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Orchestra wins $30,000 grant for El Sistema

Published On: Dec 16 2013 03:26:55 PM CST
Young musicians in El Sistema

Photo by Destinee Deely

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Allentown Symphony Orchestra has received a $30,000 grant to support El Sistema Lehigh Valley. its inner-city outreach program for young musicians.

The grant from the League of American Orchestras recognizes the orchestra’s innovation and dedication to increasing its relevance to the community.

It is one of only 23 U.S. orchestras to receive grants out of 144 applicants, the league announced Monday.

"This grant will help us to continue to transform our community and the lives of our students and their families through music,” said Sheila Evans, executive director, Allentown Symphony Association.

Established in 2011, El Sistema Lehigh Valley provides more than 350 hours of free after-school programming per year in partnership with Allentown School District at Roosevelt Elementary School, a Title 1 school.

Eighty students currently participate in the program.

Eighty-eight percent of the more than 1,800 children in Allentown School District are from low-income families, according to the league, which explained: "El Sistema Lehigh Valley helps under-served and special-needs youth develop life skills learned by participating in daily music instruction, large ensemble performances, academic tutoring, and mentoring opportunities."

Students from grades 1-8 are provided with stringed instrument instruction, choir instruction and academic tutoring.  The program is designed to help students gain self-esteem and a sense of value as they learn their instruments, rehearse and perform with their group at the school.

Family participation is an essential aspect of El Sistema. Parents play an important supporting role by supervising practices at home, attending concerts and even classes with the youngest students.

“I am just in awe of this program,” said Victoria Kageni, mother of four children in El Sistema Lehigh Valley.

“I’ve noticed a lot of improvement in how my children interact with one another. It’s also made them better students, because the focus they had to develop as a result of this program has translated to their schoolwork.”

Allentown Symphoney Orchastra is one of 23 American orchestras selected by the league to receive a 2013-14 Getty Education and Community Investment Grant.

“We are tremendously excited to attain national recognition through the second consecutive year of support from the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation through the League of American Orchestras," said Evans.

“The long- term health of orchestras will require creating more value for more members of orchestras’ communities,” said league president and CEO Jesse Rosen.

“These important programs are addressing critical needs, often in under-served communities. The Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation’s support has enabled orchestras to offer their communities greater access to the extraordinary experience of orchestral music and musicians."

A total of $443,000 in grants was awarded this year: 65 percent to in-school or after school educational programs, 17percent to health and wellness programs, nine percent to life-long learning opportunities, and nine percent to those serving other populations, including juveniles and adults in the criminal justice system.

A prerequisite for qualifying orchestras was the existence of partnerships with local community or social service organizations.

This year’s grants, part of the league’s three-year, $1.5 million re-granting program made possible by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, will fund both new and established innovative programs.

The initial 144 applicants were narrowed by an independent advisory panel of experts to 48 semi-finalists. All were then judged on six criteria: the degree of innovation and relevance to community needs; the orchestra’s capacity to deliver; appropriateness to orchestra’s community; appropriateness and strength of partnerships; extent and quality of professional development for musicians and staff, and ability to assess and evaluate outcomes.

The league leads, supports and champions America’s orchestras and the vitality of the music they perform. Its membership of about  800 orchestras across North America runs the gamut from world-renowned symphonies to community orchestras, from summer festivals to student and youth ensembles.

The only national organization dedicated solely to the orchestral experience, the league is a nexus of knowledge, innovation, advocacy and leadership advancement for managers, musicians, volunteer, and boards.

Founded in 1942 and chartered by Congress in 1962, the league links a national network of thousands of instrumentalists, conductors, managers and administrators, board members, volunteers, and business partners.