Skip to main content
Making an Impact Through Music Education

Making an Impact Through Music Education

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

El Sistema USA students perform at the end of the symposium.Youth music organizations gathered from across the country at the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) at Duke University recently for the 2018 El Sistema USA (ESUSA) National Symposium.

Inspired by the successful Venezuelan program El Sistema, ESUSA’s goal is to effect social change through music for children with the fewest resources and the greatest need.

Braving the unexpected heavy snowfall in Durham, participants across ESUSA’s 141 associated organizations came together to further the ESUSA mission and build on its success.

Symposium attendees learned from, and engaged with, fellow educators, program administrators, and researchers from across the national network over the course of the two-day event.

Presentations and interactive breakout sessions focused around equal representation in musical education and collective impact.

“Creative Composition,” for example, was led by Emily Smith of Sympatico and Dan Trahey of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids and involved an exploration of composition techniques that focused on youth voice, collective leadership, and social relevancy.

El Sistema students, partners, and administration pose together during the symposium. Other sessions included master classes, discussions of social impact, and a keynote address by David France, a prestigious performer and innovative educator who has performed with the Wichita Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Sphinx Symphony.

France is also known for his work encouraging 300 students to study violin at the Bermuda School of Music through partner outreach programs at low-income schools on the island. While at the Bermuda School of Music, he prepared students for two international tours, founded the preparatory orchestra Opus One, and co-founded the summer music festival Bravo! Bermuda.

During the event, the Social Science Research Institute’s Education, Research, and Evaluation team presented key findings from a National Endowment for the Arts study of ESUSA’s success so far.

Symposium attendees pose with El Sistema t-shirts given out during the symposium.Lorrie Schmid and Menna Mburi from SSRI shared the findings with the ESUSA Symposium attendees. They found that ESUSA members showed signs of greater organizational success when compared with non-member youth music programs.

Similarly, operating as an independent 501c3, rather than a program nested within a larger nonprofit, was also associated with greater organizational success.

Bass Connections students from the Advancing the Power of Music for Human Development team were also in attendance to discuss their work with symposium attendees.

To cater to the different attendees’ roles, the symposium offered tracks for teachers, parents, and students as well as a board member/volunteer/administrator track.

A generous gift from the D’Addario Foundation provided support for students and parents to attend the symposium at no cost.


Durham, NC 27708 | 919.681.6019


Gross Hall, 2nd Floor
140 Science Drive
Durham, NC 27708


Erwin Mill Building
2024 W. Main St.
Durham, NC 27705

Social Media

Follow @dukessri on twitter