Chorus and Other Ensembles

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PDF video transcript: Chorus and Other Ensembles

AMPlify/Atlanta Music Project, Atlanta, GA

Aisha Bowden, co-founder and director
James Dekle, teaching artist

Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM), Juneau, AK

Lorrie Heagy, program director

El Sistema is an ensemble program, not just an orchestral program. Throughout Venezuela, different communities are making music in ways that draw on their assets and needs, creating ensembles from jazz bands to folk music groups. Some U.S. programs are also providing a variety of ensembles students can aspire to join.

This course unit explores two programs that embody El Sistema-inspired values through chorus and other ensembles. AMPlify is an El Sistema-inspired choral program in Atlanta. Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM) at Glacier Valley Elementary School provides students with opportunities to make music in a variety of ensembles, including rock band, African drumming, and step dance. There is also an after-school program that celebrates native Alaskan tradition through Tlingit dance and drumming. Embodying music physically is an important part of the learning process in these ensembles.


  • Programs both serve and respond to the needs of a community, as well as build on the assets of a community.
  • Ensemble music-making is at the heart of all learning — both musical and social.
  • No student is too young to be a vital contributing member of a musical ensemble.
  • Musicians have a responsibility to share their skills or knowledge with others who are still learning.


  • Using voice and body as first instruments
  • Bringing together students of different ages and skills
  • Separating melody from text in choral music-learning stages
  • Ear training through solfège, even with very young students
  • Using songs or chants with positive messages important to social as well as musical learning
  • Promoting musical expression through physical movement
  • Making music that reflects cultural relevance to the school community


The musical activities in this unit address the following Anchor Standards of the National Core Arts Standards:


  • Analyze, interpret, and select artistic work for presentation
  • Develop and refine artistic work for presentation
  • Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work


  • Perceive and analyze artistic work
  • Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work
  • Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work


  • Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art
  • Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding