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Reflections on the Take a Stand Symposium

“Music is a fundamental human right.”
Gustavo Dudamel
Music Director, Los Angeles Philharmonic

Los Angeles, California. A bustling city, palm trees and a crowded freeway. Upon arriving at LAX airport I was immediately taken in by the warm breeze, palm trees and bright sunny sky. We hit the freeway in a taxi to the conference and surprisingly did not encounter any traffic. A friend had warned me about the terrible freeway traffic in and around LA but we lucked out and it was clear sailing all the way to the National Take a Stand Symposium.

2014-02-21_17-22-13_181Formed by Bard College, The Longy School of Music Of Bard College, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Take a Stand is a national music education initiative. The Symposium is a gathering of people from around the country and the world (as far away as Japan and the UK), who believe in “El Sistema,” the Venezuelan model of classical music training.

I was excited to attend this conference to meet like-minded people and find out more about other programs out there. It was also an opportunity to meet up with people who will be coming to Durham to attend our East Coast – Southern Seminario on May 2nd and 3rd at our Nucleo in Durham. It was nice to put names with faces from Miami Music Project, Soundscapes and Orchkids. There was a ton of sharing that went on between our El Sistema-inspired programs, and the collaborative effort was inspiring. Our future looks bright!

What does social change through music look and feel like? Collaboration, inclusion, self-worth, social activity, participation, engagement, investment, inspiration, reinvention, innovation, ownership, access, community, beauty, sharing, intensity, excellence, compassion, joy!

photo (4)The performances that I attended were spectacular. YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) and Youth Orchestra Salinas were awe inspiring! The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela performed Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall under conductor Gustavo Dudemel. It was a beautiful hall and beautiful music. All I can say is WOW! The possibilities for success and leadership are endless.

“Through Gustavo Dudamel’s Youth Orchestra LA (YOLA) program – inspired by Venezuela’s revolutionary El Sistema – the LA Phil and its community partners provide free instruments, intensive music training, and academic support to over 600 students from underserved neighborhoods, empowering them to become vital citizens, leaders, and agents of change. “

Take a Stand Symposium left me encouraged, invigorated and refreshed. I recognize that there is outstanding work being done out there with students and their families. Through El Sistema inspired programs throughout the world, students are becoming not only great musicians, but strong leaders, and creative innovators. Their determination and passion for music impacts their lives in different, yet positive ways. It starts with a simple step…music and embracing the joy of music. The ripple effects are far reaching and create the social change that we seek.

-Kim Demery, Director of Programming

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