Music, Education, El Sistema, Culture, Travel, Connections, Yoga, Musings
Monday, December 31, 2012
OSL in December Part 3: NYC El Sistema Seminario
Seminario, December 12
of realization that this day was turning into a success came while I stood in a
pitch-dark room. You could not see your hand in front of your face, let alone
the faces or instruments of the dozen or so other people in the room with you.
And yet it
was here, while I listened to Victor, a percussionist with the Simon Bolivar
Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, enthusiastically explain to his 3 young
students that it’s necessary to feel the
music, to see the rhythm not with our eyes but with our hearts, that I felt the
same inspiration and excitement at learning and teachingmusic as I did when I last visited Venezuela
in April. Victor wouldn’t let up—the children said, “But we can’t see our mallets!
How are we supposed to play?” And he insisted, “Just listen! Listen to this…
imagine you’re in a forest in Brazil…” We all began to hear rhythms coming from
the center of the room (he must have found a conga or something similar in the
darkness). He played the most intricate rhythms that filled the darkness with
its beats as it grew in dynamic and pace. While we were taken over by the
sounds, he shouted, “Now join me!” There were protests above the drumming of
“But we can’t SEE!” to which Victor replied: “You don’t have to see! You need
to feel it! That’s what being a percussionist is all about! Play with your
hands if you can’t find your mallets!” Slowly, we could hear the students
joining in, and the sound grew and grew until we had in our Learning and Media
room at The DiMenna Center a true drum circle, made up of one young adult
Venezuelan, two 9-year olds, and a 7 year old beginner. When Victor finally
allowed the lights to be turned on, the children were grinning ear to ear; they
had learned the rhythm and were playing along with their teacher with victory
in their eyes.
Many of the other
students’ experiences were similar throughout the day. Imagine 150 young students from across New York City
El Sistema-inspired programs, working all day long at The DiMenna Center with members of
the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra and playing together in a final performance in Cary Hall, brimming
over with proud parents, teachers, program directors, and friends. Carnegie
Hall did a remarkable job of bringing everyone together (this wouldn’t have
happened without their initiative) and organizing the details of the day, and
the OSL team did an outstanding job ensuring that day ran as smoothly as
possible at our spaces.
most interesting for me is what some of the outcomes were for the students. I
think we assumed most of this, but I thoroughly enjoyed talking to the kids
afterwards and asking them what they thought of the day.
being surrounded by the sound of a big orchestra. I’ve never played in an
orchestra that large before!”
getting to meet and play with other kids from different parts of the city.”
liked learning from the Venezuelan musicians—I learned so much about my instrument and the music today!”
coming to this building—it felt special to play here.”
didn’t pay them to say any of that!
things we could have done differently? Absolutely. Did we miss opportunities to
engage the families who were in the room and to make deeper connections among
the students? Most likely. But for a first go-around at a Seminario, everyone
seemed to have an excellent time.