An Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra/Ministry for Culture & Heritage partnership, Sistema Aotearoa uses orchestral music-making as a model for social development. It is based on El Sistema, one of the world’s most successful music and social development programmes.
In 1975, Dr Jose Antonio Abreu gathered 11 children together in a Venezuelan garage to play music. Dr Abreu believed that communal music making could change the path of children’s lives. El Sistema was born.
El Sistema today is a visionary movement that impacts on young people throughout the world. It is credited with improving the lives and lifting the aspirations of participants and their families, reducing crime, increasing school attendance rates and preventing anti-social behaviour. With strong community interest and sufficient funding, the project could be extended to other parts of New Zealand.
Sistema Aotearoa starts with children in Year 2 of primary school and carries on until full proficiency of the instrument is attained, by which time students may be well into their teens.
Led by Dr Joe Harrop and based at Otara Music Arts Centre (OMAC), Sistema Aotearoa provides group tuition in a community setting in school, after school and in holidays. Musicianship and the skills of playing an orchestral instrument are taught in a way that is suitable to the age group and community involved. The programme also involves a partnership with the APO that brings orchestral music to life for the children, their families and their schools.
The children are immersed in a collective teaching process from the beginning, exposing them immediately to group dynamics, cooperative behaviour and collective learning. Participation is open access, free for all students and instruments are supplied.
Considerable time is spent working with students’ parents and caregivers, discussing how best to support their child’s practice schedule at home, giving feedback and encouragement. Emphasis is placed on developing a supportive community. Teachers and students alike are invested in both personal and community success, creating a place where children feel safe and challenged.
Sistema graduates leave with a sense of capability, endurance and resilience, confident about taking on challenges. A deep sense of value, of being loved and appreciated, and a trust for group process and cooperation, enables them to feel that excellence is within their grasp.
2013 sees exciting times ahead as Sistema Aotearoa moves out of its trial phase and establishes itself as a long term initiative. The children will develop their musicianship to a high level, participating from an early stage of social development through to late adolescence.
The recent AUT independent evaluation report on our social outcomes concluded there was promising early evidence that the programme was positively contributing to a range of social, developmental, musical and educational outcomes.
Sistema Aotearoa currently teaches violin and cello to 165 children, aged 5 to 9 years, from seven local primary schools serving a decile one community. The third intake of around a further 80 children will start their musical journey in April 2013. This year we will be introducing the children to the double bass and viola – appropriately sized of course – who knew you could get 1/10th size double base!
Performance is an integral part of the children’s musical development with every child regardless of ability contributing to the full orchestra and participating in performance opportunities. Last year these performances included a trip to Wellington to perform at Te Papa and playing for HRH Duchess of Cornwall during her visit to New Zealand. We have a number of exciting performances already planned for 2013.
We anticipate that Sistema programmes will be established elsewhere in New Zealand in the near future. Sistema Aotearoa is sharing its knowledge and experience and remains as a centre for excellence and training to assist the development of these initiatives.
Instruments are precious at Sistema Aotearoa and there are simply not enough to go around. If you have pre-loved string instruments that you wish to pass onto the next generation of musical talent we’d be delighted to receive them.
Donating a child-sized violin, viola, cello or double bass has an immediate impact on the programme. It doesn’t need to be a high quality instrument. If it is in working order, or easily repaired, we will put it into a Sistema kid’s hands straight away.
There are many other ways in which you can be part of this unique and worthwhile initiative and help us realise our goals and aspirations for Sistema Aotearoa. Schools or other organisations may wish to hold fundraising events to ensure the resourcing of the programme is well supported. We also welcome enquiries from both musical trained and non-musical volunteers (over 16yrs) who would like to offer their time and skills to assist our musicians in delivering all aspects of the programme.
Please contact Programme Director, Dr Joe Harrop, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 021618922. Instruments can be dropped off at Auckland Philharmonia offices in Mt Eden, or at Sistema Aotearoa in the Otara Music Arts Centre (OMAC).