It is now midnight…I’m all packed for our trip tomorrow, but can’t sleep due to excitement.  Not because this is my first trip to Los Angeles…not because we are flying on my favorite airline of all time (I won’t name the company but know that I’ll be watching TV during the entire flight) and not because I will be going to hear some amazing music! I’m awake with delight because I know that this trip to LA for the inaugural “Take a Stand” Symposium on El Sistema will be a game changer for me.

Not that game changers are rare these days.  About 2 weeks into the fellowship, Stanford Thomson told us “this program will change you”.  Before I had even left Atlanta, Dantes Rameau told me how the program would change me.  Even my oldest brother, far removed from the world of El Sistema, recognized that I would be a different person after my time in Boston.  Boy – were they right! Only halfway into the program, I have had unexpected growth as an activist, educator and musician.  That is why it is absolutely essential that I pause and post my thoughts tonight. I know that even 24 hours from now, my eyes will have been opened once again and I will see the Sistema in a new way. This symposium, next week in LA, will bring together the entire Sistema family – from 20 states and 10 countries. I feel change in the air and already I like it.  But before I go “Sistema crazy” in LA, which, at this point is a guarantee, I must pay tribute to some groundbreaking game changers that I’ve experienced since my last post.

Fall Internships were long ago, but still important! I compiled my thoughts into this cute video…

MICS – Music In Charter Schools

The fellows went on “tour” December 15-16 in Philadephia -serving as guest clinicians at Play On, Philly and the annual “Music In Charter Schools’ Festival. I served as alto section leader, seminar leader with Stephanie and choir director along with Alysia for MICS. See the choir pic below. The video here shows students sharing what they gained from our seminar on embracing the music within you. As always, I learned more from these courageous students than they did from me. Embrace the weird!

The New England Conservatory African American Roots Ensemble (AARE)

I have to tell a story to accompany this video. I randomly met a student named Kim who shared with me that NEC would soon start a Black Student Union. Naturally, I was intrigued, and was happy that the next time I ran into Kim was the day of the BSU’s very first meeting. During the meeting, there were several references to a rehearsal afterwards – for an ensemble featuring the artistic contributions of Black Americans. Stephanie, David and I definitely had a deadline to meet that night, but couldn’t resist “stopping by” for “just 3 minutes”. Well, we walked in and sat down in the back, and before we knew it we were proud members of the AARE. This ensemble was an answer to prayer! It gave me just the outlet I needed (I miss SINGING), not to mention befriending some incredible NEC students and gaining invaluable knowledge from our director, Nedelka Prescod. The moments that were shared during those intimate Tuesday rehearsals will forever be with me. So thank you, AARE, for welcoming us into your space…here’s a clip from our culminating performance.

And if you liked that, here’s another. Shout out to “Tie Tuesday” Rob jamming on bass :)

Until next time…