For the sake of providing a better understanding for prospective applicants, the following is an excerpted overview of the Sistema Fellows Program curriculum, as of January 2013.
Phase I: Orientation, Understanding El Sistema
Following one week of orientation to NEC and Boston, the Fellows then spend the next six
weeks beginning to grasp what El Sistema is all about. This introduction to El Sistema
includes visiting local El Sistema-inspired programming, hearing from former Fellows
already in the field, learning about the historical context for American music education, and
discussing El Sistema’s philosophical underpinnings by exploring the ideas of Maxine
Greene, Paolo Freire, and others. As part of a yearlong collaboration, Eric Booth introduces
the Fellows to the fundamentals of El Sistema’s teaching and learning practices, evaluation
and assessment, and the concepts of teaching artistry.
The Fellows also begin a yearlong sequence with Greg Kandel on nonprofit organizational life both in classroom settings and through one-to-one consultations. Throughout the year, they examine qualities of leadership, entrepreneurship, governance, and strategic planning—all centered on how to best perform as individuals in the field. Networking, relationship building, and presentation skills (Tony Woodcock) are introduced and practiced.
As a group, and through individual consultations, the Fellows develop ideas about their personal mission statements, and identify achievable goals for their time at NEC. They also investigate and plan their upcoming US nucleo residencies. They discuss a group project with the goal of contributing new knowledge to the El Sistema-inspired field. Group norms and guidelines are established collaboratively.
Sample post: Safe and charged by Andrea Landin
Sample post: Joy and relationships by Sara Zanussi
Phase II: Fieldwork
During Phase II, the Fellows spend four weeks of their own design, exploring El Sistema-inspired and related programming in the US. Each Fellow has an allowance for travel and accommodations to seek out experiences in the field that correspond with his/her personal interests and goals. In conjunction with program visits, the Fellows conduct research with the aim of bringing knowledge back to their colleagues and contributing to the group project. At the conclusion of Phase II, the Fellows give public presentations about what they learned through their residencies in the field.
Sample post: A Moment at JAMM by Andrea Landin
Sample post: Flexible and well-rounded musicians by Xochitl Tafoya
Phase III: Research, Evaluation, and Assessment
The final month of the first semester is geared toward understanding the importance of and the field’s need for research, evaluation, and assessment. The Fellows learn from a variety of consultants and practitioners, and they are challenged to think about how El Sistema-inspired programs can best measure, document, and report their results for both internal and external audiences.
Simultaneously, planning commences for a spring convening of Boston’s El Sistema-inspired programs. Nonprofit organization sessions with Greg Kandel (including the drafting of a strategic plan outline) and presentation skills sessions with Tony Woodcock continue. The Fellows attend a national El Sistema symposium, playing the role of scribes who help to create a follow up document to share with the field, and assist with a convening of regional El Sistema-inspired programs. They begin to critically examine their behaviors, both interpersonal and professional. A group mission statement is agreed upon. At the end of the first semester, Fellows’ feedback is solicited for second semester improvements.
Sample post: Consonance, dissonance, and harmony by Andrea Landin
Phase IV: Building and Practicing Skills
Following the month-long winter break, the Fellows delve more deeply into various aspects of running a start-up organization. They try out skills that they will continue to refine in coming years when/if they are in leadership positions. A five-session finance track (Ed Lesser, Ronald Florence) provides the fundamentals needed for launching a new program. A similar sequence of sessions explores resource development, with an emphasis on foundation proposals, in kind support, and the long-term cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of individual donors (Heath Marlow, David McMullin, and others). The finance and resource development tracks overlap, featuring practical experience with real projects and their leaders. A weekly follow-up session supports the seminar experience. In addition, there are occasional opportunity-based visits by former Fellows who share their experiences in the field. Eric Booth leads and facilitates further learning about teaching artistry and programmatic elements of El Sistema-inspired efforts in the US.
Greg Kandel’s nonprofit organization sequence focuses on entrepreneurship, ethics, governance and future employment/self-marketing. Tony Woodcock’s sequence of sessions switches focus from public speaking to leadership. There is a regular weekly opportunity to gain teaching and/or administrative experience in local El Sistema-inspired programming (Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons). The Fellows initiate a book discussion group to explore ideas that they would like to cover in more depth.
In collaboration with local nucleo directors, the Fellows design, promote, and produce a Boston symposium/seminario at the end of March. They also prepare for their upcoming month-long residency in Venezuela. Basic Spanish instruction is provided for those who need it. The entire group prepares for teaching music in Spanish.
Phase V: Venezuela
The highly-anticipated culminating experience of the Sistema Fellows Program is approximately four weeks of observing--and teaching in--El Sistema nucleos in Venezuela, including large urban programs in Caracas as well as smaller rural programs many miles outside of the capitol city.
Phase VI: Reflection and Graduation
There is a brief wrap-up period following the Fellows’ return from Venezuela. In the final
few days of the Fellows Program, they reflect on the year as a whole, provide program
leadership with constructive feedback about their experience, ready themselves for the
entering the field, and bring closure to a unique and intense nine-month experience.
Program Director, Sistema Fellows Program