Thursday, October 21, 2010

Remedy for a Passion Hangover

This morning in class, our wonderful mentor/teacher Erik remarked that the 10 of us looked like we had "passion hangovers." In my case at least, he was right. From the moment I found out that I would be an Abreu Fellow, I could barely wait to get to Boston and meet the other fellows so we could begin our not-too-modest quest to learn how to develop El Sistema programs in the US. We all arrived bubbling with excitement and enthusiasm, full of ideas, questions, and expectations.

Then, half-way into the third week, the immensity and reality of our task hit me. How in the world are we going to do all of this with only one year of preparation? We had already heard from nine speakers, each of whom brought with them a wealth of new ideas and great advice, leaving me with even more questions. I knew I didn't want to have a passion hangover, but how could I sustain the same level of passion for El Sistema, while having to focus on the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts details of how to start a nucleo? I decided to look to El Sistema for an answer.

I am amazed, according to what I've learned about El Sistema so far, at how seemingly contradictory elements are incorporated with ease into each nucleo. There is a huge focus on ensembles, yet each child's individual needs are treated with care and sensitivity. The highest standards of musical excellence are always the goal, but every child is made to feel like an asset, regardless of their ability. There are set schedules and curriculums within each nucleo, but also the flexibility to change them at a moment's notice if there is a concert opportunity or a guest artist in town.

How can I stay passionate about El Sistema while at the same time trying to learning everything I need to know about how to start my own nucleo? The answer can be found in El Sistema's synthesis of what appear to be opposing elements. Just as sensitivity towards each child strengthens the ensemble, an enthusiastic and accomplished ensemble aids in the musical development of each child. Similarly, it is my passion that will give me the energy to make sense of the endless information I'll need to absorb this year, and the information itself which will allow me to follow through with what I am passionate about.

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