Nurturing the Ensemble

Video summary

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YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) at HOLA (Heart of Los Angeles) is an El Sistema-inspired program of the LA Philharmonic. Gustavo Dudamel, the LA Phil’s music director, received his musical training through El Sistema in Venezuela, and supports the use of El Sistema-inspired pedagogical strategies for building a strong ensemble culture.

Teaching artist Emily Kubitskey leads a rigorous woodwind technique and theory class with Team Brahms. Most of the students are fifth graders who have been playing instruments for a year and a half. Their sectional gets interrupted when visitors arrive. As is traditional in núcleos, this leads to an impromptu performance. The idea is that performance is a gift to share, an integral part and a central joy of music making. It is not something high-pressured that only happens twice a year.

Teaching artist Nikki Shorts leads Team Mozart — most of whom are in third grade — in a strings sectional. They rehearse “A Song of Peace” from Finlandia by Jean Sibelius, focusing on conveying the song’s emotion. The session culminates with a game of “Musical Jeopardy.”

At the YOLA Neighborhood Project Day Concert at L.A.’s Cathedral of the Angels, 2,000+ youngsters, including the YOLA orchestra and others who have participated in the LA Phil’s school-based programs, perform “A Song of Peace” for their families and friends. Former Sistema fellows Dan Berkowitz (Manager, YOLA), Christine Witkowski (YOLA at HOLA Program Director), Gretchen Nielsen (Director of Educational Initiatives, Los Angeles Philharmonic), and Tony Brown (Executive Director, HOLA) provide commentary about YOLA’s mission.