Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today found me in Chicago with my sister, who attends the University of Chicago, and my father, who drove from Mississippi to join us. During the brief time that I spent in Boston, after I returned from New Orleans, an Abreu Fellowship reunion took place. Many stories were shared of the amazing journeys that my fellow fellows have had. They had adventures in far away lands such as Scotland and Costa Rica, while others braved the temperate rain forests of Alaska. Some visited programs in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cincinati, Chicago, and Atlanta. One fellow, Avi Mehta, traveled around Texas, visiting programs in Austin and San Antonio and discussed the potential for a program in the Dallas – Fort Worth area. For our reunion, we spent two glorious days with Gretchen Nielsan, Director of Educational Initiatives for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, learning about the LA Phil's Sistema inspired programs under the umbrella of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles. Check out the YOLA resource library- it's full of useful documents and information regarding El Sistema and the structure of YOLA'S programs. During our reunion, we spent some time exploring the massive amounts of data gathered by our ongoing national needs assessment of all self identifying 'El Sistema inspired' programs in the USA- very interesting, very exciting. Also, Gretchen helped us create a foundational understanding of nucleo program design. The first step of which is context. That concept of context brings me to my phrase of the day:

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Before you can truly begin designing a Sistema program to serve a community, you have to explore and get to know the ecosystem that already exists in that community. This is a large part of the work I was doing in New Orleans. In both program design and community mapping, understanding what a community already has to be thankful for is an essential initial step in the process. The goal should be to strive to discover and understand what programs already exist doing great work in the community- to look at which programs are role models and potential partners/collaborators- to ascertain which programs' outcomes could be enhanced through support, collaboration, and connection. In order to achieve the most positive possible impact, you need to truly grasp the assets of a community as you attempt to address the need.

There is some amazing work going on in the world. The work is going on in your country. In your city. Perhaps, even right next door. Look up, look around, and get in touch! I am filled with thankfulness for all the individuals and programs who work so hard to make the world a more joyful, a more peaceful, and a more musical place to be. Thank you. 

Questions of the day:
What can be gained through the knowledge of the assets in a community? 
What musical/educational/social programs are you thankful for in your community? 
Have you said 'thank you' recently? 


  1. This is a lovely post, Albert - thank you for sharing your thoughts and inspirations so beautifully :-)

    - Anne G.

  2. I thank my God for the gift of music and for people like you who care and inspire others to reach what may have been unreachable dreams...

  3. I really appreciate your view on music, you make me want to listen to more music and look into music outside of the U.S.