Monday, June 21, 2010

Final Week: Inaugural Abreu Fellows Graduate

The inaugural class of Abreu Fellows celebrate their graduation outside the New England Conservatory in Boston, MA

After a whirlwind spring semester marked by two months in Venezuela and a month internship in Scotland, the inaugural class of Abreu Fellows held their graduation ceremony at New England Conservatory this past week.  We are excited to put into practice what we have learned during this incredible year and thank New England Conservatory, TED and FESNOJIV for investing in us, this program and the El Sistema movement throughout the US and world.

It has been an honor to share this year with such a diverse group of people, who are all passionate about music and its power to effect change in our youth and communities.  I've learned from each and everyone of them.  TED posted a Prize Report on our graduation, as well as reflections from the past year.  Here's where we'll be this coming year, leading El Sistema-inspired programs in cities across the country.
  • Dan Berkowitz – was hired as Program Manager at Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA), the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s initiative to establish youth orchestra programs in underserved communities throughout Los Angeles.
  • Lorrie Heagy – will launch a school-based El Sistema inspired program called Juneau, Alaska Music Matters (JAMM) at Glacier Valley Elementary where she will continue teaching as a music teacher and librarian.
  • Katie Wyatt – will be a founder and the Executive Director of KidZNotes, an El Sistema inspired in- and after-school program that provides orchestral music training in the poorest neighborhoods of Durham, North Carolina.
In my next blog posting, I'll describe next year's plans for JAMM and will continue using this blog as a place to share and document the work of the program.

As I pack up my last box headed for Alaska, I'd like to thank Irene Smalls for making my stay in Boston such a memorable one.  I met this incredible children's book author as my landlady, but said goodbye to her as a friend.  She autographed and gifted me a set of her books, which will bring joy to hundreds of school children in Juneau, Alaska when they find them on the library shelves at Glacier Valley Elementary School.  Thank you, Irene!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Week 29: Big Noise Celebrates Its 2nd Birthday

 Stage is set at Alberts Hall for Big Noise Birthday Celebration Concert

The big day has finally arrived! After an incredible volunteer crew of parents and community members loaded and unloaded 90 stringed-instruments and chairs for Alberts Halls, the stage is set for a joyous Big Noise Birthday celebration.  A screen above the stage projects a slide show of each child posing proudly with his or her instrument and the surprise confetti launcher hangs from the trusses ready to release an explosion of confetti for the finale piece, Big Joy, arranged by Big Noise teacher Joelle Fenna.

Buses pick-up the excited 90 young musicians at Raploch Community Center as family members wave goodbye, cheering them on.  What has been most impressive is the seamless coordination of so many logistics!  This 2nd Birthday celebration not only highlights the two Big Noise student orchestras, but also the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Stirling City Choir who perform side-by-side.

The vision of Big Noise is big and they accomplish it every step of the way with a cohesive board, generous donors and supportive partnerships with Stirling Council, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and FESNOJIV.  During the month that I interned, Big Noise more than doubled its teaching staff from 8 to 17 to prepare for an expansion from an all-string orchestra to one with percussion, brass and winds.  The team will travel to Venezuela together for one week in June to experience and learn from the nucleos in Caracas.  My hope is that as more teams from around the world travel to Venezuela for inspiration and understanding that we share what we've learned with each other so that we can collectively build upon our knowledge base. 

Many thanks to Nicola Killean (photo on right), Director of Big Noise, for her vision and collaborative approach to leadership.

Before leaving Raploch and returning to Boston for the final week of the fellowship, I shared with the Big Noise staff the many ways in which they honor children and provide them a structured and safe musical environment.  Here is a list of prevention strategies that are tried and true among music and classroom teachers to prevent behavioral problems:
  • Give students multiple opportunities to contribute to the well being of the class, school and community
  • Create a positive climate through celebrations and acknowledge success
  • Ensure that alternatives and choices are available
  • Organize your environment so that students' basic needs are satisfied
  • Model what you expect
  • Make sure your lessons have an emotional hook
  • Establish and teach a system of signals
  • Catch the students being good
  • Provide a structured environment so that students can be more self-sufficient and empowered in their learning
  • Use reinforcing, reminding and refocusing language
  • Establish and nurture classroom and program-wide routines/rituals, rules and reinforcements of pro-social, caring, relationships
  • Teach social skills, self-control strategies and ways for promoting empathy for others
Thank you everyone at Big Noise for making my internship such a welcoming one filled with learning and sharing.  You have much to celebrate!  Congratulations!

Ysla helps conduct one of the kids' favorite piece written by Joelle called Mission Mars

Big Noise celebration ends with a bang of confetti
(photo by Marc Marnie)

The incredible Big Noise teaching staff and volunteers