Many El Sistema-inspired initiatives in the U.S have moved out of start-up mode and have begun asking deeper, more complex questions. We are asking these questions in our respective cities and as a field. "How can we increase the amount of students we serve, enhance quality, and become financially stable and sustainable?"
The dynamic partnership between the San Diego Youth Orchestra and the Chula Vista Elementary School District provides an incredible case study about how the inspiration of El Sistema not only provided students access to music education for the first time, but also become a symbol of advocacy and a catalyst for change across an entire school district.
The San Diego Unified School District, having allotted $3 million for arts integration in their Title I schools, shows that we have finally left an era in which undervalued arts education programs exist in silos and hang on to every dollar with clenched fists, and entered into an era in which more and more individuals see the arts as a core part of any and every public education experience.
Some may worry that "arts integration" allows school and district leaders the chance to collapse sequential programming and still receive a passing grade on their arts education report card. But rest assured, there was unanimous agreement at this conference, from Superintendents on down, that we need high quality, sequential arts programs as well as arts integration initiatives in our schools. As an El Sistema-inspired movement, how can we ensure that the students we serve have access to sequential music education through graduation? And perhaps a question that we have thought about less is: How can individuals inspired by El Sistema play a role in arts integration either as practitioners of this beautiful work or as advocates and facilitators?
Patrick Slevin, Sistema Fellow '11