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June 17, 2024 13 mins
The non-profit El Sistema USA works to ensure very child has access to high-quality music education that celebrates their voice and potential, by supporting a national network of organizations and educators. Our guest is Elizabeth Moulthrop, Executive Director of El Sistema USA. For more, visit
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Episode Transcript

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Welcome to Get Connected with Nina delRio, a weekly conversation about fitness,
health and happenings in our community onone oh six point seven light FM.
Good morning, and thanks for listeningto get connected. Of course, we
are fans of education in the arts, and of course, so many studies
show that arts programs help kids growtheir social and emotional skills, improving life

skills such as patience, persistence,confidence, and so much more. El
Systema USA works to ensure every childhas access to high quality music education that
celebrates their voice and potential by supportinga national network of organizations and educators.
Our guest is the executive director ofEl Sistema USA, Liz Malthrop. Thank
you for being on the show.Thanks so much. I'm happy to be

here. You can find out moreabout the organization while we're speaking on their
website El Systemausa dot org. Liz, just before we started recording, you
were saying you are from the sametown where I'm actually recording this in Jersey.
Let's talk about your background. Whatled you to Elvis Deema. Sure,
well, I'm from New Jersey andI grew up Actually I learned music

in public school. I learned violinthere and I went to school for music
education and performance, and I startedto be drawn to this idea that music
could be used for a social purposebeyond just creating musicians or making music.
And you know, when I wasjust finishing my degree in music education,
I got the chance to go toPeru actually for an aide trip to help

after an earthquake had hit the cityof Pisco. And while I was there,
we were doing construction with our group, but I brought my violin and
I found that the violin was areally potent and relevant tool, surprisingly relevant
tool in that situation. There wasa lot of opportunity for connection and humanity
and healing through music. And that'swhen I started to realize that maybe there

was something more to how I coulduse music think of it in a different
way in my life. And that'salso when I learned about El Sistema,
which is a model from Venezezuela,where that where students are taught music in
a way that develops community and developslife skills, and it's much more than
just teaching music. And so that'swhere I really got inspired to get involved.

Let's talk about El systema first,and then we'll go back and I
want to talk about how your modelis different from just the traditional music lesson.
So what does EL Sistema do everyday? El system A USA,
So we're a national network of organizations. We support one hundred and forty member
organizations across the country. These organizationsare twenty five thousand students and six thousand
teachers. They're mainly nonprofits that arerunning after school and weekend programs and they

have to be able to fundraise fortheir programs. They're providing a lot of
services, and they're providing free orhighly subsidized music education to kids of very
rigorous programs, and so we connectthose programs. It's a hard job to
run these programs. It's a lotof work, and so what we do
is we connect them. We provideresources through things like professional development, We

do data and research, we haveyouth leadership programs, and we also do
advocacy. So going back to theorigins of this program, as you mentioned,
you found out about it when youwere in South America. It came
out of Venezuela fifty years ago.Interestingly, the program was funded not through
the Ministry of Arts and Culture,but through the Ministry of Social Services,

So that component was kind of builtin. What does that say about the
program or how does that underpin whatyou do? That's exactly right. The
programs have an emphasis not just oncreating music for music's sake, but for
developing life skills for students and forcreating pasts for students. Outside of that,

I think it's really about community andconnection, and then from there it's
about where can students go with this? I mean, what you're learning outside
of music, you know, beingable to perform. What you're learning are
things like teamwork, a lot ofattention to detail. It's learning to delay

instant gratification because it takes a lotof work to be able to put together
a symphony or a piece of musicby yourself or with a group. So
I think that's really the emphasis hereis that we're not just thinking about creating
musicians. So what would an elsystema program or class look like. So
most of our programs have multiple classesa week, and you're looking at programs

that have group classes some days ofthe week as well as private lessons as
well as ensemble Some of these kidsare meeting five, six, even ten
hours a week in these programs.Our guest is Liz Mothroup. She's executive
director of EL Systema USA. Theywork to ensure every child has access to

high quality music education, celebrating theirvoice and potential. You can find out
more at ELSYSTEMAUSA dot org. You'relistening to get connected on one oh six
point seven light FM. I'm nadel rio. Where is el Sistema Liz
active in the Tri State area?And who do you work with? We
have a lot of member programs inthe Tri State area. I'm not going

to try and list them all becausethere are some of them out sure,
but there are several and there aremore than several. There are probably a
doz in New York City and severalin New Jersey as well as in Connecticut.
And how do you support programs acrossthe country? You have many,
many across the country. So wedo a couple of things. I mean,

some of the most recent work thatwe've been doing is research. We
take a look at what's the impactof music on kids, and in particular
our model, which is thinking abouta deep investment in students as well as
the holistic development piece. So whatabout those special things are making an impact
on kids? And we ourselves aregathering our own data, but we're also

looking at what's in the field rightnow because more than ever, we need
to advocate for music education to befunded, both on the local and state
and federal level. It also makesme think your answer about you know,
math and science and teaching reading,those things have evolved in the last fifty
years the way people teach them.I assume music education the way people teach
it, and the teachers and thestudents and the vehicle by which you might

teach, and that's also changed absolutely. And I think what's really exciting about
our model is that we're thinking alot about equity and what we do.
And equity can come out in acouple of ways, whether we're talking about
free access and providing instruments, butit also comes about when we're thinking about
student identity and student voice and makingsure that students are reflected in the curriculum

and what they're learning and in theirprograms, and a big part of that
is actually student voice. We're focusingon providing more of a platform for kids
to come and have a sea atthe table and what their education looks like
and what the music that they're playingsounds like and looks like. And that's
also why we're doing a nationally neunthLeadership cohort as our second year of doing
that, and we bring together someof the most amazing high school students from

across the country to think about howthey want to add or change or evolve
their experience in these programs and whetheryou would want to learn not only a
type of music, but whether youwant to learn music production or something like
that as well. Absolutely, there'sa new curriculum to a musician's guide for
reaching for the Stars? What isthat about? We are thrilled to be

able to share with the world.That's a new curriculum that we've created with
Polarist don It is a commercial humanspace flight mission launching to space this summer,
and they raise awareness for social causeson Earth while they're also advancing space
flight capabilities. Is this a NASAprogram or an independent program? It's an
independent program. What is the connectionbetween that and the students so on their

crew. One of the crew membersSarah Gillis. She was raised as a
violinist. Her mother taught her violinfrom a very earth the age and was
the Zuoki teacher and so music isreally near and dear to her. Although
she became an engineer, it wasyou'll see this curriculum. She talks about
how it was formative for her inher life path. And so this was

created in a way to highlight thepower of music to bring students to many
different places regardless of what they chooseto do. Music is a very powerful
tool for students, and it's sortof a sense of wonder built into this
as well. Absolutely, I mean, who was not excited about space and
excited about the possibilities there? AndI think this just highlights how we're not

limited and we can't limit our students. And so this curriculum looks at not
just music, but social emotional skills, which is very important to our mission
Oil system a USA, as wellas science themes and how would educators taylor
their approach to sort of work withinthis program this initiative, Well, the

curriculum is pretty flexible, soas cantake a look at it. There are
five zones. You can choose touse one zone. You can do it
out of order, or you cango ahead do it in order and do
all of them, and the activitiesthere can be tailored to different age levels,
so it's really adaptable to your situation, and we have a lot of
fun videos and resources in there foryou to look at, both music related

and science related. How does someonebecome an EL system, a member,
an educational facility, or a teacherso they have access to these programs and
everything else. Anybody can become amember and go online and sign out to
become a member. We have aspecific model that we promote which is around
frequency of instruction and access and equity. However, we're really excited to engage

with anybody that is interested in equityand music education. So you mentioned before,
EL Sistema supports about six thousand teachingartists, about twenty five thousand students
thirty five states and territories. Howare you funded? We fundraise for ourselves
and so like any other non pwe have individual donors, grants as well

as earned revenue through some of ourevents that we do, so anybody listening
can donate and all those kinds ofthings as well. Yes, for sure,
this Space for Music digital campaign,that's a way to engage students in
the broader community. Can you talkabout that? Sure? So every zone
in our curriculum has a challenge questionand challenge activity. Those challenge activities might

be something related to social emotional learning, like who inspired you and write a
thank you note to one of yourmentors, or it might be something more
music based like share your composition yourspace, your space theme composition with us.
And so educators and students can actuallyshare their activities through the social media
hashtag space for music, and wewill be sharing those on our social platforms

and on our website and a fewlucky students might even have a shout out
from Sarah Gillis directly in space.What is the care curriculum or what ages
is the curriculum targeting? What grades? It is for grades three and up?
However, there are some materials thatyou could make adaptable to younger students.

And when is all this happening?It is out now. You can
access the curriculum at polarisdown dot alsystem a USA dot org or from either
of our respective websites, and itis free of charge, so anyone can
see it. So looking ahead,well, what do you hope to achieve
with this initiative and sort of haveyou already started thinking about the next innovation?

Well, this is all super excitingfor us and where we're just so
glad to be able to share thisresource because we think it demonstrates that we're
not living in silos, we're allvery connected, and that you know,
quality music training can have a lastingimpact on students' lives. And you see
that in the curriculum that did forSarah as she became an engineer and SpaceX

engineer and then and soon to beastronaut. That's how it played out for
me. This vast impact on mylife and my methog is that you know,
as a field, we need tocreate opportunities for students to be able
to access this and to really meetstudents where they are so that they can
take advantage of their potential. AndI think the other thing with this curriculum

is that you know, students canbe equipped with tools like creativity, critical
thinking, social emotional skills, andsense of community and connectedness, and that
can take them to be a musician, it can take them to be a
producer, but it can also takethem to be something wildly different like an
astronaut or an engineer. So whilewe're having this conversation, I can see

you're violin behind you. Do youstill get an opportunity to teach, And
how do you think about your ownif you do about so much information right
to bring it into your students.I still get to play and I still
get to teach, and I thinkthat's very grounding and important for me as
someone who's an administrator and spend alot of time behind the computer. I

still perform a lot, you know, especially through my church, as still
students, and I think that everyoneneeds to be connected to their humanity and
their art and their creativity, andthat is what makes the world about our
place, and so I continue tolet that drive me in my work.
You can find out more at elsystemausadot org. Elizabeth Maulthrop has been our

guest. Thank you for being onGet Connected. Thanks so much. I'm
happy to be here. This hasbeen Get Connected with Nina del Rio on
one oh six point seven light Fm. The views and opinions of our guests
do not necessarily reflect the views ofthe station. If you missed any part
of our show or want to shareit, visit our website for downloads and
podcasts at one oh six to sevenlightfm dot com. Thanks for listening.
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