Extracurricular Music at John Adams in Alexandria

» Posted by on Jan 29, 2014 in Concerts, Music Reflections | 0 comments

The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) and John Adams Elementary School are launching a program of music education inspired by el Sistema, which has enriched the lives of thousands of children beginning in Venezuela and now, through private funding, in schools in dozens of cities throughout the United States.

Last month, John Adams Elementary hosted a week-long workshop for local students to get a taste of the music program. For part of the final concert, the organizers brought in an older el Sistema-inspired student group from Baltimore, the OrchKids, who have been playing together for five years.

Seeing the kids was amazing. Each group of student musicians had matching t-shirts, and they beat sticks together on overturned buckets creating different tones and complicated rhythms. As a professional musician, I found the resulting sound to be surprisingly musical and easy to take in. The grooves were very catchy, and it was fun to watch one of the songs in particular where a semi-circle of kids took turns playing 4-beat solos. After each solo, every yelled Hey! while hitting their drum sticks together over their heads.

Playing music in a group presents all sorts of special character-building opportunities. Observing in person, it was immediately clear that performing together presents a very special opportunity for young students – it’s very rewarding, but also brings adult-like responsibilities. We watched the students listen to each other, support one another, take turns, act as a single unit on stage in front of the entire school, and execute what they had practiced.


El Sistema is known for giving more purpose and community to children’s lives, and it’s wonderful to know that this happening in our own neighborhood.

I put together this video – hopefully it conveys a little bit about what I’m trying to say! Read more about El Sistema in Alexandria on the ASO website.