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.