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Introduction: By & For Practitioners
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Mariano Vales & Mark Gillespie | Co-Creators

When cultural historians reflect on the late 20th and early 21st centuries, one of the most significant paradigm shifts noted will be the explosion of music-for-social-action initiatives across the globe. Inspired by the work of pioneering figures including Jorge Peña Hen, José Antonio Abreu, Ana Milena Muñoz de Gaviria, Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg, Ricardo Castro, and Nigel Clarke, among others largely in Latin America, the centuries-old platform of the symphony orchestra has found renewed purpose at the epicenter of grassroots transformations from inner-city Port-Au-Prince to rural Canada, from Scotland to Kenya, from Jamaica to Honduras.

While a number of guiding aspirational principles connect practitioners in this growing movement around the world, the operational, financial, and pedagogical engines that power local initiatives tend to be nuanced and diverse — the products of development in isolation through trial and error. This reflects the reality that there is no single template for how to construct, grow, maintain, or even define music-for-social-action initiatives, which, to be effective, must inherently reflect adaptions to varied environments, communities, contexts, traditions, and needs. There is, however, an opportunity to establish a shared knowledge hub around common themes that practitioners face, allowing local decisions to be made with the benefit of outside references. Practitioner-centered knowledge hubs are already critical to many non-musical fields, where Case Studies serve as a valuable tool in aiding decision-makers within the context of evolving industry dynamics. Indeed, Case Studies form the core of many curricula from business schools to scientific research institutes, as a way to share and learn from what is happening in real time.

In this same spirit, Music In Action Journal aims to build a knowledge hub of Case Studies dedicated to the emerging, evolving sector of music-for-social-action. While each Case presents a unique set of struggles and opportunities, together they hold potential lessons for practitioners in the sector at-large. By shining a light on local processes, struggles, and successes without proposing any single blueprint for best practice, the goal of Music In Action Journal is to allow each Case to tell its own story within the broader narrative of the field. And through each edition of the Journal, our hope is that this growing body of Case Studies can create a useful constellation for practitioners, and, in so doing, support the future of the social revolutions they are working to bring about. 



Laura Risk | Editor-in-Chief

Each article in this first issue of Music In Action Journal profiles one music-for-social-inclusion program. In each case, the author or group of authors visited the program under study for between one and three weeks. While the eight case studies presented here are all based on field assignments conducted under the auspices of The 2017 Global Leaders Program, it is anticipated that future issues of the journal will feature authors from a variety of affiliations.

This journal is aimed primarily at practitioners in the field of music for social inclusion. How might teachers encourage peer-to-peer learning and involve students in day-to-day logistics? Can a program remain viable when the teachers or founder live at a distance? How should teachers coordinate curriculum across multiple sites? How long should students stay in a program and what roles can older students take on? How can programs support students in their development both as ensemble players and as individual musicians? What are the best ways to use the skills of visiting artists? How best to teach not only musical skills but also leadership, responsibility, and other transferable skills? These case studies offer a wealth of practical and low-cost suggestions for founders, directors, and teachers.

Music In Action Journal articles follow a standard structure: Abstract, Fieldwork Context, Case Subject Background, Case Issue, Case Analysis, Recommendations, Conclusion.

The Fieldwork Context section describes the day-to-day activities of the author(s) during their visit to the program under study. All of the authors are trained musicians and they visited their respective host programs both as external observers engaged in the field of music for social inclusion, and as guest artists. They conducted sectionals and general rehearsals, and taught workshops, masterclasses, seminars, and private or semi-private lessons. They also interviewed and consulted with administrators and teachers.

This journal is by practitioners and for practitioners. For readers working in the field of music for social inclusion, the Case Subject Background section of each article offers an invaluable resource, describing the nitty-gritty details of program histories, funding models, daily schedules, repertoire and curriculum, teacher training, etc. Music-for-social-inclusion programs draw on the particular opportunities offered by their local communities but also face a variety of challenges. Many are grassroots efforts, launched through the vision and labor of a handful of founders, and are still working towards long-term sustainability. Root Cause Journal is the first periodical to offer a direct line of communication between practitioners in music-for-social-inclusion programs across the globe.

The core of these articles is in the Case Issue–Case Analysis sequence. After several weeks of participant-observation and interviews, each author or group of authors created an analysis of their host program and selected a specific issue to address. Most of these articles use a SWOT analysis, a common strategic planning tool used by businesses and organizations to detail current strengths and weaknesses, and identify potential opportunities and threats.

The authors then offer a concrete set of Recommendations for the host program. While these recommendations are tailored to the program in question, most would be applicable to a wide variety of music-for-social-inclusion projects.

These case studies touch on a number of practical issues in the field of music for social inclusion. Several identify a need for additional professional development opportunities for teaching staff; although many teachers in music-for-social-inclusion programs are highly trained as performers, not all have prior experience teaching in a group setting and few have received training in either general or music-specific pedagogy. In a study of the Sphinx Organization’s Overture Summer Camp (United States), Jacqueline Jove proposes an ongoing series of teacher training workshop to address issues such as classroom management and effective lesson planning. She also recommends a formal observation process by which veteran teachers, or the program’s Director of Education, observe newer teachers and provide feedback on a ongoing basis.

Instituting teacher-training protocols first requires a stable and qualified teaching staff, however. Anna Hiemstra describes the challenges faced by the Jose Depiro Kabataan Orkestra (Philippines), which has no strings teachers on site. Hiemstra suggests that the orchestra create a sequential curriculum for the students, use online resource materials, and encourage experienced students to offer lessons to newer students. In a case study of the National Youth Orchestra of Belize, Bridget Kinneary and Julia Monaconote that wind and lower string students have fewer learning opportunities than violin students due to a lack of long-term personnel on the former instruments. They recommend more long-term contracts for teaching staff and, notably, fewer short-term guest artists: rather than hosting a constant influx of outsiders, the program should create institutional structures to retain local teachers.

Curriculum development and lesson planning go hand-in-hand with teacher training. In a study of Esperanza Azteca (Mexico), Theresa M. Rice and Rocio Lima Guaman note that teaching methods and results are not consistent across the program’s five orchestral sites. They suggest creating a centralized teacher training committee to plan and implement professional development options. They also recommend that each site develop its own two-year curriculum standards and implementation plan, and create monthly professional development events.

Several of these case studies highlight the importance of establishing connections between music-for-social-inclusion programs and local institutions. Mariana Pinto and Catalina Rodriguez-Grisales suggest that NEOJIBA (Brazil) forge stronger relationships with local universities offering Bachelor of Music and Licentiate programs in order to encourage students enrolled in the universities to continue with NEOJIBA longer.

John Connolly, Bradley Powell, Caio Machado, Ian Taylor, and Julia Monaco argue that the Conservatorio Plurinacional de Música (Bolivia) is both a music conservatory and a vehicle for social inclusion, given the socioeconomic circumstances of many of its students and its emphasis on student development. Their case study asks how the conservatory might strengthen its connections with the local community and recommends additional outreach concerts and internships in the local public school system.

Funding is a recurring issue in these case studies: not only the challenge of securing and retaining funding, but also recognition of the ways in which funding needs may shape pedagogical decisions. In Panama, FUNSINCOPA recently faced unexpected and dramatic funding cuts; Bradley Powell considers how the program directors might maximize available resources to weather this drought, including collaborating with another music-for-social-inclusion program, developing a teaching internship program at the local university, and tapping guest artists for workshops on classroom management. By contrast, Esperanza Azteca (Mexico) has strong funding from a private foundation affiliated with a corporate conglomerate and from the government. This program places a high value on measurable growth, with 87 orchestras at the present time. However, Rice and Lima Guaman note that this model pressures the sites for “product rather than process.”

Day-to-day administration can offer a number of challenges, especially for smaller and younger programs. The founder of Al ComPAZ (Colombia) is currently residing outside the country and most administrative tasks fall on the program’s sole teacher, who also works at three different sites. Authors Miguel Ortega and Mollie Westbrook note his low salary and express concern that he will experience burnout. They offer practical suggestions for creating sustainable administrative systems and streamlining operations in the interests of long-term sustainability.

In her case study of CEMUCHCA (Haiti), Rossana Chiara Paz Pierri addresses a central question of the music-for-social-inclusion field: how, exactly, do these programs teach leadership and responsibility, and can they be doing more? She ties this question to the need for more logistics support at CEMUCHCA and suggests creating six student-led committees responsible for everything from instrument maintenance to concert publicity to serving food. Ideally, these committees would not only offer logistical support to the program administrators, but would also increase the students’ sense of ownership and investment in the program. This approach might be productively compared with that of Al ComPAZ, in Columbia. As Ortega and Westbrook note, Al ComPAZ is a subsidiary of Somos ComPAZ, which seeks to use social and play-based activities to achieve peace in disadvantaged communities, and Al ComPAZ teachers actively work to draw the connection between learning music in an ensemble and developing positive social skills. After each class, for instance, students reflect on what they’ve learned, both musically and socially.

Finally, several of these case studies offer suggestions to support student attendance and punctuality. Hiemstra recommends that Jose Depiro Kabataan Orkestra distribute a regular schedule of rehearsal times, lessons, and practice times, and coordinate with local schools to insure that students are not held back after school hours on rehearsal days. Kinneary and Monaco suggest that the National Youth Orchestra of Belize create a code of conduct for students. Paz Pierri recommends the creation of a “Scheduling and Attendance” student committee at CEMUCHCA.

The programs described herein range from small-scale efforts with a handful of students to government-sponsored initiatives serving tens of thousands of children. What they have in common is a stated goal: to use ensemble-based music making as a force for social inclusion. These case studies recognize the gap between that goal and the day-to-day realities of these programs, and propose practical solutions for addressing it. By offering a clear-sighted perspective on music-for-social-inclusion programs around the globe, this and future issues of Music In Action Journal seek to determine and document an internationally recognized set of best practices in this growing field.


Lisa Lorenzino | Editor-at-Large

As I write this introduction to the first edition of the Music In Action Journal, and reflect on the common “Root Cause Analysis” methodology harnessed by each case study to examine issues faced by music-for-social-inclusion programs around the world, I pause to consider is there a deeper meaning of “roots” that we should consider in this context? For me, the word “Roots” naturally beckons to an investigation of the past; it is a call to study history. In this instance, the moniker “Root Cause Analysis” causes me to reflect upon the very origins and foundations of music education in the Americas.

I see the Music In Action Journal as part of a rich musical legacy, a seedling of European musical culture that was transported westward from Europe and transplanted into the Americas during colonial times. Spanish, French, English, Dutch and Portuguese explorers alike well understood the importance of replanting their musical traditions in the New World and, beginning with the earliest outposts, musicians were among some of the earliest settlers. Teachers, performers, composers, often in the form of clerics, enriched the newly-founded communities with their musical traditions. In so doing, they went on to establish centers of excellence, instructing both the indigenous populations as well as their expatriates in the music of their homelands.

It is this legacy of transplanted European culture that has developed into the rich heritage of music education that we enjoy throughout the Americas today. The teaching of orchestral or band instruments, as well as the growth of choirs, roots planted over 500 years ago, has touched virtually every community from Patagonia on through to the most northern regions of Canada. Therefore, I see the articles presented in this Journal as a natural outgrowth of this genealogy. Each program, each case study described herein has its roots firmly planted in this noble tradition.

We all can be very proud of these traditions. More specifically, we can be proud of the people who have worked and who continue to work selflessly to educate others in their musical development, like each and every program director and author presented herein. Indeed, these modern-day pioneers are involved in a most worthy endeavor, one that has endured for centuries, one that has grown into a vibrant and varied music education environment.

However, the introduction of European Art music into the Americas also had motives of a more dubious or problematic nature. From the onset of colonization, the persuasive power of music and its ability to awe and convert was employed for negative purposes. The ability of the conquering nations to persuade the indigenous populations to dedicate to their crown or their church was often hastened through the persuasive power of music. The roots of music education in the Americans therefore can be viewed as having tainted or unhealthy portions in its pedigree. As a result of this parentage, each of the articles presented in this journal has been affected by the stripping of cultures and religions that took place in every community since colonization.

Thus, as we look at the ensuing articles, whereas we can honor many worthy achievements, we must consider them with the full knowledge of both the positive and negative aspects of their lineage. Indeed, I believe that this journal, with its sensitivity to our historical past, can be seen as an area of great potential and growth. Music In Action Journal is a new sowing, a renewed cultivation, a tender young sapling.

And a tender young sapling this area of study is. If we investigate more closely, the programs presented in this journal are based upon a model of music education, although part of our legacy, that has only recently been germinating. Although we can find many examples historically of music education initiatives dedicated to decreasing racism or focusing on inclusion, this journal is but one of a few that prioritizes music education as a tool for social justice. In comparison to the music education history of over 500 years in the Americas, we are barely past the stage of sowing the seed of social action through music. However, this seedling is propagating quickly and is firmly taking root in a very organic way.

So, can we look back to our history to help us nurture this new growth of social justice based education? Indeed, we are fortunate to be able to do so and in many ways. I believe that the programs described herein are experiencing a history similar to other saplings of our musical education past in the Americas.

In this journal, we see young musical initiatives struggling with issues related to sustainability or funding. In other cases, we see concerns related to teacher education, curriculum content, or philosophy. While some programs are experiencing difficulties with teacher retention, others are conflicted as to whether they should include more popular music, improvisation or creativity in their offerings. The concerns are myriad but, in many cases, they are simply a variegated version of that which we have already seen and experienced in our music education historical past.

If we look back in time, when music education, in the form of school orchestras and choirs, was first introduced into the public schools in the United States, many of these self-same issues were at the forefront. In some instances, years of advocacy and political persuasion preceded the introduction of music education into the curriculum. In other cases, once formally approved by governments or school or officials, a lack of financial support often led to early music educators working for free, some for two years of full time teaching. Concerns over a lack of teacher training caused music education forefathers to visit each community as supervisors to assist in quality control, often at their own expense.  When investigating curriculum content, music education pioneers in the Americas sought out successful models from abroad, either travelling to observe new programs or importing the philosophies and methodologies of foreigners. Their struggles and successes are well documented.

The Music In Action Journal allows us to document the growing pains and the successes of a new sapling. Fortunately, this new growth is occurring at a time in history that enables us to easily share on a global level. Today, unlike our music education forefathers, our ability to learn from the past and to react to the present is expedited due to our advances in technology. Our accessibility to communication and knowledge is unlike that which has ever before been seen; we are so fortunate.  The question is, how will our history unfold at a time that appears to be ever more complicated and fast paced?

I believe that the history being written through the Music In Action Journal will be one of a great flowering. This new publication will allow us to reflect upon our past; so too it will allow us to critically question how we want to channel our future growth through dialogue, discussion and conversation. New roots are being planted globally through music education and social justice initiatives and, like the forefathers of music education in the Americas, they are roots that will bear nourishing fruit. The Music In Action Journal, through its knowledge of history and a fervent desire to improve the future, will insure that our stewardship nourishes, cultivates, and sustains a rich new musical heritage for future generations.


Eric Booth | Editor-at-Large

The Music In Action Journal shines a bright beacon for the worldwide classical music field. It’s a guiding beacon that invites the wider field of music education (all the way from beginnings through conservatory) to be guided by. And not only music education, but the classical music industry altogether would be wise to consider this Journal seriously, to get a feel for the pioneering vitality of these emerging cause-driven music learning programs around the world, and the authors who dedicate themselves to social change through music.

Most prominently, this Journal provides the chance to explore eight case studies within which we can learn along with the ambitious, courageous colleagues who founded them. These are eight important cause-driven music learning pioneers, whose work we should all know about. In this Journal, we get a feel for their successes and learn even more perhaps from the ways in which they are struggling to be even better.

These eight programs demonstrate exemplary habits of being “learning organizations.” They invited these authors to investigate their programs while working inside them, to talk with everyone, and to serve in the role of critical friend who distills observations and recommendations; and they were willing to have those observations published for the wider field to learn from. That is the kind of organizational openness and courage that inspires faculty courage and student courage—these organizations model the kind of “growth mindset” that empowers their learners to take on challenges in their own lives.  More established music education programs would do well to emulate this kind of institutional vulnerability with high ambition.

Just imagine for a moment how much stronger music education around the world would be if we could name some of our struggles publically, invite informed colleagues from the outside to help us examine the challenges and make recommendations, and then share all that with others. In reflecting on that vision for this introductory essay, I realized that almost without exception, the healthiest and most vibrant music education programs I have worked with over career decades have embodied that kind of vulnerability-and-ambition. The leadership has been eager to engage with others about shared challenges; the faculty have been experimenters and active learners with colleagues; the students have felt their views were solicited and taken seriously. These are the qualities of good “learning institutions”—and we have eight of them introduced in this Journal.

Much of my work is with music institutions that are considerably less transparent, and I urge them, conservatories and academic programs and orchestras, to learn from the practices of these eight institutions that are eager to change themselves to better serve their mission to change the world.

There is another way in which this Journal shines a beacon for our field.  Look at the authors.  You are meeting 15 exemplars of the healthy future of our field.

First, they are all trained musicians. They bring the passion, the determination, the aesthetically sophisticated sensibilities, and the deep musical knowing that they gained in the long journey of developing musicianship to a high degree. Let’s not forget that in our time, music education is training students at a higher level than ever before, and this high quality training is available more widely, not just in a handful of elite institutions.

These musicians have an extra driving passion beyond their passions for music and music-making. They have a passion for social change through music. I find this is an increasing phenomenon in our field, and it’s not overstated to call this a characteristic of the 21stCentury Musician, and one of the great hopes for our future. More and more young musicians want “more” out of a life in music—more than a lucrative orchestral job that they are unlikely to land, more than the chance to regularly perform the music they like, more than a life exploring great music with others who love it. They want a big life in music, with work that challenges them, with projects they create, with entrepreneurial successes bringing new things into the world, with contributions that make the world a better place through music.  These authors are already on their way to creating those big lives in music, and the work for this Journal took them further.

They no longer believe in art just for art’s sake, but they commit their lives to music for many purposes.  “Classical” music is not a fragile hothouse artform that must be protected in careful environments.  It is a muscular power tool in life that can affect many kinds of positive change without being depleted or diminished. These 15 citizen artists embody that ideal. This should be a beacon for all emerging and established artists—your career can take many different directions, including those that directly serve a social need or cultural cause.

The authors of this first volume of the Music In Action Journal are all graduates of the Global Leaders Program (GLP). (Future issues of the Journal are envisioned to include case studies from outside the GLP.) The GLP is an intensive nine month leadership certificate course led in partnership with ten universities and think tanks. The program’s high level faculty (including two Nobel laureates) teaches in a mix of online study (students live and work around the world), retreats, and a field study project at a social cause driven music program somewhere in the world. These Fellows dove into those opportunities, and these Case Studies are the result. I lead the GLP module on Teaching Artistry, and so, I got to know them early in their study year before they took on ten other modules that dig into the 21stcentury leadership skills that are needed to become, quite simply, world changers.

In their field studies (that led to the case studies in this Journal), GLP Fellows take on a number of roles.  They show up as artists and teachers, of course, working in both capacities wherever they are placed.  But they also take on the roles of investigator, collaborator, reporter, critical friend, even consultant.  It is the multiplicity of the roles they take on, and the fluid transitioning from one to the other in the improvisation of daily life, that I find particularly inspirational. Their days were packed with creative problem solving, clear observation, insightful analysis, artistry and teaching artistry, and a spirit of helpfulness and enthusiasm, in a mix that required constant adjustment and opportunity-grabbing. These were 21stcentury musicians at work, using their full range of capacities. These are leadership skills; these are the leaders I want leading our music and music learning organizations into a stronger and more culturally relevant future.

A term was developed in the Sistema Fellowship program run by New England Conservatory to develop leaders for the El Sistema-inspired movement.  (I was one of the founders and leaders of that program.)  The first cohort developed the acronym CATS to describe to ideal work of an educator in a cause-driven music learning program.  They believed that one had to embrace multiple roles to fulfill the high ambitions of social change through music; they identified: Citizen, Artist, Teacher, and Scholar.

The authors in this Journal are exemplary CATS. Their identity as citizens of a better-possible world drives their lives and manifests in life choices, large and small.  They are trained and passionate artists who believe in the power of music and take delight in its many forms of beauty and multiple kinds of excellence. They are teachers who listen well, co-learn well, and evolve their pedagogy to meet their learners as fellow artists no matter what their level of experience. They are scholars-in-action who can study a complex program, analyze the root causes of its strengths and weaknesses, and strive to make it better.

Thanks to these CATS, to the Global Leaders Program, to the case study organizations, and to the Music In Action Journal readers who absorb the examples and instruction contained herein.  Thanks to all for the hunger to change—change lives, change programs, change the future of our field—and to the emerging leaders who help us change effectively.




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