The Abreu Fellows Program at New England Conservatory is delighted to announce its third class of 10 post-graduate musicians “passionate for their art and social change” to train as leaders of El Sistema-inspired music education programs in the United States.  The program was created in response to El Sistema founder José Antonio Abreu’s 2009 TED Wish to Change the World and has produced young musical entrepreneurs who are leading nucleos (music education programs) in Juneau, Los Angeles, Durham NC, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston and—soon to come—Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Aisha Bowden

Classes begin August 29 and continue through May 2012 and include residencies in several American cities and in Venezuela. The certificate program is under the direction of Erik Holmgren, Education Director and Stephanie Scherpf, Managing Director of El Sistema USA. The Abreu Fellows Program at New England Conservatory is an official program of NEC’s Preparatory and Continuing Education Schools directed by Dean and Executive Director Leslie Wu Foley.

Now 35 years old, Venezuela’s El Sistema is a phenomenally successful program of social action through music education that transforms the lives of at-risk children. It currently provides free music lessons and orchestral playing experience to more than 300,000 children and young adults throughout Venezuela.  Its intent is to provide poor children with what Dr. Abreu terms “affluence of the spirit.” Through its intense time commitment, rigor, loving concern for each child, and emphasis on the individual player as an essential member of the ensemble, it has rescued many youngsters from the social ills they might otherwise experience.  Many graduates continue to play in professional orchestras and many have gone on to college and successful working lives. El Sistema’s flagship orchestra, the Símon Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela has become internationally renowned.  And the young El Sistema-bred conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, has become a superstar and currently serves as Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The new class of Fellows brings together five women and five men, several of whom already have experience working in several North American or international El Sistema programs. They include three violinists, a trumpeter, a composer, a hornist, three conductors, and a singer.

For this third year, program planners are working to deepen the Fellows’ connections within NEC, the Boston community, and the burgeoning El Sistema movement across the United States. Fellows will combine intensive seminar learning with field work at the local, national and international level. The students will be assigned to several different music and education organizations in the Boston area, including the Conservatory Lab Charter School, where Rebecca Levi and David Malek, alumni from the Class of 2009-10, are running an after-school program. Mini-residencies in previous years have also included assignments with OrchKids in Baltimore, KidzNotes in Durham, NC, and Community MusicWorks in Providence, RI.

These community placements will offer on-the-ground experience in teaching, curriculum design, non-profit management, grant writing, strategic planning, and partnerships. Seminars will once again draw on the faculty and staff of NEC as well as nationally-renowned artists and educators to focus on two primary areas of study: education and organizational management.  The Fellows will also spend several weeks in Venezuela observing firsthand the El Sistema model. By connecting seminar learning with exposure to the El Sistema movement, the Abreu Fellows will complete their certificate program at NEC with the skills and inspiration to lead the movement forward.

For further information, check the NEC Website

Abreu Fellows Class of 2011-2012

Aisha Bowden

With 10 years of experience leading dynamic choral programs in challenging environments, Aisha Bowden has displayed a dedication to her passion that ensures a positive impact on her students. Aisha received formal training from Howard University, earning a Bachelor of Music Education with a minor in piano. During her undergraduate years, she performed in the US and abroad, including gigs in Switzerland, Germany and Gabon, Africa.

Aisha started her career in music education at Thomson Elementary School in Washington, DC. In addition to teaching, she facilitated programs with partner arts organizations, such as the Washington National Opera and Choral Arts Society of Washington, and also served as Director of the Thomson Choir.  Under her direction, the Thomson Choir performed for the King and Queen of Norway and for Eleanor Holmes Norton and the Bicentennial Celebration of Abraham Lincoln at which President Obama was the keynote speaker. The Thomson Choir has appeared on CNN, C-SPAN, Good Morning America and local television networks.

During her tenure in the DC public school system, Aisha was accompanist for the All-City Honors Chorus and a General Music Curriculum Writer for the DCPS Division of Music. As a young teacher, she traveled with the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad West Seminar to Ghana, Senegal and Gambia to research and explore historical and cultural connections between those countries and the United States.  Additionally, Aisha has been recognized for excellence in arts education by the Arts for Every Student Program and the Mayor’s Arts Awards. Most recently, she has taught chorus and piano students in Cobb County, Georgia and has served as the Choral Teaching Artist for the El-Sistema-inspired Atlanta Music Project, directed by Dantes Rameau, AFP ‘10.

Julie Davis

Raised in Syracuse, New York, violinist Julie Davis earned bachelor degrees in Sociology and Music Education from Northwestern University. As an undergraduate, she taught beginning and intermediate strings in public schools in and around Chicago. Exploring community engagement initiatives within Chicago, she has interned with the education departments of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Opera Theater, and Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art. She has worked alongside a Northwestern sociology professor investigating trends and manifestations of income inequality, while also pursuing independent research involving the sociology of education. She wrote a senior thesis investigating the impact of Chicago’s street musicians on interpersonal relations.

This past year, Julie was an instructor for the El Sistema-inspired YOURS Project (Youth Orchestras United Rita Simo), teaching group lessons in violin and cello, music theory, and orchestral musicianship in inner-city Chicago.

David France

Violinist David France is an active performer and an innovative educator. In Bermuda, he enthusiastically taught violin to over 300 youngsters at the Bermuda School of Music and through partner outreach programs at low-income schools on the island.  While at the school he prepared island students for two international tours, founded the preparatory orchestra Opus One, and co-founded the summer music festival Bravo! Bermuda.

David has performed with a number of orchestras including the Wichita Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Sphinx Symphony. In 2009 he was selected via an online audition to be one of the Concertmasters of the first ever Youtube Symphony which performed to a sold out audience at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas.   His avant-garde videos are also widely popular on Youtube and have gained him recognition on many national and international programs including The CBS Early Show, CNN, BBC News, and Al Jazeera English. He has also been featured in Time Magazine, Strings Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal.

His versatility as a performer is seen in his collaborations with some of today’s most popular artists including Kenny Rogers, John Legend, Smokey Robinson, Josh Groban and Grammy award winning producer Quincy Jones. His work in the film and television industry include an internship with Smooth Feather Productions, The Gayle King Show, and he appears as himself in the documentary Harmony: The Road to Carnegie Hall by director Stephen Higgins. His Bermuda based classical guitar-violin duo, Southwood-France, opened the 2009 Kodai Kanal International Music Festival in Kodai Kanal, India.    While in India he conducted master classes, coached chamber groups, and gave pedagogy workshops to the string faculty. He studied with Sally O’Reilly at the University of Minnesota and currently studies with Roland and Almita Vamos.

Ben Fuller

Trumpeter Ben Fuller, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, has performed across the country with various ensembles, including the National Honor Orchestra of America, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Young Artists Orchestra, and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.  He also appeared on NPR’s From the Top in 2007.  His trumpet instructors include James Ketch, Charles Geyer, Barbara Butler, and Michael Miller.

Ben earned his degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011.  In addition to playing the trumpet, he interned at Carolina Performing Arts and worked as Program Manager for KidZNotes in Durham, North Carolina (directed by Katie Wyatt ’10 AFP).  Prior to his work in Durham, Ben spent two summers as an intern with Sistema Scotland in Raploch, Scotland.

José Luis Hernández-Estrada

Pianist/conductor José Luis Hernández-Estrada is on a dynamic career path that combines music performance and cultural leadership. An accomplished pianist and conductor, he received professional degrees from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, the Conservatori del Liceu in Barcelona, and the University of Texas Pan-American. A conducting fellow at Bard College Conservatory of Music and frequent collaborator with esteemed artistic organizations, he has conducted numerous El Sistema-inspired ensembles including the Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Carlos Chavez (Mexico’s flagship youth orchestra) and the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra LA.

An international soloist and chamber musician, he has performed throughout Europe and appeared at the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series in Chicago; with the Fort Worth Chamber Orchestra under conductor Ian Hobson; and at the Fiesta Iberoamericana de las Artes in Puerto Rico. A passionate teaching artist, Hernández-Estrada has also served as a faculty member of the Austin Chamber Music Center and the Van Cliburn Foundation. The founder of one of Mexico’s largest and most successful El Sistema-inspired youth orchestra programs, his educational initiatives have continually inspired a multitude of young people and have brought about meaningful social transformations in a wide variety of communities.

Stephanie Lin Hsu

Born in New York City, violinist-violist Stephanie Lin Hsu began her musical studies at Hoff-Barthelson Music School at age four. Her formal music education has included violin studies with William DePasquale, Barbara Govatos, and Peggy Klinger, and chamber music studies with Marcantonio Barone, David Geber, and Gerald Robbins. Stephanie has performed at Carnegie Hall on numerous occasions, both as Concertmistress of the New York Youth Symphony under the direction of Paul Haas, and as the principal violinist of selected honors ensembles of the New York Youth Symphony’s renowned Chamber Music Program.

Stephanie graduated with High Honors from Swarthmore College in 2008, with a B.A. in Educational Studies, Sociology, and Anthropology. During her undergraduate career at Swarthmore, Stephanie worked intensively with the Chester Children’s Chorus—a program for blossoming young musicians in the historically under-resourced district of Chester, Pennsylvania—as a music teacher and as the coordinator of the Chorus’s academic tutoring program. As an arts organizer, Stephanie has also partnered with the Chester Education Foundation to bring arts programming to after-school programs in Chester, and spearheaded organizing efforts with Art for Change to bring musical programming to the Hacia Afuera Public Arts Festival in East Harlem, New York.

In her most recent work as a New-York-based activist-educator, Stephanie has designed and led youth programs through Chinatown Youth Initiatives, which catalyze sustainable youth activism in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Additionally, Stephanie has dedicated herself to teaching at CITYterm at the Masters School—an interdisciplinary and experience-based educational program for high school youth that cultivates youth empowerment and global citizenship through critical thinking. Stephanie has received numerous awards for her work in music, education, and activism, including the Rosengarten String Scholarship, Garrigues Music Scholarship, Scholars in Service to Pennsylvania Award, and Edward Said / Audre Lorde Scholar-Activism Award.

Jennifer Kessler

Over the last ten years, Jennifer Kessler has combined an international career as a French horn player with a passion for creating music programs for young people. From unique song composition projects with Bang on a Can to developmental music classes for children in NYC homeless shelters, Jennifer has worked with multiple organizations to develop programs and partnerships for diverse communities.

In her former position as Manager of Professional Programs at the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall, Jennifer collaborated with world-renowned artists to curate workshops for young professional musicians, educators, and teaching artists. Born into a family of classical musicians in Los Angeles, Jennifer completed a Bachelor of Music degree at Northwestern University with horn professor Gail Williams before relocating to Germany to study with hornist Fergus McWilliam at the Hanns Eisler Musikhochschule. She has performed with ensembles and festivals including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin, the Lucerne Festival Academy, and the Aspen Music Festival, and held the Associate Horn position with the Israeli Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion from 2007-2008.

In 2007, Jennifer was invited to assistant teach for El Sistema in Venezuela with members of the Berlin Philharmonic. This experience, coupled with her interest in music education for social change, inspired Jennifer to bring the El Sistema model to communities around the world. She has since led music projects for under-served youth in Israel and Germany, and has consulted for programs in New Zealand, Serbia, and the United States. Jennifer is also an active member and facilitator at TEDx events in New York.

Alysia Lee

Alysia is a native of Baltimore, where she began her musical training at Carver Center for Arts and Technology. She received a Bachelor of Music from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA). She continued her training, earning a Masters degree in Vocal Performance with a minor in Vocal Pedagogy from the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University under the tutelage of Stanley Cornett and Phyllis Bryn-Julson.

Alysia is a versatile performer who is equally at home on the concert, cabaret, and operatic stage. She holds operatic credits with the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, Pocket Opera of New York, Colorado Vocal Arts, Peabody Opera Theater, Baltimore Concert Opera, Piedmont Opera Company, and the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater. An avid recitalist, Alysia recently has been presented by An Die Musik and Clear Space Productions. She has appeared before sold-out crowds at such premiere NYC cabaret venues such Don’t Tell Mama and The Duplex.

As an experienced pedagogue, Alysia has been on the voice faculty at the Bloomingdale School of Music, Music in Charter Schools Festival, Belvoir Terrace Performing Arts and Separk Music School. She was also a Music Teaching Artist with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, serving public schools in the Bronx and Manhattan. Alysia is the Founder and Executive Director and a roster artist of Opus Nine Ensemble, an instrumental and vocal chamber music ensemble based in NYC. The two-year old Ensemble has made music outreach a priority and regularly offers free community concerts and has reached over 2,000 public school students with their educational programming.

Avi Mehta

Raised in Troy, Michigan, tubist/conductor Avi Mehta recently completed his master’s degree in wind conducting at The Pennsylvania State University, where he studied with Dennis Glocke, Gerardo Edelstein, Christopher Kiver, Richard Bundy, and Mark Lusk. During his time at Penn State, Avi led performances with numerous ensembles throughout the university, often conducting his own arrangements. Avi has additionally taught courses in conducting and served on staff with the Penn State Blue Band. He also completed his K-12 certification in music education, teaching in the Bellefonte and State College school districts.

Avi also remains active as an instrumental performer, serving most recently as principal tuba with the Nittany Valley Symphony. Prior to his time at Penn State, Avi earned his bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, where he studied tuba with John Stevens and conducting with Scott Teeple. He has attended numerous conducting symposiums and has performed and taught at Eastern Music Festival, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, Penn State’s Summer Music Clinic, and Northwestern’s High School Summer Music Institute. Avi is an active member of the College Band Directors National Association and the International Tuba and Euphonium Association. His role as an educator has encompassed a wide range of activities, including volunteering with a variety of youth ensembles, presenting masterclasses in India, and founding the Penn State Summer Band—a group that presents outreach concerts in the State College community. Avi frequently returns to his hometown of Troy as a guest conductor, low brass clinician, and marching band instructor, most recently directing the Troy High Symphonic Band at the 2011 Michigan Music Educators Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Albert Oppenheimer

Albert Oppenheimer hails from Starkville, Mississippi and is a composer currently based in Boston, MA. With a B.M. and M.M. from the New England Conservatory, Albert has studied with Michael Gandolfi and John Mallia and is currently studying with Kati Agòcs and John Heiss. He has served on the faculty of the Preparatory and Continuing Education divisions at NEC and is a recipient of NEC’s Musical Theatre Scholarship. His East coast mentor is the Broadway orchestrator, William David Brohn.
Albert has served as the Arts Department Head and Arts Education Director for the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Mississippi, working with over 400 children each summer. Albert also has experience in more formal education settings including teaching at the NEC Preparatory School, maintaining a private studio in Boston, and acting as a teaching assistant for theory and composition professors at NEC.

Albert started writing music at age eleven and began writing and directing theater in high school. His love of both art forms has translated into explorations blurring the lines between theatrical and musical performance. Albert is the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letter’s Composer of the Year for 2008 and has been recognized by the New York Art Ensemble as an Emerging Composer. Theatrical, energetic, and effervescent, Albert’s music is ‘postmodern’ and influenced by a wide range of musical styles, from Bartok to hip-hop. Albert’s current projects include writing an operetta and directing a composition competition for young composers in the New England region.

Read original article Found on the New England Conservatory website.