Yesterday I had the opportunity to be invited by the Lake Norman Kiwanis club to listen to a special presentation by a talented young man named Ben Fuller. Ben came to advocate for a program called “el Sistema”.
Before I give you the details, let me first say that Ben Fuller truly moved me…for a man as young as he is to embrace the concept of how music can change young lives, and to not only be an advocate for a program that can be the vehicle for change, but to also be an initiator, well…his motivation and passion are simply inspiring.
El Sistema is, according to the brochure I received, “a set of inspiring ideals that has led to an intensive after school music program that seeks to affect social change through the pursuit of musical excellence.” This is a program that focuses on children with few resources, but with great need — need for affection, need for finances, need for discipline, need for structure, and need for a chance to move past their situation of poverty.
This program, according to Ben, was founded in Venezuela, a country of 28 million people with 23% living below the poverty level. In contrast, the United States has 21% living below the poverty level. The music program that is offered to young students is at no cost to participants and uses music to make each child to feel like they have an important contribution to his or her community. Students grow to take ownership of the process, understand the concept of being part of a group and their value to the group and often, learn the value of friendship, teamwork, goals and hope at a very early age. All values that help them excel in their futures.
Several years ago a local Kiwanis member watched a segment on “60 Minutes” about el Sistema and the unbelievable success rate for the participants. You can find that program at http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4011959n. That one gentlemen continued to think about the effects that el Sistema could have in the Lake Norman area. And even though our demographics are higher than many other areas, we are not alone in having people in our population that may need an extra boost. In fact, the numbers of “economically disadvantaged” elementary students in our area exceeds 3,500 — all children who could benefit from this program.
I don’t know the series of events that led from that Kiwanis member watching “60 Minutes” to the presentation by Ben Fuller, a Matthews native and recent UNC Chapel Hill graduate, but I know that the Kiwanis club has embraced Ben as their own and is excited to do what they can to bring the el Sistema program to our area.
Davidson Mayor John Woods echoed the sentiments of Cornelius Mayor Jeff Tarte and myself in saying that the three towns of north Mecklenburg work very well together and firmly believe in doing what we can to better our respective communities. We three agree that with Kiwanis taking the lead, our towns can do whatever we can to assist in making el Sistema a reality for our area’s children.
And how can you disagree with the core values of el Sistema?
- Everyone has the right to a life of dignity and contribution.
- Every child can learn to experience and express music and art deeply and receive its many benefits.
- Overcoming poverty and adversity is best done by strengthening the spirit
- Effective education is based on love, approval, joy and experience within a high functioning, aspiring, nurturing community.
- Every child has limitless possibilities and the ability to strive for excellence.
According to the founder of el Sistema, Dr. Jose Antonio Abreau, “From the minute a child is taught to play an instrument, he is no longer poor.”
Get ready — we’ll be calling on you for your assistance.
For more information on el Sistema, , please view http://www.elsistemausa.org.