The world’s most renowned cellist and musical ambassador started his two-year world tour, in part by inviting the El Sistema Colorado (ESC) youth orchestra to join him on-stage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, August, 1 2018. “When we got a call from him we thought, ‘He wants to connect with our kids’… but instead, it was to invite our kids to perform on-stage with him!” ESC Board Chair, Maritza Dominguez Braswell explained.
“It’s a big deal for her,” said Ron, one of ESC’s parents, who described the impact on his daughter, Nehemiah “At first they were just scratching the bow on the string, but now we hear music… It’s really nice to see these kids have a skill. It’s had a big impact on our family.”
Partner with us to provide daily afterschool ensemble music to Denver’s under-served youth, and for once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
Help bring for 20 more kids into our after school program by January 1, 2020. Schedule your Colorado Gives Day gift early so you don’t forget!
It costs a minimum of $2,500 a year for a student to take weekly private lessons and participate in an orchestral or choral extracurricular organization.
What would happen if those costs disappeared for our city’s under-served communities? What would happen if everyone had access to the power of music?
El Sistema Colorado is making this a reality for Denver’s children.
We believe music has the power to change lives for the better by teaching perseverance, teamwork, and social responsibility through an ensemble setting. Our mission is to transform lives through music education by providing intensive in-school and after-school music programs.
We are thrilled to announce the addition of two new full-time leadership staff to help usher in a new phase of sustainability and growth with the October 2019 launch of our first community hub in Denver: the El Sistema Colorado Music Center.
Please welcome Program Manager Christian Galdamez
and Development & Operations Manager Whitney Stuberg!
Let’s take a minute and get to know our new leaders:
Christian and Whitney, tell us what first brought you to El Sistema, and specifically what drew you to El Sistema Colorado?
Christian: These children from under-resourced communities have an opportunity I did not have growing up. My background makes it very easy for me to relate to the students and families we work with. I see myself in them, and this makes me feel an inherent need to do everything I can to enhance their lives through music! What drew me to ESC, specifically, was the opportunity to work with an inclusive and visionary team dedicated to engaging and transforming their communities through music.
Whitney: As a teacher and a string player, I grew up knowing about El Sistema – it was always a revered program and something to model. After a few years teaching choir in the public schools, I began to feel a pull to a different side of the arts world. I began my nonprofit development career with Opera Colorado and learned so much about the way great organizations fundraise. When I saw an opportunity to combine my passion for music education and arts administration, I had to jump on it!
What is El Sistema’s potential to impact Denver and Colorado?
Christian: El Sistema levels the playing field. It gives children with few resources access and opportunities to a better, more fulfilling life and career. El Sistema Colorado has the potential to do this for the large population of communities and youth that are in need in Denver and Colorado, thus making it a more inclusive and vibrant center for the Arts and Music Education.
Whitney: El Sistema’s mission is unique among the music education nonprofits in our city. Completely free music programing focused on social impact in the center of high-potential neighborhoods is something truly special. I have never been involved with an organization where the community is pounding at the door to get involved, and that is happening here. Individuals, businesses, and volunteer organizations can immediately see the importance of our work. Now, I believe we are in a position with the new staffing structure and a hub location to maximize the community’s involvement.
What’s the most exciting thing watching or helping a child learn music?
Christian: It’s the level of confidence and courage they develop after playing a proper note, successfully playing a scale, or performing in front of their community at a concert. Like many young people in today’s world, the students we serve come with family instability, financial troubles, and experience major challenges fitting in at school. It is a pleasure and honor working for an organization that is fully committed to changing these things through the power of music.
Whitney: I love watching people arrive at that moment of realizing their value. Being a musician requires grit and tenacity, watching children realize that those things are built in them already is priceless. The nature of learning music provides so many opportunities for people to learn who they are at their core and the true value they bring just by being their authentic selves.
What’s the #1 thing you want our youth to learn by being in El Sistema Colorado?
Christian: That they form part of something larger than themselves and in doing so, they also have the opportunity to enhance their life and the lives of others by committing to El Sistema Colorado’s mission.
Whitney: People are not victims of their circumstances. Choices really do impact a person’s future.
What are you most excited about for the upcoming year at ESC?
Christian: I’m really excited to meet all the new and returning young musicians of the communities we serve! I am also looking forward to meeting and working with all of the amazing teaching artists that will help our students grow to become excellent musicians and exemplary members of their communities.
Whitney: I can’t wait to be on the forefront of a new season of growth and stability for El Sistema Colorado. Fundraising is something that might sound intimidating to people but at its core, fundraising is about building intimate, impactful relationships. I love helping others find a way to live out their passions and desire to make our world better through giving. El Sistema Colorado has an incredible mission and the city of Denver needs to experience what we offer!
The lighter side of Christian and Whitney…
If you were a cookie, what kind of cookie would you be and why?
Christian: I would definitely be a ‘champurrada’ (typical Guatemalan treat) because it goes best with coffee and I can’t really picture a world without music or coffee.
Whitney: I’m going to have to say a frosted sugar cookie…classic, something people look forward to, and appropriate for every holiday.
Favorite band or song?
Christian: My favorite band is ‘Queen’!
Whitney: I love the Wailin’ Jenny’s. They are a female folk ensemble. Stunning. Check them out.
Top place in the world you’d like to visit and why?
Christian: I would love to visit Tokyo, Japan to experience its rich culture and amazing food.
Whitney: I have been lucky enough to do a lot of traveling. I lived in Bulgaria for a summer and have traveled all over Europe and some of Latin America. Edinburgh will always be my heart-city – I love the rain and the mystery of such an old city. My next bucket list destination is Amsterdam. My husband and I are planning a trip there next year for our ten-year anniversary.
What instruments do you play? And how long have you been playing?
Christian: My main instrument is voice, and I have been performing since 2010. I formed part of the Heightsmen of Boston College, an all-male a cappella ensemble. Music has always played an essential role in my life and it has opened doors to many different opportunities and life-long friendships.
Whitney: I am primarily a cellist and have been playing since sixth grade. In college, I had to learn to play all the instruments to get my Music Education degree at Colorado State University. I started singing in choirs after I graduated and fell in love with choir. I am currently a soprano with Denver Choir League. Looking back, I probably should have studied voice instead because I love singing so much.
By El Sistema Colorado Staff
El Sistema Colorado is excited to partner with the Colorado Symphony and the Denver Young Artists Orchestra to lead a discussion about access to quality music education for Denver’s at-risk youth, a goal that directly supports El Sistema Colorado’s mission. Team Tipton is facilitating the convening of dozens of Denver’s music education organizations, with funding support from Bonfils-Stanton Foundation and The Denver Foundation. The convening will take place October 3 & 4 with the goal of creating an action plan that addresses issues around music education in Denver, particularly inclusivity, diversity, and racial and economic equity.
Visit the Colorado Symphony website for an executive summary, survey results and research to-date.
We will post updates after this important gathering.
El Sistema Colorado celebrates its first after-school community hub, a thriving music center, ensuring equal access.
“…because music is a right, not a privilege.” ~ Maestro José Antonio Abreu
From El Sistema Colorado Board and Staff
We always knew we needed a central home.
One place to unite our orchestra.
One place to build stronger community.
One place for joyful music ~ a human right for all.
We have found that home in Denver’s Curtis Park neighborhood, thanks to a new partnership with the Denver Housing Authority. We are preparing it to launch programming in our new home to 75 students after school, Fall 2019.
El Sistema Colorado has served over 1,300 students since 2012. Now, this new, centralized community hub, located at 2980 Curtis Street, will welcome our current young musicians and families, as well as new ones. The center will be located one to three miles from our partnering Denver Public Schools: Garden Place Elementary Swansea Elementary and Bruce Randolph Middle and High School, which are located in the Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, Cole and Clayton neighborhoods. And there will be plenty of room to serve more kids, both from our current partner schools, and from within our new Curtis Park / Five Points neighborhood.
Thank you to everyone who has supported El Sistema Colorado from the beginning. We could not have done it without you.
Every summer, the top students from Sistema-inspired programs from across the country audition to be a part of the National El Sistema Youth Orchestra at the National Take a Stand Festival in Los Angeles. This summer, our first high school student was accepted and attended the 10-day event.
Student Spotlight: Melvin, age 15
How did you learn about the National Take a Stand Festival (NTASF)?
“I first learned about it from Ms. Bennett, my band instructor. She thought it was a great idea for me to apply. I knew absolutely nothing about it at first, I just knew that it was in California and that I would be out of town playing music. I had never traveled before; I mean, I had been to Mexico with family, but not by myself. I had always traveled on a bus, but never on an airplane.”
“I was responsible for myself and had to advocate for myself in a lot of ways. I knew that I had to go to baggage claim, but I looked everywhere and I saw nothing — I was kind of still anxious from the flight. I’m very shy, so I really had to build up the courage to ask somebody, “Hey, where’s baggage claim? Can you lead me in that direction?”
“The program had 140 kids from 28 different places all over the US and Puerto Rico. The biggest surprise was the diversity of the students. Usually in an orchestra we think of caucasian people, but I was really surprised by the amount of people of color and people my race (hispanic) or different races. It’s good to see people that you have something in common with. You can get more motivated to do music when you see people like you.”
“There were a lot of kids who were really dedicated to music, and many who were at a higher level than me. We were expected to know our rhythms and notes so we could work more on musical expression. When you start noticing how hard these pieces are, and realize that you actually are talented, you start noticing that music is for you and you think of doing it for life.”
“Before NTASF I would always hate being last chair. When I got to NTASF and was last chair, I realized I’d have to step up my game to try even harder, to try to reach them [other students skill level], and I’ve noticed that has made me a better musician.”
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Because of NTASF I really learned to enjoy the music and listen to my tone and listen to hear if I was sharp or flat. NTASF has really inspired me to try my hardest and dream even bigger. Last year I auditioned for a local orchestra and didn’t get in, but this year it’s a goal of mine to actually get on the waitlist. Because of NTASF that I know that I am capable of doing it.”
Listen to this concert for free on CPR Classical on 88.1 FM in Denver or online at cpr.org. You won’t want to miss this special performance!
88.1 FM or at cpr.org
Students from El Sistema-inspired programs across the United States landed in L.A. this July to perform as part of a top-tier national youth orchestra at the National Take a Stand Festival.
For Melvin, our high school trombonist, it was a time of firsts: hopping on his first airplane, taking his first trip to California, first time traveling solo, first time performing at Walt Disney Concert Hall… oh, and his first selfie with El Sistema alumnus and Music & Artistic Director for the LA Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel!
Stay tuned for an in-depth interview with Melvin as he shares with us the life-long memories he created this summer in L.A.
In memory of Tom Jensen
April 11, 1951 – June 6, 2018
Tom was a highly accomplished conductor, musician, radio personality and entertainer. He believed, as we do, that every child deserves music and beauty in their lives. Several months ago, Tom began helping young cellists and bassists at El Sistema become more confident on their instruments. He sat with them, bass in hand, side by side, as they played wrong notes, tried again, and found the triumph of making music together. He endeavored, every week, to set an example and inspire the children of El Sistema to work hard and dream big dreams for themselves. May his impact on the children be his enduring tribute and legacy.
Memorial reception will be from 6-8pm on Monday, June 18, 2018 at Olinger Crown Hill, Pavilion of Reflection. In lieu of flowers the family suggests donation be made to El Sistema Colorado, 789 Sherman Street, Suite 250, Denver 80203 or www.elsistemacolorado.org/donate