Thursday, October 18, 2012

Residency Part I: MN and San Diego

Tomorrow marks a week of me on the road, granted my MN trip was more than just residency, watching a best friend get married and having some quality family dinners. Watching ACME in action was almost surreal. I found an old notepad from last year and it's incredible to see how much progress we've made! While the kids weren't always well-behaved, overall it was a productive class, and even the "troublemakers" got a turn to be leaders at some point during class. I was amazed to see how fast they were able to sing Camptown Races on solfegge (I certainly underestimated them) with hand signals or rather "secret hand signs." Some of the kids have really good intonation! And I got to exhibit my Lorrie Heagie classroom mgmt tools and..THEY WORKED!!! Right before we left Boston, we met the Friends who support our program and one of them is from Venezuela and is an author who gifted us each a copy of her bilingual book. Pretty cool!

Since Mon, I've been in San Diego/Chula Vista, where it is 90+˚ every day. MN was 28˚ in the evenings with highs in the 40s. Quite a contrast! Before I begin, I want to commend SDYS for doing excellent work and truly making their program part of the community. I've met w a lot of staff including the CEO of SDYS, the dev director, and the associate director who gave me lots of unanticipated knowledge of operations, collected resources, interviewed students and parents about their experience and "Opus moments", had lunches with teachers, and am being spoiled/hosted by the program director having lots of green juices, Mexican food, a home-cooked salmon and asparagus meal last night and Thai food tonight. The least I could do was impromptu sight read accompany for her GS choir. Oh, and you haven't lived til you've had an avocado in CA. AMAZING! Coronado was so humid that my hair was literally soaking wet and the fog so thick I couldn't see anything, but I've seen the famous del Coronado hotel. Balboa Park is so beautiful and there is a plethora of activity there from ballet, museums, the zoo, gardens, an international village, a Spanish art village, and the office of SDYS.

Lots of good questions have come to the table and I am excited to discuss all of them w my fellow fellows. The main one that pertains to San Diego is a continued inquiry of what constitutes an ES program?? SDYS's goal is to make music accessible and affordable to all by bringing music back into the school day and despite this being a ten year vision, they achieved this across the whole school district within 7 months of opening! This is not only amazing because of the brief time in which it was accomplished, but also because CA has one of the fewest music ed programs in schools across the country and the DISTRICT paid to implement this into their schools, not to mention the sustainability effect it has on the Chula Vista community!

But does this (posed merely as a question, not a judgement) constitute as an El Sistema-inspired program? If your definition of El Sistema is bringing music education to all, then certainly! But since the US has yet to define what an El Sistema-inspired program is, the answer is undefined. Certainly this is a national need of bringing music back into the schools in a new manner.

Erik Holmgren says we shouldn't ask that evil question of "What is El Sistema" anyway and we should rather ask if it addresses a community need, which it certainly is. But just for trying to denote of what El Sistema-inspired programs constitute, is a requisite of ES that it has to be after school if they are teaching using a social curriculum? And what does a social curriculum look like? If one is teaching in a way that is effective, uses peer teaching, ensemble-based, and empowers the students, is it not ES? And is frequency a requisite? Because trying to put music back into the school day requires time, Opus can only meet twice a week. But after seeing their concert today after two years, there clearly is still an amazing output!

Clearly Opus has done some amazing work in the Chula Vista community, despite meeting only twice a week. And they're one step ahead of the majority of nucleos in that they meet a third day a week at a middle school and involve those students as well!

 (continued on next blog)

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