, community orchestras, and schools through mentoring programs for young musicians. 

6. How did you learn about El Sistema?

I heard about El Sistema four years ago through my mother. She sent me an online article about Dr. Abreu and I have followed the further growth and development of El Sistema since then.

7. Why do you think El Sistema is unique? What elements made the El Sistema program successful where others were not?

El Sistema is unique because it has broken down social barriers in two ways: offering a safe place for human beings to grow, and providing music education without any exceptions. El Sistema is very organic, taking principles from other programs and methodologies and adapting them to the needs of the individual. Other programs may have limited their efforts by focusing instruction in a limited group; or expecting students to be receptacles of data processing, which too often overlook the needs of human beings.

8. Have you worked with or mentored children in the past?

My most recent experience with children was student teaching at Spartanburg High School and McCracken Junior High. In Panama, during summers, I have taught music theory, history, and gave masterclasses in two nucleos organized by my violin teacher.