The day after Labor Day is always a magical time for the newest children at El Sistema Oklahoma. As they enter the doors, they scramble to find their name tags to check the back of their tag. Why the back? Because the back reveals the instrument they will learn to play while they are in the program! On September 3, 2013, 100 children discovered the transformative power of music and on September 5, 2017, a new class of 50 children will have this same powerful experience. This year marks the FIFTH class of children to join El Sistema Oklahoma. This year, we will serve 220 children in grades 3 – 10. We share this incredible success with our St. Luke’s family. Many of you prayed for our success before we even knew the names of the children entering the program in 2013. And now, as we embark on our fifth year of our mission, we have much to celebrate.
The children come to El Sistema Oklahoma every weekday until 6 p.m. The children will receive almost 300 hours of music instruction and 140 hours of academic support just this year alone. There is no audition and everything is provided free of charge for participating families. Our research is showing what we all knew to be true in our hearts. When children can be part of a successful community and be surrounded by love, guidance and support, amazing things can happen. The children at El Sistema Oklahoma report that they are more successful in school, have better relationships with their families, and friends, and are less stressed since becoming part of our ministry. Families report more success in school, that their children are able to tackle challenges more easily, and that their children are more successful in all aspects of their lives. This is the transformative power of music.
What was once one orchestra is now two, full symphony orchestras, one string orchestra and this year we will see our first band ensemble! Our children have gained musical capacity and now not only perform in one of the large ensembles but also as part of small chamber ensembles. These ensembles perform around the city, sharing our message of joy and hope through our music. In addition to performance power, our children have incredible creative power too. Last year, we premiered two original works for chamber ensembles written by children in the program. This year, we will premier an original composition for orchestra written by one of the children. The children learn to create through our music literacy and composition curriculum and in our iMac composition lab. Once again, we will also see children serving as conductors with the large orchestras in the Spring. This year, we will also launch our F.A.M.E. program for our high school students. F.A.M.E. stands for “Future Awesome Music Educators” and is designed to mirror collegiate music education instruction. Who better to serve our community as music educators than our very own El Sistema Oklahoma children? We hope by planting these seeds early about the incredible opportunity it is to be a teacher that we will be able to build a pipeline of future music educators for Oklahoma City, our state, and beyond.
Finally, the work of El Sistema Oklahoma is being recognized on the state and national level this year. First, we have been named a PlayUSA partner to
Carnegie Hall. One of only 13 programs nationally and the only program in Oklahoma. We were selected based on our creative and innovative approaches to teaching in an underserved and diverse population. This partnership brings a year long conversation with Carnegie Hall and other partners as we seek to provide the highest quality music education to children who would not otherwise have this opportunity. Second, one of our chamber ensembles has been selected to perform at the National Association for Music Education’s National Conference in Dallas, Texas in November. This represents the first national performance for any El Sistema Oklahoma ensemble. This group of high school girls launched their first album in May. You can listen for yourself at elsistemaok.org/group and use password GROUP2017. Finally, the Orquesta Esperanza has been selected as a featured ensemble at the Oklahoma Music Educators Conference to be held in Tulsa in January 2018.
We’ve got lots of travelling planned as you can see but you don’t have to travel far to share in our amazing work. The first performance for our newest children will be Friday, October 6 at 6 p.m. at the Wanda L. Bass School of Music on the campus of Oklahoma City University. It will be the best performance of Hot Cross Buns that you’ve ever heard! Then on Sunday, October 8 at 2 p.m., we will offer a concert for our entire community at the Myriad Gardens Great Lawn. The concert is free and open to the public. We will celebrate all the things that make our community strong. Bring your lawn chairs and join us for a terrific afternoon. Finally, we will close this semester with our Winter Concert on Wednesday, December 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Rose State College. We would love to have a full audience as our children share their music and celebrate together.
We are truly sharing God’s love and bringing hope to the world through the mission of El Sistema Oklahoma. Our St. Luke’s family has been and continues to be a guiding force in our success. We have much to be thankful for. You can find out more about joining our work by visiting the website.
Written by: Robyn Hilger, El Sistema Oklahoma Executive Director