Xóchitl Ysabela Tafoya, violinist/violist and member of the 4th class of Sistema Fellows, is immersing herself in YOURS this week and is guest blogging, sharing her experiences below:
This past week I conducted my fieldwork/residency at The YOURS (Youth Orchestras United Rita Sima) Project in Chicago, a Sistema inspired program supported by the People’s Music School. Former Sistema fellow and Program Director, Albert Oppenheimer, has been absolutely wonderful at showing me around The YOURS Project and the great El Sistema-inspired values that they actively apply with their students, community and parents.
While at The YOURS Project, I was able to observe the YOURS String Orchestra sectional with intern teaching artist Annarita, from Loyola, preparing Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins. I remember being the same age as these YOURS musicians playing this piece and loving it! Good music is good music!
A HA moment # 1:
During my observations, Annarita asked the ensemble if they wanted to rehearse the piece regardless of some soloists being absent. With soloists missing, several string players were eager and excited to play this piece, and energetically volunteered to play the solo part. Instantly, seating order was rearranged, friends shared music and the piece began! YOURS students filled in where necessary, sight-reading solo parts and playing through this brilliant piece! These students loved this piece and more importantly loved playing together because they stepped in where necessary for the sake of the whole group. For them, it was about the music, creating something beautiful that they could all enjoy and be a part of something together! The YOURS project is not only developing great musical excellence, but also supporting and nurturing flexible and well rounded musicians who are actively challenged as both orchestra members and soloists.
Reflecting on my own musical experience as a junior high school student, I was never in a group where the orchestra members were valued as soloists. The flexibility of everyone being both a soloist and orchestra member was not fostered at the early stages of my musical education. But to witness the depth and significance of these YOURS string players being so versatile was inspirational. These “fill-in” musicians were supported and encouraged to take a shot at being a soloist. It did not matter if the playing was perfect. These musicians were united playing Vivaldi because it’s beautiful and good music, but more importantly, they were having fun!
A HA Moment #2
The second A HA moment came about during the same rehearsal of a fugue like entrance where each string section enters at different times. It is a tricky entrance for students to count in. I even remember it was tricky for me when I learned this piece. Annarita did a great job rehearsing this difficult entrance and having students understand what a fugue was. The ensemble rehearsed and rehearsed with intensity, effectiveness and focus. Finally, in one magical moment, each section nailed their entrance and the fugue was created. Magic!!!
Not only did the string players beam, but Annarita could not contain herself and jumped up and down with joy and bliss that everyone started laughing and beaming from ear to ear. It was clear that the students heightened engagement combined with Annarita’s musical bliss deepened the meaning and value for these young musicians.
After rehearsal, I congratulated Annarita on the success of that tricky entrance. It was great to see the students laughing while playing and sometimes unfortunately shocking to see this during a Vivaldi piece. I asked Annarita how she felt during that magical moment of the ensemble mastery during that tricky Vivaldi entrance. She replied to me, “it was really better than flirting with a boy. I cant wait to do it again!” I knew exactly what she was talking about.
-Xóxhitl Ysabela Tafoya