The spirit with which the musicians teach is partially the reason that many children in El Sistema are intrinsically driven rather than extrinsically driven in music. Since their teachers are motivated less by recognition and more by an impetus to share, the children are also motivated less by the accolades and more by the joys of playing together. Furthermore, because the element of extrinsic motivation loses its effect, children are free to create a supportive and encouraging community among each other. Never during a private lesson or masterclass that I gave while in Venezuela, was one student embarrassed to play for another student. In many cases, others would jump into offer advice, and the student in the spotlight would eagerly hear them out, without a moment’s pause to lick wounded pride or to rear up defenses. You see, in these moments, the observing students become teachers themselves, who have long embodied the qualities of sharing that their own teachers have shown them. As one núcleo director put it, “You teach what you were taught” and “If you’re teaching without making your student feel great, then you’re not really teaching.”
Therefore, it’s not difficult to envision how El Sistema is ensuring its future. When you have a network of children who have been given much and want to teach as soon as they see others playing the same instrument, and when you are developing young adults who will manifest the spirit of sharing through teaching in the future, you have a virtuous cycle of growth.
Sistema Fellow '14