Monday, October 8, 2012

My Five Fundamentals

A question that often surfaces is the difference between El Sistema and normal music education programming? Notice I did not put the word versus. ES programs are NOT meant to supplant the music education programs already in schools, but rather enhance and support them. As soon as Minneapolis understood this, they were 100% on board with ACME ( who just launched this past Mon! Anyway, the answer is NOT joy nor passion. While ES programs certainly have this as a value, to say these ingredients are absent in non-ES programs is conceited and more often than not false. There are some wonderfully passionate and joyful educators in the public school system. My answer is five-fold.

1) Holistic Child-ES Programs address the child holistically. ES programs are NOT just about developing a musician, but rather about developing a global citizen and individual. To do this, it is essential to know the child's background, foster healthy relationships with the child's family, and be not just a music teacher for this child, but a role model, friend, and advocate.
2) Social Change-I do not want to claim band/choir/orchestra programs do not manifest social change, but I think it is fair to say, this is not in the mission statement or objective of a typical music education program. This is at the forefront of every ES program
3) Frequency-I use this word rather than intensity because how does one measure intensity objectively? But, very few (if any) school music programs meet 4-6 times a week for at least a couple hours each time. To have a conservatory regimen starting at such a young age is an evident distinction.
4) Community support-The nucleo isn't just for the child; it's for the parents and the community. Families are encouraged to participate, not just attend their kids' concerts. Nucleos (at least successful ones) must address a specific community need and be relevant to and supportive of the community. Yes, this implies LISTENING to the community. This is especially fortified when community stakeholders are involved, a rare occurrence of in-school music programs.
5) Student-centered. The learning is focused on the child's best interests and the best way a child can learn is from his/her peers. As a result the Montessori peer-teaching is an important element of the Sistema way (notice I did not say pedagogy)

The tenet that I'm leaving off that is often mentioned is accessibility because so many in-school programs these days are already accessible to all children. But I thought it was important enough to note. 

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