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Bartok to benefit El Sistema-inpired programs

On June 28th, 2014, James conducted an all-star orchestra in Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra to benefit 7 El Sistema-inspired programs, six in the NYC are and one in New Orleans. Hosted by Jamie Bernstein and with the assistance of Eric Booth, the event was designed to bring attention to and raise funds for these programs.

From the press release:

An unlikely revolution is happening in a handful of culturally underserved communities across the New York metro area and nation. Thousands of children are ignoring their electronic devices to spend afternoons and weekends in intensive study of classical music. The instruction is provided by nonprofit music programs that share a vision of the role classical music can play in transforming a child’s life. The six New York metro area youth orchestra programs participating in this concert reach over 600 children ranging in age from three to 21. (One of the many beauties of classical music is that you can fit so many young people into an orchestra!)

Due to the dearth of opportunities for music study in their schools and communities, many of these children had never held, or in some cases had never even seen, their instrument before joining one of these youth orchestra programs. The programs emphasize instruction and orchestral performance, but above all seek social justice in the communities they serve. The children learn so much more than the music itself; they also develop teamwork, discipline, perseverance, empathy and problem solving – critical life skills for finding success in any career they choose to follow. But who knows: perhaps there is a Mozart-like virtuoso, or a Bernstein-like maestro, hiding in their midst!

The work of these programs will be celebrated on June 28, 2014 with “The Concert to Benefit El Sistema-Inspired Youth Orchestras in New York, New Jersey, and New Orleans,” known as “The Concert” for short. A selection of 150 students from the six New York metro area programs will perform a short concert on the stage of the United Palace. Following intermission will be the annual performance of the New York City Summer Mahler Project.

To welcome a diverse audience and put the Concert within reach of everyone in these communities, ticket prices range from $5 to $75, with a limited selection of $250 VIP seats. After expenses for mounting the concert all proceeds from ticket sales will be evenly split between the seven El Sistema-inspired programs affiliated with the Concert. (The students who are performing and their families will be admitted for free.) Tickets are on sale

“The Concert” grows out of the New York City Summer Mahler Project, an annual concert begun in 2010 by James Blachly to support “Make Music NOLA,” an El Sistema-inspired program in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. Mr. Blachly was inspired to start “Make Music NOLA” after visiting New Orleans’s 9th Ward while a member of the Trinity Church Wall Street Choir. The need, capability, and rich cultural heritage of the area seemed to him to be an ideal place to initiate a program with El Sistema qualities. With several similar programs rising up in New York, Mr. Blachly realized this year that the concert should serve a broader cause.

“With these great programs starting up in the New York metro area and banding together, it seemed most exciting to make this concert about the entire El Sistema movement in this area, and to benefit many more kids. And as a native New Yorker, I felt the importance of working locally, as well as for our friends in New Orleans,” Mr. Blachly said. “The theme of ‘the Concert’ is going big, thinking big, dreaming big. And we hope the amount of money we raise for each of these programs matches that vision.”

The New York City Summer Mahler Project brings together an astonishing array of artists who care deeply about education and social justice. They include members of theOrchestra of St. Luke’s; associate members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, current members of the Academy of Carnegie Hall, Juilliard, and the Weill Music Institute (ACJW); the Decoda; New York Philharmonic teaching artists; and seasoned freelance veterans. These professional musicians are volunteering their time for the performance, moved by the opportunity to have their playing impact the lives of so many children. Their motivation to support these programs is a vital ingredient in the dynamic energy of the event.

Earlier Event: July 2
James named 2013-14 Zander Fellow
Later Event: July 16
Conducting in Zlin, Czech Republic