TALENT NEEDED: El Sistema – Music Program in 3 Denver Schools
Drawing on the inspiration and approach from the original El Sistema established in Venezuela over 40 years ago, the founders of El Sistema Colorado envisioned free music programs for low-income students in Denver. At a time when school arts funding is severely limited, El Sistema Colorado is striving to fill the music education needs of three partner schools with Title I designations.
Low-income children are typically denied the benefits of music education as Title I schools increasingly focus limited resources on core curriculum and standardized testing. Deprived of the joy and enrichment that emanates from music programs, low-income children feel less engaged in school and the achievement gap that separates them from their privileged peers only grows.
El Sistema Colorado’s instrumental and choral ensembles provide such joy and enrichment while building students’ musical, social and cognitive skills. Central to our vision is enabling students to participate from early childhood through high school graduation. As our programs grow into full fruition, and our early participants advance through their educational careers, we are cultivating a community to support our young musicians’ academic success, self-confidence, creativity and social-emotional development.
We launched our programs in January 2012 at Garden Place Academy, initially serving over 100 students. In-school, afterschool and summer programs have since expanded to nearby Swansea Elementary and Bruce Randolph Middle & High School. Across all three school sites in Northeast Denver, El Sistema Colorado serves 700 unique students each school year.
Bruce Randolph Middle and High School
El Sistema Colorado helped reinstate music education at Bruce Randolph after a decade-long hiatus due to funding cuts. Instruction is provided by a Denver Public School Music Teacher who also serves as the schools’ Lead Teaching Artist and collaborates with a staff of other Teaching Artists. In-school program provides multiple levels of band instruction for both middle and high school students. Afterschool opportunities include drumline practice and the Middle School Hub for 6th through 9th graders (including Garden Place and Swansea alumni from other middle schools). The Middle School Hub replicates the success of elementary afterschool programs.
El Sistema Colorado also offers summer camps for 1st through 12th graders, performances by professional guest artists and activities to engage the whole family. All programs (including instruments, snacks, and events) are provided free of charge to partner schools and students’ families.
Frequent performance is at the heart of the El Sistema philosophy as it necessitates diligent teamwork and sparks self-confidence and dignity. Students have many opportunities to perform for their families and school as well as travel to perform out in the community. Students have performed at cultural venues such as the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the Denver Art Museum and History Colorado Center, and have supported nonprofit and educational activities such as Habitat for Humanity, Las Madrinas Tribute event of the Catholic Archdiocese, Denver Public Schools Parent Superintendent Forum and the Biennial of the Americas. El Sistema Colorado distributes free tickets to music events, in collaboration with partners such as Denver Young Artists Orchestra, Newman Center and Colorado Symphony Orchestra, providing further cultural opportunities for students and families.