Expanding their network of music educators and administrators enacting social change through music, El Sistema USA (ESUSA) has launched an individual membership tier. A nationwide membership organization, ESUSA serves as the connective tissue between U.S.-based music programs inspired by the successful El Sistema model. The El Sistema program, established by maestro José Antonio Abreu in Caracas, Venezuela in 1975, provides musical instruction to youth with the greatest need at no cost, with an emphasis on ensemble programming. The continued success of this program in Venezuela inspired the replication of its programming model around the world, and eventually, the formation of ESUSA. The organization supports the growth of El Sistema-inspired music programs in the United States by providing resources that help programs improve in all areas, including but not limited to: equity, advocacy, funding, leadership development, programming, and pedagogy.
As more El Sistema-inspired programs have been founded in the United States, the need for an organization like ESUSA has grown. One of the key objectives of the organization being to enact social change through music, ESUSA’s membership consists of organizations that prioritize this in their work. Not only has it served as an alliance between these organizations, but it has also created a central hub for organizations looking to do more work in support of vulnerable communities to share resources and ideas. However, there are many dedicated educators and stakeholders in music education who may not be employed by an El Sistema-inspired program, but are interested in incorporating the mission and goals of ESUSA into their work. The organization’s recent expansion to include individual membership in their membership structure has created an opportunity for more people to be involved in these conversations.
With an individual membership to ESUSA, one can access a plethora of resources that connect them to other like-minded educators, administrators, and music programs. The organization centers these connections in many of its benefits that foster innovation, collaboration, and leadership skills amongst members. Members not only have access to their annual national symposium, but regional gatherings and online working groups as well. The subject matter at these events is vast—covering everything from establishing and maintaining public school partnerships, to adopting equity centered pedagogical practices. These events are prime opportunities to not only learn about the ways in which educators around the country are implementing innovative practices, but to share your knowledge and resources as well. In addition to these opportunities, members also have access to various grants, scholarships, data, and conference discounts. Membership to the organization is contingent upon one’s alignment with their Criteria for Membership.
As conversations about the behaviors that must be unlearned in the classical music field continue, the work of ESUSA and its membership give us a glimpse into what could become of the field if these conversations and changed behaviors began with young musicians. By providing space for forward-thinking and collaboration amongst music educators, these educators can begin implementation of a new system that uplifts communities that are historically excluded. A relevant and necessary voice in conversations about equity, ESUSA provides support for those working to make music education more equitable, inclusive, and empowering for the next generation of musicians.