It has been a great start to my final quarter of college: I had a fantastic Easter with my family in Michigan, and this past week, I started a new teaching job! While I love working in the DePaul Music Admissions office dearly, teaching cello with El Sistema programs is my passion in life.
In case you are unfamiliar with the El Sistema movement and have not read some of my earlier posts, El Sistema is an educational methodology centered around social empowerment through music. The movement began in Venezuela in 1975 by a man named Jose Antonio Abreu; he started programs around Venezuela that provided kids with free music education, five to six days a week, keeping them off the streets and in a loving community. This philosophy is centered around the belief that every child deserves an equal opportunity to grow as a person, using music to encourage that growth.
This is actually the third program I have been honored to work with in the past three years. I began volunteering with The People’s Music School Youth Orchestra
program my freshman year of college. How did I find out about this opportunity? I saw a poster hanging on the DePaul School of Music bulletin board! I am forever grateful for that bulletin board. I taught cello for the first time with that program, leading group and private lessons with students who ranged from ages 8 to 14.
I worked with The People’s Music School (TPMS) until the end of my Junior year and then went on my summer adventure to Trujillo, Peru where I worked with a non-profit organization called VivePeru
, teaching cello, and also taught cello with an El Sistema program there called Arpegio Peru. My experiences teaching with Vive Peru and with Arpegio Peru were both phenomenal. With Vive, I taught lessons at the Trujillo Conservatory, working with Peruvian students ranging from ages 22 to 27. It was so amazing to not only work with students who were older than I was, but I also taught my lessons completely in Spanish! Working with Arpegio gave me a glimpse into the South American El Sistema experience, one that is characterized by deep friendship, great joy, and intense love for music. It was incredible to travel to the nearby city of Chimbote each weekend to teach kids and adults.
I returned to Chicago this Fall, extremely excited to enroll in North Park University’s Certificate in Music for Social Change program, a year-long study of El Sistema history, philosophy, and principles. I am currently finishing this course and have been learning so much about El Sistema because of it!
As of last week, I am teaching with an El Sistema program headed by Ravinia, as part of their “Reach, Teach, Play” program. I am teaching once a week in the Austin neighborhood, which is a very different community than Logan Square, the neighborhood where I taught with TPMS.
No matter where I have taught- from Peru to Chicago- I see energy, eagerness, and passion in each student. All of them crave to learn more and be the best they can be. Although I am teaching them musical and social skills, I know that I have so much to learn from each of my students. I love being immersed in a very different culture and learning about my students’ stories and dreams. I am excited to grow more as a teacher in the next couple of months before I graduate, and I am also looking forward to what I will learn in the years to come because of El Sistema!