Friday, February 1, 2013

Twinkle Sandwich Recipe

Hello to all!
Just wanted to share a PDF of a drawing I show my violin students. The parts of twinkle are divided into the Flower song, monkey song and the cheese. After students have assimilated the concept I will present the chart below, which is not limited to a delicious snack, but also gets the students familiar with form (ABA).

Monday, June 18, 2012

American for the Arts

Just wanted to share an article summarizing a report about the arts and its economic impact.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

El Sistema Resource Virtual Library

Just wanted to let you know I will be compiling music and whatever other resources I find interesting in this blog. The Abreu Fellowship has a DIVSHARE account, so we can upload files. If you want to share music with other nucleos please email me -
I have also made some arrangements of pop songs for beginner groups, feel free to download. I use a free music notation software called Muse Score. You can download that and edit the music in any way you see fit, and if you have any suggestions to improve the arrangement let me know.

Friday, September 30, 2011


It's been a while since I've written, but I thought no one was reading. So here is an update - I am working at Multicultural Music Group in NY. The people there are awesome and what they are doing is in line with El Sistema except it does not focus solely on classical music. It also resembles Community Music Work as far as including social awareness such as the Ponce Massacre, one of the topics for this year. They are all into including media and to whatever it takes to create engagement with the students. This year we are participating in a research project to determine students musical and emotional progress.

I also watched a movie the other day called The Music Never Stopped which is based on a true story - fantastic!!! A wonderful resource for students and teachers is this documentary
Yo-Yo Ma is in it, Bobby McFerrin, Levitin, and Oliver Sacks!!

I also wanted to pass along an beautiful movement that has been cooking

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Conversation with Francisco Díaz

The most rural communities in Venezuela are seeders for E.S. - those places where there is no infrastructure, where they might not even have a roof, there is no strategic planning. It is being in a constant state of planification - and yet the orchestra as a model works.

E.S. is based on Vygotsky's social constructivism; learning through socialization - that is the theory of social action through music - in the orchestra children develop multiple intelligences. Not only that but we use ¨functional solfege¨ that is you learn solfege by doing, playing in the instrument.

Violin is separated into four stages which are based of Simsons Taxonomy.

Imitation, precision, control, automatizing

Imitation: kids watch imitate correct posture, instrument hold, 4 8ths per bow, first position, start with martelé, detache, spiccato, major scales (sol, la, re) and their relative minors, tuning (repeats by imitation), forte/piano, keeps time (60 quarter). Kids learn the note names by ear (Suzuki mother tongue).

Repertory: Apollo suite, traditional folk songs: el grillito, el saltarín, pomp and circumstance, preludio carmen, toy symphony, brandemburg suite, ode to joy, mexican overture, tanhauser suite, rameau suite for orchestra, vivaldi alla rustica (1,3), mission impossible theme, polovetsian dances, william tell. Arranged repertoire for level 1.

Precision: kids have more scientific knowledge, understands/adopt correct posture by themselves, understands the correct way of holding the instrument and bow, 4 eights to a bow, first and 3rd position, detaché-martelé-spiccato-balsato(??), developing quality of sound, corrects intonation, keeps precise rhythm, piano, mezzos, forte,FF, tempo 90

Repertory: gypsy overture (isaac), the great gate of kiev, concierto madrigalesco, new world symphony (4mvt), alleluia messiah, overture 1812, Ven. national anthem, jupiter planets, fire bird beracuse finale, toreadores carmen, water music finale, sobre las estepas del asia central (Borodin), mozart 28 and 12 (not arrangements), Venezuela (armenteros), aires de Venezuela:joropo.

Control: controls body posture and instrument hold, eight 8th notes per bow, 1,3,5th position, detaché/martelé/spiccato/balsato, tunes correctly, suficient sound quality, pianissimo-ff, controls tempi when performing, beginning vibrato, tempo:120

Rep (no arrangements anymore): conga del fuego nuevo (marquez), nutcracker, aires de Ven, Danzon 2, orpheus in the underworld, beethoven 1,5, mozart 31, haydn 104, light cavarly, suite ballet la estancia, danza de los trabajadores agricolas, strauss radetzky, william tell cabalgata.

Automatizing: correct body-instrument position, uses bow and instrument correctly, eight 8ths notes per bow, 1-7th position, uses vibrato and tempo with sensitivity.

Rep: march slav, tchaik 4 4mvt, rienzi ov, festive overture, tchai overture 1812, sensamaya, schubert unfinished.

These levels and pedagogical concepts is found in the Plan nacional de capacitación docente, written by the members of the Academia latinoamericana de violin.


In the begining strings they work with a lot of martelé (in the different parts of the bow), working alla corda, emphasis on separating notes. This builds from the begining the concept of sounding together. This is what he calls the Abreu sound or chasquido - everything at heel without hitting the notes. They also work Galamians´ concepts of flat hair and the point of contact where the bow adheres to the string. With the little ones they start with a lot of open strings accompanied by piano.

The techniques for the development of E.S. is the taller or sectionals. The teachers have to be great leaders, not people with degrees necessarily, they need basic conducting skills and not having a soft character. Liderazgo materno or maternal leadership is what it takes for a teacher to be successful.

LEARNING HAS TO BE FUN and its all a game for the kids. E.S. builds discipline and trains the brain to crave the satisfaction of doing things right to earn the applause.

¨Poor kids don´t get applause from anyone, and once they do they will never forget that feeling¨

Because E.S. is a meritocracy students that progress make it into the academy where they get masterclasses, private lessons, lots of playing opportunities.

You don´t need the best prepared musicians in E.S. the teachers you don´t see are the ones that make up E.S. In Lara there are 17,500 people benefitted by E.S. either directly or indirectly.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Conversation with Luis Giménez

Sr. Luis started playing for Maestro Abreu in the National Youth Orchestra in Venezuela (´75). Back then E.S. did not exist, so it started with older more advanced students. In 1976 Abreu opens the first nucleos of Barquisimeto and Maracai months apart. The difficulties the kids in the conservatory experienced was the teachers failed without a reason, so they began teaching kids (N:30) in the Casa Doraliza de Medina as a rehearsal hall. Abreu sent out teachers from Caracas, and slowly the professional orchestra of the state of Lara was born.

Módulos: el Tocuyo, Carora, Cabudare, Sarare, Tamaca, Quibor, Sanare, Duaca, and the newest Santa Rosa. In Barquisimeto there are 9 orchestras, with 3,000 kids. Every state has a foundation, in this case FESNOJIV is umbrella for JOVIL (Fundación Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil de Lara) and Fundación Conservatorio de Música Vicente Emilio Sojo. To train teachers they either travel to Caracas, but more regularly (sometimes every 15 days) teachers come from Caracas to help teachers. Universidad de los Andes has documented the impacts of music students and academic achievement in Venezuela.

In Barquisimeto there are plans for starting a site similar to Centro de Acción Social por la Música, hopefully Getty will be the architect for this structure - fingers crossed!

About his musical training
Luis studied with an Italian from the old school - the rigid curriculum (can´t get to B if you don´t do A), they tested students to see if they had aptitude, solfege/theory course then instrument. He said ¨there was a lot of talent, but there were imposed barriers¨ When Maestro Abreu begins conducting a youth orchestra that was playing repertoire beyond their ¨technical capacities¨ and breaking away from the audition models, he embodied and instilled in them what he believed - everyone has the right to participate in the orchestra.
Luis never left Barquisimeto even though Maestro A. asked him to stay in Caracas. E.S. used foreigners to teach rather than to play in the orchestra, he also began recording these masterclasses. Media and technology has been a very important part of the spreading knowledge into the other nucleos around the country.

The Academies began in 1976, the violin academy is directed by Francisco Castillo, and Francisco Díaz is the violin director in Barquisimeto. The violin technique in E.S. uses the principles of Galamian´s technique because Castillo was a student of his. The cello school was formed 6 years ago, the technique is basically - do what is most comfortable for the student, however tuning is the most important thing! The bass school developed more uniformly. At first German and French where used, but the professional orchestra in Maracaibo hired Polish double bass teachers, which solidified the German technique in Venezuela. French bass technique is very rare now a days.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Conversation with Alfredo D´Addona

Maestro Abreu came to Barquisimeto in 1976, a year after forming the first orchestra in Caracas and proposed to the kids in the Conservatorio Vicente Emilio Sojo to begin a youth orchestra. The beginning group in that orchestra include Alfredo D´Addona, Luis Giménez (artistic director), and Tarcisio Barreto (director).
Originally the conservatory had agreed to borrow their building to rehearse. Kids were being admitted into the orchestra without technical level or theoretical knowledge to perform the pieces. This was contrary to the teaching in conservatory, this pedagogical discrepancy led the youth orchestra to find another home. The orchestra wondered around sites through the city *the even played at Alfredo D´Adonna´s house (current general director of the Fundación Orquesta Sindónica Juvenil e Infantil del Estado Lara). The conservatory apparently did not have that many students so it was then annexed to what is now FESNOJIV.

The board did not constitute of musicians, so there were difficulties for non-musicians to understand the needs from musicians. That changed pretty quickly after the conservatory transitioned to FESNOJIV. Alfonso mentioned the difficulties and the challenge Maestro Abreu gave to them - they were to be musicians and managers. They had to learn on the fly, Maestro Abreu served as an advisor as well as a mentor.

Originally the program did not start as a social rescue, but out of the need to create a space for Venezuela musicians to feel like they belonged. Before FESNOJIV there was only one national orchestra which was founded largely with foreigners (over 90%).

What happens to kids who want to become professional musicians, but are not at the level to be able to play professionally?
Its a hard question to answer because we don't exclude anyone from the orchestra, yet the kids themselves realize where they are going. There are some exceptions, for example the bassoonist from the Simon Boliva is a surgeon and plays in the orchestra. Kids learn how to excel in this program, to reach their human potential. The goal is not to train professional musicians. However, many of the students from the nucleo continue teaching or become administrators in the nucleos.

The kids in the juvenil in Barquisimeto have the challenge to accept everyone, that includes peers with less skill. That is something that has to be instilled and taught to them. The young players will get a better level playing with those that are better than them. The paradigm of orchestras begin formed by the best is destroyed by E.S. - it breaks the paradigm that there are limitations for the musicians.

Cool quotes
¨oportunidades para todos por igual¨

¨E.S. grew out of young people, the most advantageous musicians were the ones that would teach new musicians. In the beginning you don't need amazing musicians, just people that believe in the project.¨

¨We believe in what we do¨

¨Maestro Abreu cannot do this alone, and he is amazing at finding leaders. Leaders emerge and people chose to follow - appointed leaders will achieve less.¨