L.A. Phil, Bard, Longy launch El Sistema-based music initiative


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic, building on its symbiotic relationship with Venezuela’s El Sistema national youth music training program, is partnering with Bard College in upstate New York and the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass., to launch a joint musical education initiative.

‘Take a Stand’ aims to provide a platform of regular conferences and workshops for pioneering classical music educators across the United States, and also to develop a pool of artistically accomplished, socially conscious music teachers through a new Masters of Arts in Teaching degree program that will be developed by the Longy conservatory.


In an interview Monday, Deborah Borda, the L.A. Phil’s president and chief executive, said that the new initiative was inspired by a number of the key principles behind El Sistema (The System), which has provided music lessons to some 400,000 Venezuelan youth -- particularly those from poor and underserved backgrounds -- and spawned imitators around the globe. Among its former star pupils is Gustavo Dudamel, the L.A. Phil’s music director.

‘This is a program that will teach teachers about the very specific musical and social components of El Sistema,’ Borda said. Dr. José Antonio Abreu, founder of the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela, as El Sistema is formally known, will serve as the initiative’s honorary advisor.

The initiative’s inaugural conference will be held Jan. 30 through Feb. 1 in Los Angeles, coinciding with the Phil’s Mahler Project, at which Dudamel, the Phil and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela will be collaborating in concert performances and working together with students in the Phil’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA). The new one-year master’s teaching program will enroll its first class in June, said Karen Zorn, president of Longy, with the goal of helping highly skilled musicians become teachers who can be active participants in the the needy communities where many will serve.

The initial group of teachers will be based at two primary locations, Zorn said: the Heart of Los Angeles Community Center in MacArthur Park, one of YOLA’s two established nucleos where students receive instruction; and the Paramount Bard Academy in Delano, in California’s Central Valley, a charter school connected to Bard’s existing MAT program in other academic disciplines.

Tuition for the new master’s degree program will be $37,500, and there will be merit and financial-need scholarships available. The annual cost of the program is roughly $1 million, which will be funded by the L.A. Phil and Longy, Zorn said.

‘What we want to do is recruit very high-level performers, conductors and composers who have this inkling, something inside them that says they want to give back,’ Zorn said. ‘I think gone are the days when you can be an elite musician and not be engaged in the community around you.’


Read more on the story Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times and at


Reporter’s Notebook: L.A.’s YOLA takes up challenge of El Sistema model

Venezuela is notable for its teamwork

Pride, joy and playing with Gustavo Dudamel

-- Reed Johnson