LSM Newswire

Monday, October 19, 2009

NEC Announces Launch of Abreu Fellows, Major Initiative of El Sistema USA

10 Outstanding Musicians from US, Canada, South America to Begin Training October 13 at NEC

Fellows To Divide Time Between Boston and Venezuela

’ÄúIt is not enough for them to love their instruments; they must learn to love their responsibility as citizens. They need to be apostles to society.’Äù
’ÄîJosˆ© Antonio Abreu on the obligations of young professional musicians.

Ten outstanding graduate-level musicians will converge on New England Conservatory Oct. 13, as NEC launches the Abreu Fellows training program, one of the first major initiatives of El Sistema USA. The Fellows will spend a year studying at NEC and in Venezuela developing the leadership skills needed to direct nucleos (music education centers) in the US and beyond. Hailing from the US, Canada, and Central America, the Fellows are the first of a projected 50 who will receive training at the Conservatory. The program envisions Fellows establishing nucleos in Boston and in many cities nationally and internationally.

The Fellows were selected on the basis of their passion for music and for social justice and their probability of success in leading programs that further social action through music. Members of the class include a conductor, an education and community engagement director from the North Carolina Symphony, a "music teacher of the year" in the Juneau, Alaska public schools, a participant in the NEA's Chamber Music for Rural America Initiative, and an entrepreneur who has developed infrastructure for Morningstar Investments' Pan-European and Asian Fund research initiative. The Fellows' ages range from 22 to 44. All are graduates of university or conservatory music programs and they play trombone, trumpet, piano, French horn, flute, clarinet, bassoon, viola and percussion.

Founded earlier this year, El Sistema USA serves as the major support network for the El Sistema movement in the United States. Headquartered at NEC, it allows the many local programs inspired by Venezuela's model of social change through music to share ideas, collaborate, and connect. In addition to the Abreu Fellows program, it will educate about and advocate for the movement as well as identify funding sources and providing valuable resource and training materials. It will also provide a direct US link to the El Sistema organization in Venezuela.

NEC's central role in El Sistema USA stems from the Conservatory's long friendship with the Venezuelan organization and its founder/director Josˆ© Antonio Abreu, spearheaded by NEC's Dean and Artistic Director of Preparatory and Continuing Education, Mark Churchill. By creating a national music movement of change and transformation, the Conservatory believes it is fulfilling its the mission and core values to ’Äúensure music a central place in contemporary society’Äù and ’Äúto share our sublime art with the widest possible audience.’Äù During a 2008 study tour to Caracas led by NEC President Tony Woodcock, Dr. Abreu "anointed" NEC to lead the American effort. Awarded the prestigious TED Prize in February, Dr. Abreu was granted a "Wish to Change the World," and asked the TED community to support the creation and documentation of an El sistema leadership training program at NEC.

The post-graduate certificate-granting Abreu Fellows program, administered by NEC's School of Continuing Education, is headed by Mark Churchill. Planning for the curriculum and selection of Fellows was done in conjunction with a national advisory committee that includes representatives from Los Angeles, Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Miami, and the League of American Orchestras. The much admired teaching artist and arts-in-education national leader Eric Booth serves as Senior Advisor, helping guide the curriculum, faculty selection, evaluation, and project design for the program. Seminar Director Eli Epstein, a horn player for the Cleveland Orchestra from 1987’Äî2005, will prepare and host faculty, moderate discussions, review progress on projects, and advise Fellows. Mark Churchill has taken on the additional role of NEC's El Sistema USA Director, and Stephanie Scherpf is Managing Director of El Sistema USA.

Now 32 years old, Venezuela's El Sistema is a phenomenally successful program of social action through music education that transforms the lives of at-risk children. It currently provides free music lessons and orchestral playing experience to 300,000 children and young adults throughout Venezuela. Its intent is to provide poor children with what Dr. Abreu terms "affluence of the spirit." Through its intense time commitment, rigor, loving concern for each child, and emphasis on the individual player as an essential member of the ensemble, it has rescued many youngsters from the social ills they might otherwise experience. Many graduates continue to play in professional orchestras and many have gone on to college and successful working lives. El Sistema's flagship orchestra, the Sˆ‚mon Bolˆ‚var Youth Orchestra of Venezuela has become internationally renowned. And the young El Sistema-bred conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, has become a superstar, recently opening his first season as Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

One of the hallmarks of El Sistema music training is an emphasis on the love of music and the pleasures of performing rather than a dogged stress on instrumental technique. A goal of the Abreu Fellows program will be to inculcate this special El Sistema teaching style in trainees so they can inspire youngsters in the US and abroad. The Fellows will also receive an immersion course in the various proficiencies’Äîfrom child psychology to fundraising to publicity’Äîthey will need to run nucleos. During the second semester, they will spend two months closely observing the operations of and teaching in nucleos throughout Venezuela. At the end of the year-long course, they will be required to devote at least one year to advance or found an El Sistema program outside Venezuela. Half of the Fellows already have positions in US cities beginning in the fall of 2010, and there is serious interest in hiring Abreu Fellows by a dozen other US and international organizations.

The Abreu Fellows 2009-10
Daniel Berkowitz received his bachelor degrees in both music and economics from Northwestern University, where he studied trombone with Michael Mulcahy, Randall Hawes and Charles Vernon. He has performed across Europe, Asia, and the US, including a residency in China with the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra. As an instructor, Berkowitz held master classes in China, and served on the staff of the Pennsylvania Governor’Äôs School for the Arts and Northwestern’Äôs National High School Music Institute. From 2008-2009, he lived and worked in London, studying with many of Europe’Äôs most well-respected trombonists. In parallel, Berkowitz worked as an entrepreneur developing the infrastructure for Morningstar’Äôs Pan European and Asian Fund research endeavor. He looks forward to combining his broad musical background and entrepreneurial experience to serve the Abreu Fellows Program

Jonathan Andrew Govias holds a Bachelor of Music (BM) degree with distinction from the University of Victoria (Canada), a certificate in arts administration from the International Institute of Culture Management (Munich), and a Master of Music (MM) degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Denver. He has served in a variety of artistic and administrative roles worldwide, including the Director of Marketing for the Victoria Symphony (Canada), the Assistant Conductor of the Colorado Youth Symphony, and Music Director for the Calcutta Orchestra (India). He is the recipient of multiple international awards, including the Reinhold Mohn Fellowship given by the German media company Bertelsmann AG, which recognized his achievements in cultural and social entrepreneurship. He has presented at a number of prominent business schools and conferences, hosted by leading institutions in Spain, Germany and China. His artistic accomplishments are no less significant. Appointed Music Director of the Calcutta Orchestra immediately after finishing his undergraduate degree, he has performed with orchestras on three continents, including a June 2009 debut with Canada’Äôs National Arts Centre Orchestra, and participated in highest level workshops with Kurt Masur, Jorma Panula, Marin Alsop and Gustav Meier.

Lorrie Heagy is a music teacher and librarian at Glacier Valley Elementary School in Juneau, Alaska, where she works with community, parents and teachers to integrate and advocate the arts for all kids. Named "music teacher of the year, she initiated the Art is Elementary program, which won the Kennedy Center’Äôs Creative Ticket National School of Distinction Award, an honor given annually to only five schools in the country. The instrumental music program she helped initiate at Glacier Valley spread to other Juneau elementary schools through grants and school district funding. Lorrie also teaches at University of Alaska Southeast for its MAT Program in Elementary Education, and at the Basic Arts Summer Institutes for Alaskan teachers. She accompanies for local arts organizations throughout Juneau and was one of fifty teachers selected nationally as a 2009 Yale School of Music Distinguished Music Educator.

Rebecca Levi was born and raised in New York City. She studied classical music from an early age, playing piano and flute at the Mannes and Manhattan School of Music Preparatory Divisions. She then attended Yale University, where she played piano for musical theater productions and sang in the folk music group Tangled Up In Blue. In 2007, she graduated with a B.A. in Italian and English Literature. Since then, she has been living in Urubamba, Peru, working in a home for abused children and teaching music and English classes.

David Malek, clarinetist, hails from San Antonio, Texas. In 1987, he made his solo clarinet debut with the San Antonio Symphony performing Debussy’Äôs Premiere Rhapsody. His clarinet studies led him to the North Carolina School of the Performing Arts under the instruction of Robert Listokin. Here David was one of three students selected by Affiliate Artists, Inc. New York for their Search for Talent in America competition. In addition to an active chamber music career, David has performed in orchestras across Europe and the US. David’Äôs chamber music group, Group du Jour, was selected as the first ensemble to participate in the Chamber Music for Rural America Initiative sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and Affiliate Artists, Inc. After touring with The Russ Morgan Orchestra, the longest continuously touring big band in the country, he joined the United States Air Force Band in San Antonio, Texas as principal clarinet. While in San Antonio, David was professor of clarinet at St. Mary’Äôs University for eight years and played clarinet in the Corpus Christi and Victoria Symphony Orchestras. Recently David was selected to play principal clarinet in the inaugural concert of the International Wind Symphony in New York’Äôs Avery Fisher Hall. David’Äôs passion for teaching has led him to working with kids in rural parts of America, inner-city high schools in San Antonio and most recently as a member of the Harmony Project, where he worked with underserved students in South Central Los Angeles.

Dantes Rameau, born in Ontario, Canada, is of Haitian and Cameroonian descent. He attended McGill University for a Bachelor of Music in Bassoon Performance, studying with Stˆ©phane Lˆ©vesque and Mathieu Harel of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. He graduated from McGill in 2005, receiving the award for ’ÄúOutstanding Performance in Bassoon’Äù. He then attended Yale University School of Music where he received his Master of Music in 2007. Dantes then went on to the Performance Residency Program at Carnegie Mellon University, studying with Nancy Goeres of the Pittsburgh Symphony. Among festivals he has attended are the Orford Arts Center (2000, 2002), Banff Festival (2004, 2005) and Aspen Music Festival (2006, 2007). He has performed with Charleston Symphony, Wallingford Symphony and Aspen Chamber Symphony. He was a finalist for African American Fellowships with both the Detroit Symphony (2009) and Pittsburgh Symphony (2008). His teaching credits include the Yale School of Music Outreach program (2006-2007), Coach at Carnegie Mellon University Basketball camp (2008), and volunteer, camp counselor, lifeguard and swimming instructor at the Downtown YMCA in Ottawa. He will volunteer for the Leading Note Foundation, an El Sistema-inspired music education program in Ottawa in September 2009.

ˆÅlvaro Rodas, who was born and raised in Guatemala City, Guatemala, is a percussionist, teacher and arts administrator. A Fulbright Scholar, ˆÅlvaro holds a Masters degree in Arts Administration from Columbia University. From 1992 to 2004 he was principal percussionist at the Guatemala National Symphony. He also taught percussion at the Guatemala National Conservatory. For two years he co-directed an 80-piece high school marching band that was the first Latin American ensemble to take part in the 1994 Hollywood Christmas Parade. Since 1997, he has been deeply involved in the replication of El Sistema in Guatemala. He has served as an administrator, percussion instructor, and coordinator of programs throughout the country, including the formation of a youth orchestra in Quetzaltenango with a grant from the World Bank in 2000-2001. More recently, ˆÅlvaro worked in a remote Mayan village as a percussion teacher and administrative consultant for a rural youth orchestra supported by World Vision Guatemala. During 2008, he created an audience development project which included the first performing arts audience survey in Guatemala City.

Stanford Leon Thompson is a native of Decatur, GA where he began his musical studies at the age of eight. He studied trumpet with members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Georgia State University. Stanford earned a Bachelor of Music from The Curtis Institute of Music where he held the William A. Loeb Fellowship. While in Philadelphia, he had the opportunity to perform with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Curtis Symphony Orchestra, Lancaster Symphony Orchestra, and Symphony in C, and recorded on the Ondine label with Christoph Eschenbach. Stanford also appeared as soloist with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Ocean City Pops Orchestra and the North Springs Philharmonic. He has led residencies with his brass quintet, Philos Brass, and performed extensively with the Rittenhouse Jazz Quintet. He has collaborated with such organizations as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Kenyan Urithi Education Fund, The Curtis Institute of Music, Musicopia, and Symphony in C to design and present programs for students and adults. In addition to serving as the founding Artistic Director of the Reading Summer Music Institute, Stanford also serves as the Director of Operations for the Atlanta Trumpet Festival and served on the faculty of the Atlanta Academy of Music and Symphony in C Summer Camp. He manages professional music ensembles, maintains a private trumpet studio and counsels musicians of all ages.

Christine Witkowski has shaped a musical career in both performance and outreach. At Northwestern University, she studied horn performance with Gail Williams and William Barnewitz, receiving her Bachelor of Music in 2007. While living in Evanston duringher undergraduate studies, Christine began volunteering for Youth Organizations Umbrella Inc. and soon became the program director for ’ÄúBreakfast Club,’Äù a mentoring and tutoring program for disadvantaged youth. During her time at Northwestern, Christine was fortunate to have many fulfilling musical experiences, including attending the Colorado College Summer music festival, playing principal horn in the New York String Orchestra and attending the Norfolk chamber music festival.

In the fall of 2007, Christine moved to Montreal to study horn with John Zirbel and attend McGill University for her Master’Äôs degree. While in Montreal, Christine appeared with the McGill Symphony Orchestra as a soloist playing Haydn's First Horn Concerto, played extra horn with the Montreal Symphony, and was awarded a full fellowship to study at the Aspen Music Festival and School. Dedicated to music outreach, Christine recently won the horn position in the Miami Music Project in Miami, Florida, an organization that is dedicated to bringing music performance to children in the Miami area.

Kathryn Wyatt is an accomplished musician and new personality in orchestra management. As Director of Education and Community Engagement for the North Carolina Symphony from 2007-2009, she created and expanded programs that would inspire and captivate young audiences for the future of symphony orchestras. In 2006, she was selected to be an Orchestra Management Fellow of the League of American Orchestras. This year-long leadership training program is designed to launch executive careers in orchestra management through the observation of management practices in host orchestras, an intense course of study and hands-on work experience. Leading up to her work in orchestra management, Wyatt was a violist with the New World Symphony and the Youth Orchestra of the Americas. Her call to leadership in the arts was inspired by YOA’Äôs joint performances with the Sˆ‚mon Bolˆ‚var Orchestra of Caracas, VZ in 2005. The power and success of El Sistema moved her to begin thinking how and where else this passion for music could translate to benefitting communities.

Wyatt holds bachelor degrees in Political Science and Viola Performance from Indiana University as well as a Master’Äôs Degree in Viola Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music. She has performed with the indie folk-rock chamber orchestra Lost in the Trees, the New World Symphony, Verbier Festival Orchestra, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Youth Orchestra of the Americas, and the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra of Charleston, S.C.

For further information including interviews with the Fellows, check the NEC Website or the El Sistema USA website at

Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world. Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars. Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide. Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions. On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors. Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes’Äîthereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music and jazz.

NEC presents more than 600 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 106-year old, beautifully restored concert hall. These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes. Every year, NEC’Äôs opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

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