The Take A Stand conference led me to think about how El Sistema-inspired programs can foster opportunities for collaborative creative projects that deal with social issues.
Guy Raz started off the symposium by reminding us of artistic works that were catalysts for, or highlighted, a change in society (e.g. Picasso's Guernica). These artistic works were new creations that pushed the boundaries of existing musical forms and styles. Leon Botstein followed this by emphasising that music is a participatory act that is invented and re-invented – new creations as a result of a collaborative process. Robert Duke then spoke about the fundamental purpose of music being to convey something to other human beings, and in the case of the El Sistema-inspired movement, we seek to communicate some very powerful messages about social issues.
I encountered a great example of how this can be achieved. The Creative Connections workshop led by Dan Trahey (Artistic Director of OrchKids in Baltimore) demonstrated how a large group of people of different abilities can easily collaborate in compositional activities. This one-hour session gave plenty of freedom for participants to use musical ideas from a variety of styles and backgrounds, and longer workshops can operate around a social theme as a focus for ideas. Four small groups were created to easily contribute ideas which were put together to form a composition; Joe Hamm used his background in percussion to suggest a rhythm that selected individuals could improvise over, and a YOLA student gave Trahey the 'Boom-shak-a-lak-a' call and response introduction. In addition, a participant of previous Creative Connections described to me how longer workshops can operate around a social theme as a focus for ideas.
I would encourage El Sistema-inspired programs to consider ways in which communities can be built and strengthened by using collaborative creative projects that seek to promote awareness of social issues.
Millie Downs, Sistema Fellow '14