Center for the Development of Arts Leaders: Team GEEKSystem

For the past few months, From the Top has been hard at work launching our Center for the Development of Arts Leaders (CDAL)! This blog is the fourth in a series written by Linda Gerstle, Director of Education and Community Partnerships, chronicling the pilot year of this program. You can read the first post here,  the second post here, and the third post here.

The Conservatory Lab Charter School (CLCS) is a K-5 elementary school in Brighton, Massachusetts with just over 200 students. Its mission is for students to achieve academic, creative, and social success through a comprehensive music-infused curriculum, which includes the El Sistema approach of transforming lives through music. All CLCS students are in school until 5:00pm daily participating in instrumental, choir, percussion classes, as well as string orchestra and wind ensembles. This combination of programs and underlying philosophy makes CLCS an ideal partner site for From the Top’s Center for the Development of Arts Leaders (CDAL)!

(L to R) Edalina Wang, Brian Kaufman (mentor), Elizabeth O’Neil, Rebecca Levi & David Malek (from CLCS), Karolina Nunes, Graziella Oliveira

The CDAL team partnered with CLCS is GEEKSystem (GEEK is an acronym made up of each team member’s first initial). Their mentor, Brian Kaufman, is also one of the sixteen teaching artists at CLCS and in his dual role is able to add a multi dimensional perspective to the experience of his team.

Edalina & Graziella working on an instrument for the paper orchestra

GEEKSystem is helping CLCS with an awesome project – the “paper orchestra.” Though students are not inducted into the full orchestral experience until second grade, El Sistema program directors David Malek and Rebecca Levi prepare kindergarteners and first graders to study music through a creative and hands on approach – the paper orchestra. The students decide which instrument they would like to play and then create a scaled version of that instrument in paper-mâché, which they must take care of during the school year.

GEEKSystem member Karolina says, “By constructing instruments out of paper-mâché the kids learn how to handle their instrument with care because it is so delicate.” Not only is the paper orchestra a fun project for the kids and CDAL arts leaders, it is a way to teach the students how to treat music instruments properly before they ever pick up a real violin.

Elizabeth playing with CLCS students

In addition to supporting the paper orchestra, GEEKSystem is working with a researcher to document student experiences at CLCS through observation and individual interviews to determine the effect of the program on the students’ lives. The team is also creating an on-going relationship between El Sistema Boston at CLCS and Somerville Public Schools through multimedia communication, mentoring, and performance, inspiring Somerville students to make music a larger part of their lives. The CDAL project will culminate in November 2011 with a fundraiser concert at a Somerville Public School auditorium, giving everyone an opportunity to make a difference through music.