Category Archives: Music

Announcing a New Investment in Creative Youth Development and Music Education

Community Music School of Springfield performs at the announcement of the Dudamel Foundation's investment in creative youth development in Massachusetts.The Mass Cultural Council is pleased to announce a $10,000 gift from the Gustavo Dudamel Foundation to deepen its support of creative youth development and music education.

Elected officials and cultural leaders from the Springfield region joined Mass Cultural Council and Springfield Public Schools students, teachers, and administrators at the Community Music School of Springfield today to announce the grant. The Schools’ partnership program, Sonido Música uses intensive, ensemble music to strengthen academic and social-emotional learning, and empowers a new generation of young people to work for social justice. Inspired by the Venezuelan El Sistema model, the program is funded through Mass Cultural Council’s SerHacer Program.

“Music and the arts are central to a complete education,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, who also serves as Chair of the School Committee. “The Community Music School brings together students and families of all backgrounds to learn and grow through music making. We’re delighted to be a showcase for the work that the Mass Cultural Council and the Dudamel Foundation support.”

Established by Venezuelan-born conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, the Gustavo Dudamel Foundation is dedicated to supporting the arts and music education as catalysts in promoting a more compassionate and just society. “Music is unique in its power to unite and inspire,” said Dudamel. “By playing and listening together, music teaches discipline, cooperation, and an appreciation for beauty that enriches lives and binds communities. I am very pleased to collaborate with the Mass Cultural Council in expanding opportunities for children from diverse communities to be empowered through music.”

The Foundation’s grant to Mass Cultural Council will supplement the state agency’s support of 18 El Sistema-inspired youth music ensembles across Massachusetts, and helped to underwrite a student performance supported by the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston this past Saturday. SerHacer provides three-year, $15,000 annual grants to each of these programs, provides an instrument library through the Johnson String Project so all youth have quality instruments, and funds a three-year research study that seeks to document the impact of the El Sistema model on the lives of young people.

Mass Cultural Council Program Manager Rodrigo Guerrero said the Dudamel grant is another sign that Massachusetts is leading the way in creative youth development, an intentional practice that fosters active creative expression through the arts, humanities, and sciences, while developing core social, emotional, and life skills, for youth of all ages. Creative youth development approaches young people as active agents in their own growth, with inherent strengths and skills to be developed and nurtured. The overall goal is for culture to play a major role in supporting the growth of creative, productive, and independent citizens and thriving communities.

Read the Full Release.

Nano-Interview with Marielisa Alvarez of Boston String Academy

Marielisa AlvarezName: Marielisa Alvarez
Organization: Boston String Academy
Title: Co-Director
Music Genre: Classical
Years in the Field: 15

What do you do at Boston String Academy?
I am Co-Director and Co-Founder of the organization along with my twin sister, Mariesther, and my friend and colleague Taide Prieto. I teach violin and viola in individual and group settings, and lead string ensembles for about 110 children ages 6 – 15 in three different sites around the city –  Chinatown, Allston, and Roxbury. Aside from my teaching duties, I also spend part of the day doing administrative work, class and event planning, fund-raising, marketing, etc.

Why do you do what you do?
I had the life changing experience of growing up in El Sistema in my home country of Venezuela and I would like many children to have similar experiences of growing and learning through music. I want to help them open their eyes to a world of possibilities and opportunities.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
I love what I am doing, and it comes very easy and natural to teach my students. I feel I can easily communicate and transmit my passion and excitement to them and they respond very well.

What challenges you in this work?
Not having enough time to do everything I would like to do. Finding resources to support  our vision and being able to offer this opportunity to many more children.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
Many children are having access to top quality classical music training that they otherwise would not be able to. The children are being exposed to sublime artistic impressions, they will become more sensitive, they will appreciate art, they will be able to interact and work well with others, they will be more confident and have the courage to reach higher in life, they will become well rounded human beings, and the best ambassadors and advocates for their families and communities.

How do you blow off steam?
Outdoor activities and dancing!

What do you create in your free time?
Tasty dishes

Seen any good movies lately?
Hidden Figures

What’s next?
Europe! Will be going to Finland this summer to the second phase of the amazing Colourstrings pedagogy workshop, and will visit some El Sistema-inspired programs in Europe as well.

Nano-Interview with Ian Gollub of Global Learning Charter Public School

Ian GollubName: Ian Gollub
Organization: Global Learning Charter Public School and Jazz Initiative
Title: Music Director
Music Genre: Trained in Jazz
Years in the Field: 13

What do you do at Global Learning Charter Public School and the Jazz Initiative?
I am the Music Director and General Music Educator for the entire program 5-12. I teach Middle School and High School Band, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, and general music grades 5-8. Four years ago we had a non-existent performance program. Now nearly 1/3 of the entire school participates in a performing ensemble, band, chorus, or orchestra.

I built the Global Learning Charter Jazz Initiative (GLCJI) based on a similar model program I began in Newport, RI, and it was my hope the GLCJI would be the perfect space for young people to begin their musical journeys without worry about cost or instruments.

The GLCJI offers a safe space, instruments, tools, and serious instruction to young musicians who want to learn, explore, create, and promote jazz music and beyond. We offer ensemble and performance based curriculum free to students grades 3-12 in New Bedford, MA and the surrounding communities.

Why do you do what you do?
Having the opportunity to play music all day – all night – everyday is not a job, it’s a gift. I am grateful that I earn a living doing what I love. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have the means and support to pursue my dreams of performing. I was able to study privately and attend great music workshops and programs. I also grew up knowing that, although I was fortunate enough to have such an opportunity, not everyone was as lucky.

I knew from the second I began teaching that, as often as possible, I wanted to create and promote music education opportunities at little or no cost to students. Many young people have a great desire to study and perform, and the only thing keeping them from sharing their musical energy and ideas is financial burden, distance to programming, and lack of resources (mainly instruments).

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Generating excitement for being musical comes easiest. I think this is only because I am so genuinely excited myself. I like to think my passion and excitement is infectious to my students and rubs off a bit.

What challenges you in this work?
Scheduling, time, and space are the main challenges. Currently our facility is a very charming and beautiful, but 100-year old former Catholic school building. Not much has changed in 100 years. Classrooms are small and definitely not designed for rehearsing ensembles. Sharing this space with other programming in the Global Learning Charter Public School community gets tricky. Fortunately, our program is respected and supported by administration, staff, and community therefore we don’t run into much trouble. Never having enough time is something there doesn’t seem to be a cure for!

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
There is an incredible amount of musical energy, musical ideas, and genuine enthusiastic creativity found in our neighborhoods of Greater New Bedford. For that reason, the intent is to create a safe space and the means and tools for these young people to learn, create, and promote their music. It is not the lack of desire, but largely the lack of financial resources that discourages youth from learning to play a musical instrument and participating in a music program. Having opportunities like this in our community has been embraced.

How do you blow off steam?
I love playing and being silly with my 4 year-old and 2 year-old. Who doesn’t wish they could go back in time to when there wasn’t a care in the world and playing make-believe was some serious work?!

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
Tower of Power, Earth Wind and Fire, Steely Dan, Coltrane, Miles and Bird are my regular rotation.

Springfield’s SciTech Band Receives 2017 Commonwealth Award

Last month, the MCC proudly presented Springfield’s SciTech High School Band with the 2017 Commonwealth Award in Creative Youth Development, for providing Springfield’s youth with opportunities to experience music and to give back to their community by sharing their joy in its creation.

Their energetic performance kicked-off the State House ceremony:

MCC’s biennial Commonwealth Awards celebrate exceptional achievements in the arts, humanities, and sciences. The creative youth development category recognizes an individual, school, or cultural organization that has successfully helped young people develop their creative potential, foster critical learning and life skills, & become active contributors to their communities.

Gustavo Dudamel Lectures at Harvard University

In November, as part of a series of Lectures at Harvard University called “the Creative Class”, students from both the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, and the Longy Sistema Side-by-Side orchestra had the opportunity to work with the artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel.

In a sit-down conversation with LA Phil CEO Deborah Borda, Dudamel spoke at length of his experience as young Venezuelan musician in El Sistema (Venezuela’s Youth Orchestras and Choirs Program), and his commitment to support music education as an opportunity to develop creative potential, and develop the critical learning and life skills young people need to become active contributors to their communities.

To this end, besides his continued engagement with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Dudamel has championed the creation of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) with the LA Phil and its community partners to provide free instruments and intensive music training to students from underserved neighborhoods, empowering them to become vital citizens, leaders, and agents of change.

Dudamel pointed out the proliferation of Sistema inspired initiatives in the United States, specifically the high concentration of them in Massachusetts, where eighteen programs like these receive support from the MCC through its SerHacer grants.

In recognition of his artistic conscience and commitment as a music educator,  the young Venezuelan Maestro was awarded Harvard’s Luise Vosgerchian Teaching Award at the end of the lecture.

Nano-Interview with Ashleigh Gordon of Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra

Ashleigh Gordon. Image by MBSchroederPhotography

Name: Ashleigh Gordon
Organization: BYSO Intensive Community Program
Title: Viola faculty
Music Genre: Classical
Years in the Field: 15

What do you do at Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Intensive Community Program?
I teach viola to beginner students, both privately and in groups, and even find myself teaching Kindergarteners violin as well.

Why do you do what you do?
My goals as an educator are to spark curiosity in the arts, foster necessary life skills through music, and serve as a mentor to each child. With each one of my students, I focus on establishing strong and healthy foundations while supporting them in their musical and life developments. Viewing education as an active process, I encourage all my students to learn how to be their own problem-solvers in and beyond the realm of music. I’m a firm believer in educating the entire person and view myself as a holistic mentor in my student’s growth as a musician and person.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Being silly and being honest. Teaching allows me to tap into my inner child where I’m not afraid to embarrass myself to make a point, sing, dance, or even pretend to act to show a musical phrase, or think up silly analogies to make my students think and connect to the music they’re making.

What do you do in your free time?
In my “free” time I’m running a concert and educational series dedicated to celebrating Black culture, history, and classical music. As Artistic/Executive Director and violist of Castle of our Skins, I’m either designing concert programs, writing grants, performing viola in an “edu-tainment” program or educational workshop, or doing any of the other myriad things involved with the leadership. I’m also an active freelance chamber music with a passion for contemporary music and play with my own string trio that specializes in new music (called Sound Energy) or other groups in town including BMOP, Callithumpian Consort, and ECCE Ensemble.

Seen any good movies lately?
I’m usually not a big movie goer but I’ve been floored on my most recent trips to see Moonlight, Fences, and I am Not Your Negro. Still itching to see Hidden Figures.

What are you currently reading?
The news. Lots of it.

Sonido Musica Performance Honors MLK Day

Boy from Sonido Musica playing the drums This past Monday the MassMutual Center in Springfield resonated with music and dance to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In a ceremony framed by tremendous community participation, local and regional dignitaries, and the moving eloquence of Dr. King, 700 young artists took to the stage in a dazzling and colorful celebration.

Performers included members of the Sonido Musica School Partnership programs, which features students from 16 public schools in the city that which receive funding from MCC’s STARS Residencies. Sonido Musica is a program of Community Music School of Springfield, a nonprofit organization that unifies youth of different ages and backgrounds through performing arts education and is the recipient of MCC’s SerHacer funding.

“In light of the uncertainties around race relations and the polarization of various groups who feel marginalized, this celebration reminds us we have the opportunity to engage in simple acts – at school, at work, and in our families – that strengthen our community in the spirit of unity that defines the legacy of Dr. King,” said Ronn Johnson CEO of Martin Luther King, Jr Family Services. “We must all open our ears and open our hearts. When someone says something demeaning, we all have the opportunity to be change agents. The MLK Day Celebration inspires us to celebrate the resiliency of our community.”

Girl from Sonido Musica plays the violin

Images by Dave Roback.

Nano-Interview with Rodrigo Guerrero of MCC

Rodrigo GuerreroName: Rodrigo Guerrero
Organization: Massachusetts Cultural Council
Title: Creative Youth Development Program Manager
Years in the Field: 17

What do you do at the Massachusetts Cultural Council?
I collaborate with my colleagues in the department in supervising the grant programs and providing applicants with technical assistance. Due to my background with El Sistema inspired initiatives around the world, I also manage the SerHacer Program which supports the growing number of intensive, ensemble-based music programs that use music as a vehicle for social change.

Why do you do what you do?
I had a very rocky schooling experience in my native Venezuela, typical education was not cutting it for me. Thanks to an attentive high school principal that helped me focus on the arts and humanities, I was able to find my way in life into a creative career. I want to make it easier on young people to find that principal, teacher, or mentor.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
There’s a lot of numbers attached to this work, attendance, retention, demographics, dosage, etc. Because I’m usually quite bad with numbers, I tend to look for what’s the story behind them and pull them together into a story that can be retold easily, so I guess translating data into compelling stories…

What challenges you in this work?
Preconceptions regarding artists, audiences, individual growth, and public benefit.  So much of our work balances on challenging these, so that more support is gathered and more communities are benefited. It’s always difficult to understand how different people or positions simply have a very different perspective on what they consider to be valuable, so one always needs to take a couple of steps back and try to realize where the other person or group comes from. This process can happen quickly, but sometimes requires considerable thought and conversation before reaching common ground, and typically time is working against everyone… Sometimes it’s exhausting, but it is always quite rewarding.

How do you blow off steam?
I’m an avid board and strategy gamer. I find games to be an excellent exercise in management and creativity within set boundaries. Winning or losing is not as relevant to me as the actual social experience.

What do you create in your free time?
I’m a very curious cook and foodie, so I’m always keen on creating and participating in exciting culinary experiences and experiments…I also paint miniatures and components for my gaming hobby.

Whose work in the CYD field do you admire and why?
I had the privilege of working for many years with the founder of El Sistema, Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu, and I find his work falls completely in line with the principles of Creative Youth Development.  Maestro Abreu’s dedication in creating a national network of music education caused dramatic change in the professional landscape in Venezuela, one where the arts and the artist are integral to the communities they exist in.

As much as I realize that this was possible in part to the very peculiar historical moment of El Sistema’s birth, I see much of Abreu’s drive, creativity, and passion in many CYD organizations in Massachusetts, which is why I took this job in the first place!

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I’m an eclectic mess… my old iPod classic can go from Progressive Rock’s Yes and Rush to Tango all stars like Piazzola and Gardel, Dvorak’s American Quartet or Romero’s Venezuelan Onda Nueva, Tom Jobim’s Bossa with Elis Regina, or Argentinean Rock with Soda Stereo and Andres Calamaro, oh I love Regina Spektor. This is a  a complicated question…

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
“Taking joy in discreetly making things happen”

What’s next?
Learning to deal with four seasons instead of two, hitting the road to all corners of Massachusetts to meet and support amazing programs and young artists, but most of all to keep working to support and showcase the amazing field of practice that is Creative Youth Development, not only to our constituents and legislators, but to the world at large.

Nano-Interview with Jane Money of Boston City Singers

Jane MoneyName: Jane Money
Organization: Boston City Singers
Title: Founding Artistic Director
Years in the Field: 30

What do you do at Boston City Singers?
I do pretty much everything! I conduct several of our choirs, including the most advanced, Tour Choir. I enjoy meeting with our donors, creating new arrangements of music with our outstanding staff (often based on folk songs or spirituals). I work on our grantwriting team, and conduct 5 of our 15 programs. And recommendations! Last year I wrote over 100 for our graduating seniors. We were delighted that they earned over $300,000 in scholarships.

Why do you do what you do?
At Boston City Singers we believe in supporting the upward trajectory of each of our singers.  There is nothing more rewarding than supporting the growth of a young person all the way through to college and beyond.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
I am passionate about excellent repertoire which speaks to the diversity of our singers and audiences.

What challenges you in this work?
As our work has continued to grow, we have been challenged to find rehearsal and performance space that is both safe and accessible in the communities we serve.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
We have always been based in Dorchester, MA. In our earliest years, potential partners, funders, and Board members would be turned off by that. Few would visit, and it was not always easy to be taken seriously. More than once we heard “You are from Dorchester? You can’t be any good…” Over time,  Dorchester has changed and continues to evolve into something far more positive. We like to think that we have been a part of that process.

How do you blow off steam?
Once a year, I go back home to New Zealand for a couple of weeks, where I walk the length of one local beach each day and cook for my brother and his family.

What do you create in your free time?
I am an avid knitter, home cook, and co-restorer of our Victorian home.

Whose work in the CYD field do you admire and why?
We have had a long relationship with the Corrymeela Centre in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. We led a choir project in Ireland in 2005 aimed at bringing children from both sides of the border together in song. One of the highlights was a residency at the Centre where I experienced first hand the power of creative youth development. We have worked closely with one of their volunteers ever since crafting leadership and youth development  programs across the organization.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
The Brazilian singers Marisa Monte, anything Ella Fitzgerald and the Canadian choir Elektra.

Do you live with any animals?
I am a foster parent for New England Brittany Rescue. We adopted our first dog, Brady, three years ago. He is 12 now, but very active and an awesome host dog to our fosters.

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
Let’s find a way to make this happen!

What’s next?
My husband and I are visiting Cuba in February, meeting with local choirs, musicians and teachers, then off to South Africa with 40 members of the Tour Choir in the summer.

Nano-Interview with Corey DePina of ZUMIX

Corey DePinaName: Corey DePina
Organization: ZUMIX
Title: Youth Development and Performance Manager
Genre: Hip Hop
Years in the Field: 17

What do you do at Zumix?
I plan and run creative writing and performance programs for teens. I also teach literature through creative writing for the 9th grade class at East Boston High School. I manage, support, and train ZUMIX performance instructors to be their best, so that they can offer the best learning experience for their students.

Why do you do what you do?
I feel like this is my calling. Through my love of hip hop, I was able to learn how to read and write. I help empower so many others though understanding their voice and expressing themselves.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Taking a boring subject or topic and finding a fun, engaging, and exciting way to introduce it to students.

What challenges you in this work?
Not being paid enough.  I wonder if we will have donors and the money to keep doing this work in the future. I also find it a challenge to continue to prove to the academic world that my spiritual and artistic approach is important, and in a lot of cases, is what’s missing.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
It means the world to me and to my community for everyone to have access to arts and education. In a city where our public schools have no music programs and youth are told to memorize facts like computer programming, it means so much to provide a creative outlet for expression – one that incorporates critical thinking, reflection and growth along with theory and practice.

How do you blow off steam?
Going on long drives.  Getting lost, either physically or with the paper, pen and a hip hop track.

What do you create in your free time?
In my free time I like to evolve my curriculum and create unique, fun approaches to writing and music making.

Whose work in the CYD field do you admire and why?
My homie, Eric Booth, and my big homie, Mo Barbosa. Eric is wicked smart and has a way with words. He takes this profession and validates it. Mo is super thoughtful and smart in his approach in youth work. It’s comforting every time to talk to these guys about the work. They are so confident in the field and it rubs off.

What music do you like to listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
No shame, I have been feeling the new Bruno Mars track 24KRT. I think I like it, because it’s pretty funky, and I’m sure I can bust like 95% of the dance moves I have to it.

Seen any good movies lately?
Movies, no. But that Netflix though… Black Mirror…

What are you currently reading?
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, by Beverly Daniel Tatum.

What’s next?
I want to write my own book and tell my story about how hip hop helped this young man go from being illiterate to becoming one of the best educators this city has.

Check out Corey’s tracks on SoundCloud.