The qualities central to the El Sistema way—including working in underserved communities, intense focus, high expectations, and joyful learning—are also key aspects of many children and youth choral programs that do not identify as "El Sistema-inspired"… But Grogan and other founders say that El Sistema-inspired choral programs are different in a subtle but important way—a distinction that starts with the intention behind the program. "The biggest difference is the purpose of existence," says Sara Zanussi [Sistema Fellow '13], the founder of ComMUSICation in the Twin Cities area. "It’s music for social change at the front of our mission, rather than as a secondary priority."
"Programs are built to remove access barriers for children,” says Alysia Lee [Sistema Fellow '12]. “That affects every element, from program design to repertoire, performance opportunities, and marketing.”
“El Sistema’s true north is youth development and how you get there is through musical excellence,” says Eric Booth [Sistema Fellows Program advisor]. “So there is this little bit of difference in intentionality. But over time it becomes and creates a different culture.”
Continue reading the article, which also features Aisha Bowden, Sistema Fellow '12, at ChorusAmerica.org.