To change the lives of young people and whole communities by giving EVERYONE the opportunity to experience the beauty of joint creation, and the inspiration and articulation of feelings evoked by music. Our aim is to improve the social, intellectual, emotional and spiritual development through participation in the programme.
In ten years time, Croatia and the surrounding countries will have 20 children’s and youth orchestras founded on and led by the principles of El Sistema, involving more than 2,000 young people.
Every human being has the right to a life of dignity, achievement, and contribution to society. Everyone has the right to access music and culture.
Society works at its best when people invest their energies to help others to develop socially so that others’ human rights are protected and their potential fulfilled.
Strengthening the Spirit
A key means to overcoming poverty and adversity in order for people to achieve their human rights is for their spirits to be strengthened, creating what Maestro Abreu has called “an affluence of the spirit.”
Trusting Young People
Effective education should include love, approval, joy and experience within a demanding, aspiring, nurturing community. Every child has limitless possibilities and the ability – and need – to strive for excellence. “Trust the young” informs every aspect of the work.
Learning organisations, like individuals, never arrive but are always in the process of ‘becoming’, striving to include more students, greater excellence and better teaching. That eternal striving means that flexibility, experimentation, creativity, and risk-taking are inherent and desirable aspects of every person’s and every organisation’s development, as is a lack of fear of failure, today’s failure merely being the springboard for tomorrow’s success rather than an impediment to future growth.
Music as a joyful agent of Social Change
El Sistema is a social improvement and youth development programme that uses group music playing as its vehicle. Students are encouraged to take ownership of the music making process as an aid to their social development, taking responsibility for both individual and group improvement. They often take on teaching roles themselves, starting at an early age. In addition, the programme encourages music to be used as an agent for expression of joy – passion first, refinement second – and for joy to be one of the core energies in the process.
Access and Excellence
El Sistema involves as many children as it can – bringing young people into its community whenever possible, as young as possible, for as long as possible – whatever their background or abilities. As El Sistema aims to achieve musical excellence for all students, it also provides intensive training for the most committed and gifted, preparing them for the highest-level national orchestras and cultivating them as leaders in their own communities. In this way and other ways, the principles of access and excellence are maintained through a productive balance that aims to maximise both success and accomplishment for all.
Free and Open to All
The work of El Sistema through Núcleos is free and open to everyone in the vicinity of the Núcleo, regardless of their financial abilities.
Support of the Núcleo Environment
The Núcleo (Centre) is a physical location in the students’ neighbourhoods, which embodies the values and goals of El Sistema. It is a haven of safety, fun, joy, and friendship, with an ethos of support, positivity and aspiration. All students are encouraged to explore their potential, and it is a place where every child is made to feel like an asset within his or her community, both inside and outside of the Núcleo. The Núcleo’s doors are always open and members of community convene in its hallways and halls, treating it like a semi-public space.
Immersion and Intensity
Students spend large amounts of time at the Núcleo, many hours per day and almost all days of the week, with an ideal time of at least four hours per day, six days per week. Rehearsals are fast paced and rigorous, demanding a durable commitment, personal responsibility, and a strong work ethic. Through frequent performances, students have many opportunities to excel and to share their accomplishments with their peers, families and communities.
The Role of Ensemble
Education in El Sistema is based on ensemble experiences in which group achievement is combined with individual attention. The orchestra acts as a model society in which the feeling of competition between individuals is replaced by a shared struggle. As Maestro Abreu puts it, “The orchestra is the only group that comes together with the sole purpose of agreement.” Smaller ensembles and choruses adopt the same ethos.
Those who work in Núcleos take on many jobs and multiple roles in relationship to the students. By using the CATS model and acting as Citizens, Artists, Teachers and Scholars, the adults involved encourage their students to develop holistically: as active musicians, helpful educators, inquisitive learners and responsible civic contributors. For example, students often take on teaching roles themselves starting at an early age, and mentoring becomes natural as a valuable technique for all ages.
The Lifelong Continuum
El Sistema provides a continuous array of services, supporting its students from early childhood into adulthood. Despite variation in resources and practices, all Núcleos work towards a full programme. The aim is for academies, colleges, schools and other music education and performance organisations to help create a through line for every child’s education, through sequential repertoire, orchestral levels, and shared pedagogical practices. Although Núcleos are encouraged to develop programmes that are suitable for their own communities, shared practices and a unified vision allow El Sistema to provide its students with a continuous musical experience.
Families and communities
Family participation and community involvement are essential elements of El Sistema. Siblings often go to the same Núcleo, parents attend classes with the youngest students, and families form the bulk of the audience at orchestra concerts. Many sites have parent musical ensembles, and all actively work to involve the community at large through outreach concerts. Through El Sistema, families and communities are strengthened and collaborations between them are boosted.
Connections and networks
Although Núcleos run independently and often customise their own programmes, they are all strongly connected to the worldwide Sistema movement and to the fundamental lead of Venezuela’s Sistema. They are sometimes also linked through national and regional programmes and associations, all of which give the world network a unified vision. These independent yet interdependent relationships are manifested through events such as Sistema Festivals, Residencies and “seminarios,” the latter being intensive, project-based musical retreats where orchestras share repertoires, streamline techniques, and build personal and institutional relationships. By uniting students and teachers all over the world, the Núcleo networks embody the El Sistema ideals of sharing and learning together.