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Fifth Class of Sistema Fellows

Class of 2014 Most International, Most Experienced

NEC Announces Fifth Class of Sistema Fellows


New Class is Most International, Most Experienced in Unique Training Program’s Five-Year History


New England Conservatory is delighted to announce the 10 members of the fifth class of its Sistema Fellows Program.  With Fellows hailing from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the US, it is the most international of the classes to date. What’s more, several of its members already have experience working with El Sistema-inspired projects, and have experience working in programs established by alumni of earlier classes. This year’s class will begin its yearlong curriculum in September.

Created in response to Dr. José Antonio Abreu’s 2009 TED Wish to Change the World, the Sistema Fellows Program is committed to educating postgraduate musicians to become leaders of community music programs, which foster social change for young people in underserved communities throughout America and the world. Already four classes of 10 have graduated and are doing important work in the field, from Atlanta, Georgia, to Juneau, Alaska, from Durham, NC to Los Angeles, and from Philadelphia to Yakima, WA.

Founded by Dr. Abreu in Venezuela more than 35 years ago, El Sistema is acclaimed worldwide for transforming the lives of at-risk children living in the most deprived conditions. Today, El Sistema-inspired programs have reached six continents in 45 countries with more than 70 programs in North America. In Venezuela, El Sistema has impacted the lives of over 300,000 young people. Through its intense time commitment, rigor, loving concern for each child, and emphasis on the individual player as an essential member of the ensemble, El Sistema has been a catalyst in creating hopeful futures and new opportunities for the students it serves.

NEC’s Sistema Fellows Program occupies a unique space in the quickly developing field of El Sistema-inspired programming across North America and beyond. Through a combination of intensive seminar study and fieldwork—including a residency in Venezuela—the Sistema Fellows gain the experience needed in pedagogy, organizational management, fundraising, and communications to create and run their own programs. Previous classes have worked with, among many other programs, Play on Philly!, KidzNotes in Durham,NC,  the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM), Austin Soundwaves, the YOURS Project (Chicago), OrchKids (Baltimore), the Harmony Program (New York City), Sistema Scotland, and Sistema Costa Rica.

Operated through NEC’s Department of Continuing Education, the one-year certificate-granting program provides each Fellow with a full scholarship and a monthly stipend to offset living expenses.

Sistema Fellows, Class of 2014

AMELIA DOWNS was a choral scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge, England. For the past four years, she has been employed by the Braeburn International School in Arusha, Tanzania, where she has taught the British curriculum to children of all ages, led music clubs, choirs, coached singing and dancing for theatre productions, and managed other musical events. In particular, she has enjoyed incorporating Kiswahili songs and traditional dancing and drumming into her curriculum. Shehas also maintained a private studio teaching piano, violin and voice.

Millie is an active member of the music community in Arusha, where she manages events including a recent collaboration concert between Kenyan and Arusha choirs, workshops with traditional Tanzanian musicians, and evenings of English traditional dance. She also serves as secretary and education advisor on the Board of Directors of Shining A Light, an empowerment program for underprivileged women. Shining A Light teaches clients leatherwork, beading and textiles, business skills, finance, healthcare, English, reading and writing. Millie sees the philosophy of El Sistema as a powerful tool for transforming communities such as Arusha through music education.

AUBREE WEILEY has spent over a decade working as part of the global movement for youth empowerment and social development though music education. In her nine-year tenure at The People's Music School in Chicago, she created the school's first curriculum and corresponding evaluation and assessment infrastructure, and facilitated the delivery of free, quality music instruction to over 4,000 youth throughout the Chicago area. In addition, Aubree has initiated several innovative music programs for youth, emphasizing the life-skills of responsibility, self-esteem, and purpose while pursuing musical mastery. Combining her love of music with her service as a U.S Peace Corps Education Volunteer in Lesotho, Africa, Aubree worked with middle and high school choir students in rehearsal, performance, and country-wide competition. She also conducted ethnomusicological research on Monyanako, the original and collaborative musical compositions of Basotho school children. A vocalist by training, she holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and Musical Theatre Certificate from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. 

AYRIOLE FROST is an active composer, performer and teacher. She received her Bachelor of Music in Composition from Ball State University, and a Master of Music in Composition and her teaching certification from Carnegie Mellon University in 2012. Her compositions include chamber music, song cycles, orchestral works, and works for solo instruments, including a suite of piano miniatures and a work for unaccompanied horn. 

Ayriole performs as both a violinist and mezzo-soprano. She began her El Sistema-inspired work with the Youth Orchestra United Rita Simo (YOURS) Project as a viola teacher, string specialist, and orchestra and choral director in 2012, and she has worked with both the Hibbard and Logan Square nucleos throughout the past year.  In addition to her work as a faculty member of The People’s Music School, she has taught for the Chicago Public Schools.

BEVERLY HIONG is the founder of Music and Makan, a salon-style concert series in Singapore that aims to dispel the general apprehension that many young adults have towards Classical music. By combining Classical music and food (Makan means "to eat" in Malay, and gathering to share food together is Singapore's national hobby), Music and Makan provides a casual and intimate setting in which young professionals can feel comfortable listening to performances by up and coming musicians.

Beverly has also been involved as a teacher and administrator in several El-Sistema inspired pilot programs in Singapore, using music to empower and inspire young people, including juvenile delinquents. Born and raised in Singapore, Beverly is currently pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Cello Performance. She also holds a B.S. in Economics (with First Class Honors) from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She previously served as principal cellist of the Singapore National Youth Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Music Makers (Singapore’s volunteer orchestra focused on serving humanity through philanthropy).

CLARA YANG is a young conductor who believes passionately in the power of music as a vehicle for social justice. She holds a double degree (Music, with an emphasis in flute performance, and Biology) from Duke University, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2011. At Duke, she was the music director and conductor for the Duke Chamber Players, an ensemble dedicated to bringing Classical music to both the Duke and Durham communities. She won the Benenson Award for the Arts, allowing her to continue her conducting studies in New York City and work with flutist and conductor Ransom Wilson. She is concluding her second year as a Teach for America corps member in Red Hook, Brooklyn.


ERIEL HUANG was born in Taiwan and raised in South Africa. She has travelled extensively and engaged in social music programs, community development projects, and youth leadership initiatives while performing, teaching, and working as an administrator in the professional music industry.  Some highlights include the Tzu Chi International Relief Foundation Hospital, the World Summit for Sustainable Development, the Gandhi, King, Ikeda: a Legacy of Building Peace International Exhibition and COP17, a United Nations conference on climate change.

Eriel has toured as concertmaster with several ensembles, performed in Europe with the South African National Youth Orchestra, and she has also appeared on stage in Taiwan and China. Since 2008, she has been the electric violinist for Sterling EQ, performing over 100 shows and charity events annually. This award-winning band released its third studio album, produced by EMI, in 2012.

As a participant in numerous local and regional discussion panels, interfaith dialogues and awareness forums, Eriel has developed a keen interest in mediation and diplomacy. As a Mellon Foundation Fellow, Eriel pursued these passions in her interdisciplinary Master’s degree at the University of Cape Town, studying Music Performance, Social Development and Conflict Resolution. This course of study included researching the social values of music education and examining El Sistema within the context of social development theories and music education philosophies.

Possessing a diversity of experience as a performer, educator, and administrator, violist HANA MORFORD believes deeply in using music as a vehicle to better engage and enrich communities.  Hana most recently served as Education Associate for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, managing the BSO’s Academy programs. As former Education Director of the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestras’ Bridges program, Hana managed a large, after-school and weekend program for underserved students in seven Baltimore City Public Schools.

Hana has also served as a violin, viola and general musicianship teaching artist in a number of programs for at-risk youth.  Her experiences as a teaching artist include positions at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s El Sistema-inspired OrchKids program, the Baltimore School for the Arts’ TWIGS program, and GBYO’s Bridges program.  Hana has also served on the faculty of the Peabody Institute’s preparatory program, leading group classes and maintaining a vibrant private studio. 

An accomplished performer, Hana holds a Bachelor’s from the Cleveland Institute of Music, a Master’s from Rice University, and a Graduate Performance Diploma from the Peabody Conservatory.  Formerly a member of Symphony in C, she has also performed regularly with the New World Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra.  Hana has been invited to participate in numerous music festivals, including Aspen, Sarasota, Kneisel Hall, National Repertory Orchestra, and Spoleto USA.

MEGAN MORAN previously served as Director of Programs and Rural Outreach Project Program Manager for the Ethos Music Center in Portland, Oregon, where she developed and improved curriculum and policies to better serve the community.  A Rural Music Facilitator while a participant in AmeriCorps, she supervised ten AmeriCorps members who served across Oregon, and organized assemblies, field trips, and events for students who live in rural communities. She also developed and implemented a general music curriculum for grades K-12. As a freelance violinist, Megan performed with the Vancouver Symphony, Columbia Symphony, Oregon East Symphony, Yakima Symphony, Spokane Symphony, Bach Cantata Choir Orchestra, and Portland SummerFest Opera in the Park. Megan is a graduate of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

Clarinetist RICKI NELSON is an active freelance musician in his native Northern California.  He holds a Master’s Degree and a Professional Studies Diploma from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, as well as a Bachelor of Music Degree from California State University, Sacramento.  Ricki has taught at the University of California, Berkeley’s Young Musician’s Program, Sacramento State University, and the New Haven Unified School District in Union City. He also maintains a private studio in the San Francisco Bay Area.  As a performer, Ricki has appeared with the Merced Symphony, Oregon House Symphony, Ensemble Parallele, Music in the Mountains, Benicia Ballet, and the hybrid hip hop and Classical group, Ensemble Miknawooj. 

A proud and passionate teacher, Ricki’s path led him to the Young Musicians Program at UC Berkeley - a program that provides advanced musical training and weekly tutoring services for motivated, college-bound students from minority, low-income households.  This program challenged him not only to teach instrumental skills, but also to model the role of a positive, multi-racial male figure, particularly for his younger students. Another important teaching endeavor is his work with the students and faculty of the flourishing music program at Alvarado Middle School in Union City.

Raised in Hamburg, Germany, TATJANA MERZYN began studying violin at a young age and later viola and piano. She earned a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Music Education and History from Berlin’s University of Arts and from Humboldt University, also in Berlin. Tatjana served as principal violist in several German youth orchestras. Additionally, she performed as piano soloist and as conductor with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Trujillo in Peru.

Tatjana's passion for music education began when she first visited Peru in 2006 to work as a volunteer in the El Sistema-inspired project Arpegio Perú which offers instrumental lessons free of charge. Besides teaching strings and chamber music, she served as a conductor of the Orquesta de Barro that unites kids from different social backgrounds. Tatjana is now a mentor to twelve volunteers each year who support the work of the local musicians and teach over 300 kids. She also directs an intercultural orchestra exchange program with the Droste-Hülshoff-Sinfonieorchester. As part of this program, the Orquesta de Barro traveled to Berlin in 2010 and presented a joint concert with its German partner orchestra. She has helped Arpegio Perú to expand its activities by collecting donations, inviting professional musicians to give master classes, and by improving its organizational structure.

For further information about the Sistema Fellows Program, visit the NEC Website.  


A cultural icon approaching its 150th anniversary in 2017, New England Conservatory (NEC) is recognized worldwide as a leader among music schools.  Located in Boston, Massachusetts on the Avenue of the Arts in the famed Fenway neighborhood, NEC offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars. NEC alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide. Half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

Founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee, an American music educator, choral conductor and organist, NEC is the oldest independent school of music in the United States. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, contemporary improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Programs and Partnerships Program, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music, jazz, and contemporary improvisation. Currently more than 750 young artists from 46 states and 39 foreign countries attend NEC on the college level, 1,400 young students attend on the Preparatory level, and 325 adults participate in the Continuing Education program.

The only conservatory in the United States designated a National Historic Landmark, NEC presents more than 900 free concerts each year. Many of these take place in Jordan Hall (also a National Historic Landmark), world-renowned for its superb acoustics and beautifully restored interior, and one of five performance spaces on the NEC campus.  Programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz, contemporary improvisation, and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre or Paramount Theatre in Boston, and a semi-staged performance in Jordan Hall. In 2012-13, the operas included: Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, and Rossini’s La Gazzetta.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Senior Communications Specialist
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115