Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Foundation of Thought

My name is Albert Oppenheimer and I am a composer, educator, and social entrepreneur from Starkville, Mississippi. I am a member of the 3rd class of Abreu Fellows at the New England Conservatory of music. The fellowship was formed in response to a TED wish made by El Sistema founder and TED Prize winner Jose Abreu in 2009. Our mission is to study the Venezuelan social program, El Sistema, and apply its pedagogy and principles here in the USA and the rest of the world. We are being trained as non-profit strategists focused on poverty alleviation and the infusion of upward social mobility in underserved communities- all through music. This is an applied program, where theory is only useful as a pilot light, and the real flame of passion is ignited through practice. I will be blogging here about my journey through the fellowship. Join me?

Q: Describe what El Sistema means to you
A: You always need a destination farther down the road, so that you travel. Even if you change your destinations, you keep up your speed and your momentum. We give children a goal of playing an instrument, being part of an orchestra, being a fantastic musician. No matter where they go, they have developed momentum. They have a solid foundation of discipline, accomplishment, and contribution which can be universally applied as they move into the future. 
*Our entry point is musical access and our outcome is social mobility*

I've been involved with the fellowship since I gave the first group of fellows their campus tour in Fall of 2009. The fellowship combines many of my life passions- music, youth work, and social justice. My personal goal within the fellowship is to research and encourage the possibility of working with the concepts of improvisation and composition from the moment musical education begins. The potential is enormous, and is but a subtle shift of the understanding of musical language. Music is not just a language for one to speak, like speeches to be read off the page via the violin, much like one might perform Shakespeare. It is also a language of creation, of personal expression and exploration. Every pitch, every rhythm is another tool/ingredient/option to potentially be re-imagined into a unique composition. If music was taught with the understanding that it is also as malleable as language, as fluid as finger paint, perhaps we could nurture a generation of composers. 

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