Over the next many weeks the YOURS Project will be visited by three members of the fourth class of Sistema Fellows from the New England Conservatory. This is the program that I was part of last year when I bravely began this blog. Our first Fellow-in-Residence, Rachel Hockenberry, will be a guest blogger while she is in town, sharing her experiences, thoughts, and insights as she shadows me in my day to day life as the Director of the YOURS Project. Enjoy!
Greetings, YOURS Project lovers! My name is Rachel, and I'm a horn player who happens to be one of the lucky members of the 2012-2013 class of Sistema Fellows. I have the great privilege of spending the week immersed in YOURS goodness, and I couldn't be happier. I arrived in town on Sunday, and after a long nap was welcomed to the city in my favorite way: eating dinner at a fabulous restaurant. I want to use one sentence of this post to tell you all to go and eat at the Chicago Diner and experience pure bliss while gorging yourself on things like sweet potato fries and chocolate peanut butter milkshakes.
Today was my first day at the program. After a lovely lunch with program directors Sylvia Carlson and Tom Madeja, we all headed over to Hibbard. I spent the afternoon just soaking everything in. I wandered around to all of the rehearsals, while naturally paying close attention to the horns.
After the program, Sylvia held a staff meeting, where Albert asked me to facilitate a discussion on the question, "what is el sistema?" Knowing that this is a loaded question, I decided to begin the conversation by asking each staff member to share one or two elements they felt was necessary to create a thriving sistema-inspired program. Here were a few of the responses:
-making classical music accessible to everyone
-time intensive and teacher intensive
-giving kids tools for their lives; home, school, relationships, etc
-teaching kids to respect each other, realizing everyone has something to learn and to give
-process over product mindset: teaching the kids to work hard to achieve goals
-allowing music to be the medicine for the soul
-saving lives and learning to be better human beings through music
Through these answers, I realized why the program has been so successful over the past four years: the teachers get it. The teachers and nucleo directors have a solid understanding of el sistema's goals and, I believe more importantly, they believe in the ability of the program to positively alter the lives of its students. Beyond that, as percussion teaching artist Javier so eloquently stated, they understand that helping children become a better person directly affects the children's families, leading to an affect on the entire community.
The teachers get it, and they believe it. This leaves me with no doubt that YOURS will continue to grow and thrive over the years, helping to create communities passionate about peace, collaboration, and music.