Born in Washington D.C., Patrick Slevin earned his bachelor degree in 2010 from Northwestern University, where he majored in Percussion Performance and Urban Studies. As an educator, Patrick has taught for the YOURS Project, an El Sistema inspired program of the People’s Music School in Chicago. At Northwestern, he worked to expand outreach opportunities for university students through the Music Learning Community and as a fellow at Northwestern’s Center for Civic Engagement. During summers, he has taught, conducted, and arranged music for high school and middle school camps throughout northern Virginia. Patrick has performed with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the Southern Illinois Symphony, and the Northbrook (IL) Symphony. He has attended the Castleton Festival, the Chautauqua Music Festival and the Texas Music Festival, where he was runner up in the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition. An avid performer of chamber music, Patrick has performed with Dal Niente New Music Ensemble, Axiom Brass, and is a member of The Gentlemen of NUCO, a chamber rock band that has appeared on season five of America’s Got Talent. Interested in research and writing, Patrick studied the role of arts organizations in Chicago for his senior thesis in Urban Studies and was a contributing editor to a forthcoming book by Bill Cleveland, Director of the Center for the Study of Art and Community in Bainbridge Island, WA. He has interned with the Alexandria (VA) Commission for the Arts and has studied El Sistema models in Miami, FL and Baltimore, MD. His primary teachers include She-e Wu, James Ross, Michael Burritt, and John Kilkenny.

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A Talk with Patrick Slevin

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

The Abreu Fellows Program provides a chance to gain the skills that will help lead to a rich and diverse career in music. Musicians in the 21st century need to learn to be proficient performers, educators, administrators, as well as active citizens.

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

I hope to become a better communicator and a more complete musician. I want to round out my own musical education, developing a combination of education, administrative, and performance skills. These skills will prepare me to work with both musicians and non-musicians alike in developing a future El Sistema-like program.

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

I hope to have a combined career in education and performance that uses the key principles of El Sistema as a guide. I am specifically interested in working with underserved urban communities by developing a music program that can help create a vibrant cultural life and foster meaningful social interaction.

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

Music education challenges and excites children. It provides a meaningful outlet for expression and creates community where it might not otherwise exist.

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 education is fragmented in the U.S. While there is certainly good work being done, there is a pressing need to expand opportunity and re-think pedagogy. 
In too many situations, music making has become an individual, rather than a collective, activity that is closed off from the local community and from society at large.

6. How did you learn about El Sistema?

I knew a small amount about El Sistema after seeing videos of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra. But, it wasn’t until the summer of 2009, that I became deeply invested in learning more about El Sistema. I was playing in an orchestra under Josep Caballe-Domenech and he described the passion and the sense of purpose with which young musicians from Venezuela were playing and urged every member of the orchestra to think hard about why each of us was studying music and why it is important to society.

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

At its most basic level, El Sistema reaffirms the idea that music-making ought to be a collective activity. El Sistema proves that music-making can and should be a central part of society and that it can help overcome social inequalities. In blurs the divisions between social and cultural policy, resulting in both great art and a more just society.

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

I have worked with the YOURS Project, an El Sistema inspired program in Chicago for the past year. I have also taken advantage of outreach opportunities through Northwestern University’s Music Learning Community, given percussion demonstrations at Chicago area schools, and maintained a private teaching studio. In the summers I have taught, conducted, and arranged music for high school and middle school camps in northern Virginia.