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.