The World Ensemble
To our readers:
Greetings from our base in the United States, where we are experiencing a nationwide explosion of anger about racial injustice, ignited by the murder of George Floyd. The murder by police officers of yet another innocent Black person has triggered an unprecedented outcry of despair and rage against the power of institutional racism.
It's not only an American issue. We are moved by the demonstrations across the world in support of racial justice for Black Americans and people of color everywhere. 
In the midst of the unrest, and of a world pandemic that is having disproportionately catastrophic effects on people facing economic insecurity, we know that the shared work of the El Sistema movement offers one of the few tools that create real social change—one violinist, one family, one community at a time. 
But we also know that the mission of systemic social justice cannot be accomplished by music alone. In the ways we spend our time, order our priorities, and live our lives, every one of us must show up in solidarity with our Black and Brown communities to call for justice, equity, and social transformation. Please support and join those fighting against injustice in every way you can.
In this issue, as in every World Ensemble , we bring you news of how colleagues across the world are showing up for social justice, in many creative ways. Learn how an organization working in Uganda, among other places, has pivoted away from music learning to combat food insecurity; how organizations in Brazil and Rwanda invest in young people; ways that a Myanmar program helps students un-learn musical bias; and how two U.S. graduate students are expanding their thinking about culturally responsive teaching. Plus, Sweden’s Side by Side by El Sistema camp has gone fully digital—no small feat. 
The global Sistema movement is a true international community, like few others we have ever known. Let’s expand the power of our ensemble by standing with those fighting for social justice, everywhere and all the time.
Be well, stay strong, and take heart,
The WE team

Editorial: Pivoting in Response
to Community Need

By Jason Steinberg, Executive Director, International Sports and Music Project
COVID-19 is creating unprecedented challenges all over the world. As nonprofit leaders, we must decide how to continue having a meaningful impact while bolstering our organizations to last through COVID-19 and beyond.

Unlearning Musical Bias

By Kit Young, Cofounder/Director, Gitameit Music Institute , Yangon, Myanmar
During an interview with Creative Generation in March of this year, Sebastian Ruth reminded us that “the core work needs to be within each of us...we always need to be investigating our own assumptions, biases, and motivations to be sure that our work is truly in service of people and their needs."

This raises the question: Can bias “hear” itself?

"Future Farming": A Case for
Investing in Top Talent

By Jennifer Stumm, concert violist and Founder/Director of Ilumina Brasil

Ilumina is a musical social equity project, chamber music festival, and touring ensemble based in São Paulo, Brazil. Our talent development model is to invest deep, not wide. Each year, we select 25 young South American musicians with extraordinary potential, ages 18-26, using an extremely selective YouTube audition and written application. Our hypothesis (we call it “future farming”) is that deep investment and extraordinary access for potential leaders will sow the seeds for exponential transformation and good teaching down the social and educational pyramid.

"No Matter What, We're Going to
Do a Camp": Side by Side Goes Digital

By Patrick Scafidi, Managing Editor of The Ensemble Newsletters, in conversation with Ter ese Mörtvik, Communicator, Side by Side , Sweden

When El Sistema Sweden and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (GSO) began accepting applications for the annual Side by Side by El Sistema international youth music and choir camp, taking place from June 13–16 this year, the coronavirus pandemic had yet to stop the world in its tracks. Applications poured in that first day—roughly 1,000 of them, despite the website shutting down for a few hours due to server issues. That number doubled shortly thereafter as applications continued to pour in from across the world.

Musicians Without Borders: Rwanda Youth Music

By Chris Nicholson, Program Development Manager, Musicians Without Borders
It was a flat-pack cajón, self-assembled in Rwanda. Hard to trust that it would hold your weight, or that the front panel wouldn’t splinter when you played it. The bass note on it was good, though, and the snare sound cut through sharply. I could hold the small group safely with my simple rhythm as they improvised around it.

One of the five teenagers in the group had arrived early and started to play on a djembe, so I had accompanied him. The others had come in one by one and joined in on the drums positioned by their chairs. We were a few weeks in, and they knew they were free to pick up instruments and to play as they wanted. 

The Amani Project Partners with U.S.
El Sistema Teachers-in-Training

By Akhil Gopal and Ziyad Marcus, students in the MAT Program of Longy School of Music of Bard College
As students in Longy School of Music’s El Sistema-inspired Masters of Arts in Teaching program, we have recently partnered with the Amani Project, a global nonprofit that uses music to serve youth in Sri Lanka, South Africa, Colombia, India, and many more countries around the world. We have found this collaboration to be a crucial reminder of perhaps the most important part of the El Sistema philosophy: social change. While technical excellence is prioritized in standard music pedagogy, El Sistema pushes us to bring musical competency and social justice into convergence. However, despite being in an El Sistema-inspired program, as music teachers we sometimes lose sight of ideals beyond music for music’s sake.

The Ambassadors' Exchange
The WE Ambassadors are a group of El Sistema student musicians who serve as representatives of their programs around the world.

Radomir Perišić, El Sistema Serbia
At the moment I started writing this, there were about 3 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, nearly 1.5 million in Europe alone. Now, here in my home country of Serbia, the situation is settling, and everything is easier. The media is already back to discussing the economy, politics, and showbusiness. No one seems to mention how hard this is for the school system. Students are used to contact with their teachers—eye-to-eye conversations in real classrooms—and now everything is online.
Pedro Ramos, Harmony Project , (California, U.S.A.)
Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Harmony Project has maintained a connection with their students through social media. The staff sought ways to keep their students motivated, healthy, and practicing. After some brainstorming, the Harmony Project launched the “Hollywood Youth Orchestra Community Page” via Band, an online application. Band is a community organization tool that allows for discussions, uploads, polls, live streams, shared calendars, and more. The Harmony Project utilized the application to reward students for uploading daily practice videos. Additionally, live meetings like “Monday Night Scales,” “Thursday Night Jam,” and “HYO Tea Party” have kept the community close together.
Mary Nakacwa, Architects of Music , (Kampala, Uganda)
My update is all about instrumental playing—specifically the a’dungu . We also played chords only but in different tunings, such as sol and terna. The a’dungu is special to us because it is a local instrument from northwestern Uganda and very few other people play it. It comes in a few sizes: solo, alto, tenor, and bass. The a’dungus seen in the video are made by my director of Architects of Music in Uganda, Mr. Ocen Joseph. He is a masterful player and he teaches us very well.

Thank you for reading! 

Be on the lookout for additional resources and news later this month.

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