New Jersey Symphony and FIDDLE-AND-FA-LA-LA-FEST Perform Today at NJPAC
Fiddle-and-Fa-La-La-Fest will bring together students from El Sistema-inspired music-instruction programs across New Jersey for a special performance today, June 7, at 1 pm at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark.
The student musicians of NJSO CHAMPS (Character, Achievement and Music Project) will perform with young musicians from the Paterson Music Project, Sister Cities Girlchoir, Sonic Expressions and Union City Music Project. The event uniting multiple El Sistema-inspired programs across the state is the first of its kind, and it is a significant moment for music education in New Jersey, El Sistema expert Tricia Tunstall, author of Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema and the Transformative Power of Music, says.
"This performance is tremendously important for [the student musicians]," Tunstall says. "By coming together like this, they'll get to see that not only are they working in ensembles themselves, honing their skills and finding they are capable of playing beautiful music, but that they are also part of something bigger than just their school-that there are kids everywhere who are learning like this and playing together in this way. It gives them a new identity for themselves-they are going to experience themselves in a tremendous, harmonious ensemble, and there is something very powerful about that."
The students in each program will perform a featured piece with their classmates; for the concert's finale, all programs will combine for a special joint piece-a mash-up of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" arranged by David Rimelis specifically for this event. Eric Booth, senior advisor for El Sistema in the United States and a lauded arts educator and author, will host Fiddle-and-Fa-La-La-Fest.
"The El Sistema model from Venezuela uses musical learning and ensembles in the service of social engagement, social change and change in children and families' lives," Tunstall says. "What is distinctive about it is that it's not about a program about creating musicians; it's a program about creating happy, whole people. Across the world, El Sistema is being seen as a new and promising way to think about social change. In New Jersey, we've had five El Sistema programs start in just the last two years, which is really a testimony to how inspiring this idea is."
Fiddle-and-Fa-La-La-Fest precedes the NJSO's "Meet the Orchestra" family concert. NJSO Education & Community Engagement Conductor Jeffrey Grogan conducts Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, which highlights each section of the orchestra. Family series artist-in-residence Ben Steinfeld, a Broadway veteran and longtime NJSO audience favorite, narrates the Britten work and serves as concert host.
Fiddle-and-Fa-La-La-Fest is free to all ticketholders for the NJSO's June 7 family concert. Concert tickets are $10 for children and $20 for adults, available for purchase online at www.njsymphony.org or by phone at 1.800.ALLEGRO (255.3476). View a concert video and find additional information at www.njsymphony.org/events/detail/meet-the-orchestra.
NJSO CHAMPS (Character, Achievement & Music Project)
NJSO CHAMPS (Character, Achievement and Music Project) is an intensive education program inspired by the Venezuelan social change and music education program El Sistema. The program seeks to develop students' goal-directed behavior and skills to foster social and academic success. It also seeks to improve students' self-esteem, academic achievement and lifelong character traits like perseverance and leadership as they learn the intricacies of playing a stringed instrument. In the 2013-14 season, more than 40 UHCS students in grades four through seven are receiving after-school instruction in violin, viola or cello for up to two hours per day, three days per week. Students have performed with the NJSO and Greater Newark Youth Orchestras, at concerts in community settings and at school assemblies. www.njsymphony.org/champs.
Paterson Music Project
Based in Paterson, New Jersey, the Paterson Music Project (PMP) is an El Sistema-inspired program that uses music as a vehicle for social change by empowering and inspiring children through the community experience of ensemble learning and playing. PMP provides an intense musical immersion for 50 third-grade students enrolled at the Community Charter School of Paterson. Students study a primary instrument (violin, cello or viola) and participate in six hours of group music instruction, ensemble practice and private lessons weekly. Students also study music theory, music history, aural training and singing in musicianship classes. Students perform frequently for the school and community. The Paterson Music Project began in January 2013 and is run by the Wharton Music Center/New Jersey Youth Symphony. www.patersonmusicproject.org