Marching off the map

Exploring El Sistema - Mon, 2014-10-27 10:23
In the West, we have an obsession with specialization, becoming an expert in one skill or field. This has resulted in the delineation of a myriad of genres and styles of art, and an ensuing hierarchy, so that ‘crossover’ between different genres of music is generally not encouraged. In the... Sistema Fellows Program

Orchestra can be anything

Exploring El Sistema - Mon, 2014-10-27 10:16
On Thursday, Harmony Project students walked into orchestra rehearsal with the chairs completely rearranged – instead of designated sections with rows and the usual seating assignments, they were in two giant semi circles, where everyone was playing side by side. This was inspired by: -An experience I had a couple... Sistema Fellows Program

MUS 1600

Exploring El Sistema - Mon, 2014-10-27 10:09
This semester, I have the privilege to teach a course on El Sistema at North Park University in Chicago as part of this exciting new Certificate Program. Our diverse class includes students from El Sistema programs in Brazil, Ecuador and Costa Rica. In this introductory class, we are examining El... Sistema Fellows Program


Exploring El Sistema - Mon, 2014-10-27 10:02
Steven Liu, Adrienne Taylor, Andrea Profili (2011 Sistema Fellows) For young musicians to have storytelling as part of their portfolio of skills will give them an edge in our incredibly competitive world. I suppose you could call it "presentation skills," or "good communication," but I like to stay with "storytelling"... Sistema Fellows Program


Penguin - Mon, 2014-10-20 18:36
by SOPHIA ADICKES Third-year BM Voice     At this point, you’ve hopefully made it through the endless week of testing, placement auditions, and non-stop introductions. In addition to forgetting names, you’re probably a little nervous about adjusting to a conservatory environment, a new city, and dorm life. The good news is: you’re not alone! […]

How to Be Successful Using Great Communication Skills

Huffington College - Fri, 2014-10-17 09:44
Storytelling is an essential part of every culture. People are always eager to hear or relate a story whether from a book, a film, a play, a remembrance from childhood or a recent vacation. Tony Woodcock

The Ensemble, October edition

Exploring El Sistema - Thu, 2014-10-09 22:34
The October edition of Tricia Tunstall and Eric Booth's publication chronicling the emerging field of El Sistema-inspired activity in the US and beyond, and featuring an essay by Julie Davis, Sistema Fellow '12, is found here. Sistema Fellows Program

Where are they now?

Exploring El Sistema - Thu, 2014-10-09 22:23
An interactive map showing the current locations of the 50 Sistema Fellows, as of October 2014. Sistema Fellows Program

Teaching social change through song

Exploring El Sistema - Thu, 2014-10-09 14:42
While growing up in Baltimore, current Fishtown resident Alysia Lee was a bit of a problem child with a lot of attitude. "As a kid, I was really smart mouthed and prone to violence. I’d throw desks and chairs in school," Lee said. "I just had a lot of issues... Sistema Fellows Program

El Sistema@University Circle in the news

Exploring El Sistema - Thu, 2014-10-09 14:35
The Music Settlement, which offers music therapy, early childhood education and music instruction to people of all ages, announced it has absorbed the assets of El Sistema@University Circle and is offering scholarships to former El Sistema students. Isabel Trautwein (Sistema Fellow '11) in action. Terms of the arrangement were not... Sistema Fellows Program


Penguin - Tue, 2014-10-07 18:08
by NATALIE ALPER-LEROUX Third-year BM Viola       as my pear of hope and hopelessness flies fragrant and soft into the inky black I drink star blood and it dribbles in gleaming silver rivulets down my chin I wipe it off the pimples with the back of my hand already marked with the dirt that […]


Penguin - Tue, 2014-10-07 18:07
by FRANKIE YU Second-year MM Trombone     Here are two recipes that are simple and fun, and not too challenging for someone who doesn’t make things very often (you know who you are). I’ll admit they are both desserts, but I have no shame! Lemon Squares As Fall comes around my taste buds crave the sweeter […]


Penguin - Tue, 2014-10-07 18:06
by SYD RVINSKY Second-year BM Voice   by ELIZABETH WENDT Second-year BM Voice     Syd and Elizabeth give us some competing viewpoints on how best to make a good impression this Halloween season! SYD: October. Sweaters, scarves, pumpkin spice lattes, and of course: Halloween. For children, the favored holiday is synonymous with fun costumes, staying out […]


Penguin - Tue, 2014-10-07 18:05
by SOPHIA ADICKES Third-year BM Voice     For many people, opera has the reputation of being an art form that is not just sophisticated, but sometimes unaccessible. Other than taking the time out of your day to sit in a darkened theater for anywhere from three to six (!) hours, there are limited opportunities […]


Penguin - Tue, 2014-10-07 18:04
by ANDREW NISSEN Second-year GD Trombone       Music school, if you’re not careful, can be a sort of solitary confinement at times. You sit alone in a room for many daylight hours repeating the same task over and over, and it may not ever feel like it’s getting better. It’s refreshing, then, to […]


Penguin - Tue, 2014-10-07 18:03
by LIZ TOBIAS First-year DMA Jazz Voice     Build Your Friendship Group It took me 6 months at NEC to really find the right friends. I had this ridiculous task-orientated view of just “getting through” my masters and didn’t stop until the end of my first semester to actually make real, true-to-life friends.  My advice […]


Penguin - Tue, 2014-10-07 18:02
by NICK TISHERMAN Third-year BM Oboe     “You could almost write an opera about the selection of music directors for orchestras,” said Andris Nelsons about the search process. The 2014-2015 season for the Boston Symphony Orchestra is well upon us, which means that this opera has come to a close and a new act is […]


Penguin - Tue, 2014-10-07 18:01
by SARAH ATWOOD First-year MM Violin     What’s the scariest moment you’ve had? I get scared easily, so I don’t watch horror movies (I know, what an embarrassing thing to admit during Halloween)! People who actually like to scare themselves on purpose confuse me, but there’s a difference between “recreational fear” and unwanted fear – such […]

NEC Prep Flute Faculty, Nina Barwell’s new book! “James Pappoutsakis, His Artistry and Inspired Teaching”

Preparatory School - Fri, 2014-10-03 13:19

Please join us in congratulating NEC flute faculty, Nina Barwell, for her new book!

And now a note by Ms. Barwell…

“Nina Barwell, flute teacher in the Preparatory School and at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts, has just printed her book James Pappoutsakis, His Artistry and Inspired Teaching, Transcribed, Edited, and Annotated by Nina Barwell.

Before he died Mr. Pappoutsakis passionately desired to pass on what he had learned as a student of Georges Laurent, what he had learned from playing in the Boston Symphony for forty years, and the wisdom he acquired from a long and distinguished teaching career. To this end he created inspired cassette recordings which take the listener through the complete process of developing one’s flute playing. Containing practical advise on such aspects of flute playing as technique, singing tone production, practice methods, lesson and audition preparation, and more, these tapes represent facets of Pappoutsakis’ articulate, imaginative, and inspired teaching that Nina Barwell directly experienced as his student from the ages of 11-13 and later as a New England Conservatory student.

All musicians will find this book useful, since the topics discussed are universal. The exercises that Mr. Pappoutsakis has outlined, when practiced diligently, guide musicians to play with ease (injury-free), expression, virtuosity, to overcome technical problems, preparing them to meet all of the great demands found in music. To quote Ms. Barwell, “I have been inspired and deeply moved by the information on these tapes. It is a pleasure to pass along this information to future generations of performers.” provides more information on James Pappoutsakis, Nina Barwell, and purchase information.”

Mahler en Mamporal

Jose-Luis Estrada - Thu, 2014-09-25 21:50

Aún cuando el ensayo ha terminado, la música sigue sonando...

Eran las tres de la tarde en punto y comenzaba mi primer ensayo con la orquesta sinfónica de la juventud Barloventeña. En Mamporal de Tacarigua. Un poblado encumbrado entre cerros y pastizales verdes—aledaño al mar abierto. Muy cerca de la misma tierra que vio nacer al libertador Simón Bolívar hace poco más de doscientos años. Para llegar ahí desde Caracas hay que bajar hasta Guarenas, después a Guatire, y finalmente en el momento que el aire se siente más puro y limpio, doblas hacia un paraje rural que te lleva directo al pueblo. La casa de la orquesta, humilde, con acabados rústicos. Y como los ensayos se realizan en salones con suelo de barro y techos de lámina el calor es fuerte.                  

Justo sobre la hora un joven de mirada risueña con arco y violín en mano me pregunta, “¿Que vamos a estudiar hoy?”
“Mahler,” le respondí (con voz de asombro).
Si. Música de Gustav Mahler. La música de los paisajes coloridos e infinitos. La del amor y  la resurrección. La más compleja de todas. ¿Cuanto trabajo cuesta llegar a dominar tan imponentes partituras? Puede uno tardar una vida entera solo atreverse a dialogar con ese arte. Pero ahí en el recóndito pueblo, a pesar de las carencias, no hay nada que detenga el valor por enfrentarse a la magnitud de esos retos. El sacrificio de muchos para llegar ahí es enorme. Algunos que viven en caseríos tierra adentro hacen hasta dos horas solo para llegar al ensayo. Los maestros que los enseñan (muchos de ellos de su misma edad) lo hacen con una devoción y orgullo que anima el espíritu de lucha de todos los que comparten el núcleo musical.
Antes de proseguir con el relato tengo que confesar algo. Yo no creía que una orquesta alejada de la ciudad capital, con pocos maestros y recursos pudiera abordar un repertorio tan sofisticado. No es normal que una orquesta juvenil toque la Segunda Sinfonía de Mahler. Pero El Sistema nunca deja de sorprender. ¿Cuál es el secreto? Es la pregunta que hacen constantemente educadores, cultores, y embajadores de todo el mundo.
Siempre me ha llamado la atención el deseo por aprender entre los jóvenes músicos venezolanos. En los ensayos puedo ver que los músicos están siempre al filo de sus sillas listos para descifrar el gesto y recibir alguna nueva idea. En los pasillos los jóvenes te abordan constantemente para disipar dudas. Para un profesor no hay nada más grato que saber que la instrucción es bien recibida y muchas veces atesorada. ¿Que los motiva a querer aprender música tan religiosamente?
Creo que uno de los grandes logros del proyecto entre los jóvenes tiene que ver con lo que pudiéramos llamar la edificación de su espíritu humanístico. Me refiero a que la música que ellos tocan dentro del contexto social en el que se practica se vuelve mucho mas que un arte sui géneris. La experiencia de compartir las narrativas sonoras que evocan las partituras se vuelve una necesidad (a veces de carácter urgente) dentro su cotidianidad. Mas allá de adquirir una técnica o proeza musical, cada miembro de una orquesta vislumbra el punto de encuentro hacia la construcción de su ser interior. Es así como la orquesta en su conjunto se vuelve un engranaje de motivación idóneo porque a medida que transcurre el tiempo se llega un poco mas cerca a la perfección. Toda esa experiencia de lucha es transferible a múltiples dominios de acción dentro y fuera de la música. Esa es la base de la visión Abreuista al postular la formación de mejores seres humanos a través de la educación estética.
Dentro del transcurso del ensayo me viene a la mente todo esto. Y aprendo de los jóvenes que la oportunidad de hacer música es una experiencia que nos va transformado a todos a raíz de su pulso y el nuestro. Y pondero la idea de que si Gustav Mahler estuviera con nosotros diría que así había imaginado su música—con el tesón y alegría que le imprimen las orquestas del sistema venezolano. Al ver los semblantes radiantes de los noveles músicos comienzo a creer nuevamente en nuestra capacidad por alcanzar objetivos fantásticos. Me vuelvo más optimista sobre nuestro futuro. Y me llena el alma de una riqueza espiritual que me hace sentir libre y sereno. “Da capo, una vez más, con fuerza,” les digo. Vamos a conquistar el destino.
Caracas, Venezuela - Septiembre, 2014. 

Este texto es dedicado a mis amigos y colegas queridos de la FundaMusical Simón Bolívar. A los alumnos y maestros de Mamporal. A nuestra unión  y lazos de amistad. Gracias a todos.