Our guest blogger and volunteer from Italy, Giulia Molteni, reflects on her 6th day with the YOURS Project:
Today I really want you to get to know one of the YOURS Project High School Interns, 14-year-old Andrew Aldo Gonzales.
Giulia: Andrew, I was very impressed by your enthusiasm at the introductory meeting of the YOURS Project High School Internship Workshop. I think it would be very interesting if you would share with all of us some of your experiences as student who has participated in the YOURS Project.
Andrew: I would be happy to share a few of my experiences as a YOURS student at Monroe Elementary. When the YOURS Project first arrived at our school, I was so excited about it. I could finally be in a program I loved. I love music, and at our school we had band and orchestra, but they weren't classes that would go into depth and actually be satisfying. So when the YOURS Project came, it was my chance to finally advance as a musician, and I dedicated myself to this program. I found it so nice that we had private/section lessons with a person who specialized in that instrument, which was something I missed out on before the YOURS Project came.
G: Which aspects of an El Sistema-inspired program have you absorbed in the course of your studies? Which of these do you feel is necessary to pass on to your younger peers?
A: I never understood the Venezuelan El Sistema methods, nor do I know if anybody used them or not, but something that Albert said during our introductory meeting resonated- it is a social program. I felt very touched by that, and I couldn't agree more. Through the YOURS Project, I was able to be friends with so many additional students at my school instead of only knowing my peers from my own grade-level. I believed that these children really looked up to me, and it was truly an honor helping out with the program as much as possible. I felt that I became a little more aware of what being a leader means. As a student you just deal with your own self and try to better yourself. But everybody is different, whether it be the tuning or the sound of your instrument or your personality. As a leader, you have to see all these different things and make them work together as a musician/section/band/
orchestra. So being empowered at the YOURS Project made me realize that you have to take into account everyone, not just yourself. So not only was I being a teacher, I was becoming more understanding towards others and becoming more social, and I was able too see that growth in other children as well.
G: It's quite interesting that you grew up in an American city, but your parents are from Italy and Puerto Rico. Music is an enriching dimension in many different cultures. How do you combine all these cultural elements in your everyday music learning and teaching?
A: Coming from a family from Puerto Rico and Italy, it is very interesting to see what kinds of music I can play. I have always grown up around Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, and Cumbia- typical Latino music. When I get a piece of music that has similar values, it seems easier for me to play, and I feel like I am connected to my heritage. I feel a very big void on my Italian side - my grandfather, who was Italian, died before I was born, and I never was able to share with him. I do know that his mother had great talent, and was a piano teacher. I feel that when I play or listen to music, I am learning a different culture, but at the same time, in a common language. And it is wonderful that I can learn about other countries, and people, through music. I think it is important in today's world to always share something in common with people, as people sometimes hate each other just because of our differences. Instead, it is nice to have something as powerful as music in common. I mean, if it can change a child/family/neighborhood/
community/nation like Venezuela, we can all overcome many of our differences, and coexist happily.
G: We live in a difficult moment for the education field. It's comforting to see young people who dream and hope to build a better future. Any plans?
A: I find it so nice to meet people who are serious about education. Going to Northside College Prep, where I am a freshman, has helped me to see that everyday. We all share so many things in common. Being around grown- ups in the YOURS Project has helped me to see that there are people who care about our future. I am happy that they are making a difference in our lives. Opening us up to music, we are each able to connect with others who enjoy music as much as you do. It gives us something to look forward too, especially when I can do what you guys do, and help students become better individuals to ultimately build a better society. If I can do what you guys do, by doing what you love the most, and prove that music helps us become better people, and that it can help us in other ways, like education, I am so for it! I would love to continue what you guys do, and volunteer my time to teach others!