What a whirlwind! After weeks and weeks of discussions, workshops and seemingly endless days together – the Abreu Fellows have parted ways to see El Sistema in action. We have been given four weeks to conduct research and get hands on training in existing U.S. programs.

I can’t tell you how excited I was to plan my internship. Devote four weeks of my life to visiting programs and working with their children? Don’t mind if I do! I began in a city dear to my heart – Baltimore, MD. I spent two weeks going between Baltimore and Washington,DC (my home away from home). In Baltimore I interned with Dan Trahey of OrchKids (an initiative of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra) and in DC I met with various organizations that support arts education. For the first week, I traveled with Abreu Fellows Jennifer Kessler and Jose Luis Hernandez – what a team we were!

My time in Baltimore was full of activity. This year, OrchKids will serve FOUR sites and we visited each one! The first site – Lockerman-Bundy Elementary School, is where we spent most of our time. I was touched by the level of commitment the students, parents and staff showed to this program. OrchKids is truly uplifting community in West Baltimore! I was also thrilled to work as a clarinet teacher and guest conductor for the choir. Directing the younger choir brought me special joy as I really miss teaching little ones!

For week 3 I ventured to Philadelphia,PA – home of Stanford Thompson’s program, Play, On Philly! What a treat! My first day was spent on a field trip to Temple University for TedX Philly. Stanford spoke about his program and the Play On Philly! Orchestra performed. They received a standing ovation and rightfully so! The next few days were spent in meetings and rehearsals. Again, I was honored to work with the choral group as they prepared for a holiday program. Way to go, Stan!

From my 3 weeks in the field, I have learned that our programs may seem different from each other at first glance, but that they all possess attributes that make them distinctly El Sistema. These attributes – community building, musical excellence, high expectations, peer teaching, joyous music making, frequent performances – are found throughout the US in our programs. I look forward to visiting many more programs this year as I gain knowledge on what El Sistema looks like at home and abroad!

Stay tuned for updates from my last week of internship – the Atlanta Music Project. That’s right! I saved the best for last :)