Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, March 19, 2019
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY paul pearsonEl Sistema Lehigh Valley concert, 6 p.m. March 14, Roosevelt Elementary School, Allentown. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY paul pearsonEl Sistema Lehigh Valley concert, 6 p.m. March 14, Roosevelt Elementary School, Allentown.

El Sistema concert goes to movies

Friday, March 15, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Focus

Every day after school at Roosevelt Elementary, dozens of children can be heard tuning their violins and cellos, and warming up their voices.

Students from elementary to high school learn the fundamentals of music, practice playing classical pieces and get some help with their homework in El Sistema Lehigh Valley, patterned after a highly-successful international program.

The dedicated young students are working hard as they get ready to perform in a free El Sistema Lehigh Valley concert, 6 p.m. March 14, Roosevelt Elementary School, 210 W. Susquehanna St., Allentown.

The hour-long pops concert by orchestra and choir includes music from movies, such as “Mary Poppins,” “The Greatest Showman,” “Frozen,” “Moana” and “La La Land.”

“We are encouraging social change through music,” says Kaylee Santanello, program manager and conductor of El Sistema Lehigh Valley, a free music education program offered to Allentown School District (ASD) students through the Allentown Symphony Association.

The program combines music and academics by giving ASD students in kindergarten through 12th grade the chance to develop life-skills through daily music instruction, performing in a large music ensemble experience and being tutored.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive and there is a waiting list for the pre-orchestra beginner group, says Santanello.

More than 100 students take part in the program in which students can learn to play a string instrument: violin, viola, cello or bass. They also get choir instruction, tutoring and an after-school snack.

The students present free concerts, culminating in an end-of-the-year classical music concert, 6:30 p.m. June 6, Miller Symphony Hall.

A free, four-week El Sistema program is offered in the summer.

Started in Allentown in 2011, the program has drawn national acclaim and grant support.

El Sistema was founded in Venezuela in 1975 by teacher, musician and activist José Antonio Abreu, who began teaching 11 students music in a parking garage.

By 2015, El Sistema included more than 400 music centers and was reaching more than 700,000 young musicians worldwide.

Santanello says Roosevelt Elementary has been supportive, providing facilities for rehearsals and performances. The program also is held at ASD’s South Mountain Middle School.

Santanello says participation in the program has shown results: “Students in El Sistema get higher standardized test scores than the general student population and we see improvement in behavior, grades and school attendance.”

The goal is not necessarily to create professional musicians, but to help students develop critical life-skills that will lead them to success in whatever they pursue in life, she says.

Information: millersymphonyhall.org.