Transformation by music

From Sistema Fellow Aisha Bowden…

As an educator, I am a true supporter of learning abroad. Imagine my excitement when I learned I was accepted into a Fellowship that included a five-week El Sistema expedition in Venezuela!  This year, the Sistema Fellows have been fortunate enough to study under some of the brightest minds in our country, all in the name of creating social change through music. This course of study was a perfect pre-game for the South America expedition. The Boston sessions and readings we experienced as Fellows prepared us well – and then the trip itself catapulted us into another dimension! Every single bit of knowledge we received this year was brought to the surface as we visited programs (nucleos)! Together we have enough pictures, videos and choir stories to fill a small museum, yet there are some things that the camera simply can not accurately convey.  So for now, I will just say we are forever changed.

I witnessed transformation in my fellow Fellows that warmed my heart. We went anxious to receive and left ready to give. What a blessing.

And with good reason – the beauty and spirit of the Venezuelan people are infectious. It was so wonderful to be in a place that celebrates the music of life so remarkably. Most impressive was perhaps seeing the vision of Maestro Abreu implemented so thoroughly throughout an entire country! In Coro, a nucleo director donated her home and moved in with her mother, providing a space for the orchestra to rehearse daily.  When we descended upon her nucleo one Friday afternoon, she abandoned her regularly scheduled activities, allowing us to hold sectionals in every available room. When she realized a Choir Director was present, she canvassed the neighborhood, rounded up all the choir children within 20 minutes, and then borrowed a neighbor’s house so I could rehearse with them on the patio.  In Guarico, a choir director worked tirelessly in modulos by day and nucleo by night. Inspired by the passion of his choir, he was proudly carrying out the dream of Maestro Abreu, which had become his own.  He reminded us to tell the Maestro of the great work his children were creating. By the time we said our goodbyes to Venezuela, we too had taken ownership of that dream. It is the fuel that drives us daily as we plan to introduce our own versions of Sistema in the United States.

On our last night in Venezuela, we enjoyed a glorious evening with Maestro Abreu. We walked out of that meeting with a renewed sense of purpose and passion. Now, more than ever, I am ready for the journey that lies ahead.



Aisha Bowden