Friday, November 26, 2010

OrchKids as an El Sistema-Inspired Program: Accessibility, Intensity and Flexibility

At OrchKids, Andrea and I worked with a group of 17 brass players in preparation for our concert last Friday. What an outstanding group of kids! I saw so much talent, so much enthusiasm, and a strong desire to excel and to be praised. After only five days with them, I felt a strong attachment and it was difficult to leave. Music is giving these kids another way to think about themselves and about the world, and a framework through which they can make and achieve long-term goals. I learned so much, and was inspired in many ways by what I saw. My experience at OrchKids will influence me greatly as I make plans to build my own nucleo.

Two things that I respect about OrchKids: 1. they reach the kids with the greatest need for resources, and 2. they never turns away any kids for any other reason than the program being at capacity. OrchKids truly embodies accessibility.

OrchKids has achieved something miraculous. Kids play their instruments hours a day, Monday through Friday but it is never a chore. Playing their instruments is a privilege, and therefore kids aspire to do it as often as they can. This is the best and most natural way to create musical intensity within a nucleo.

Many OrchKids participants are confronted with unique obstacles in their life outside OrchKids. Emotional and behavior issues can sometimes make a child's participation in OrchKids difficult. Despite these challenging, no one is ever asked to leave the program permanently. An arrangement is worked out, always with the child's well-being in mind. This is commendable, because those who may be most likely to "cause trouble" or get kicked out, are often those who could most benefit from what OrchKids has to offer. This approach demonstrates complete flexibility in dealing with each child and their individual needs.

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