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In 1975, the economist, composer, and conductor Jose Antoine Abreu started El Sistema, a free classical music program called El Sistema. He designed it for children from impoverished communities because he believed that musical education would develop potential for success in school and by instilling self-confidence and helping students to overcome the disadvantages of poverty and inequality. The orchestra served as the center of instruction, embracing children in a community that promotes values such as teamwork, responsibility, and mutual respect. The program has produced some remarkable professionals such as Gustavo Dudamel, the virtuoso conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The El Sistema model has now spread worldwide.

The site at which I’m interning, Kidznotes, is a nonprofit organization inspired by this model. It engages in 8-hour rehearsal week, 35 weeks a year and a 2-3 week summer camp for students K-12, Kidznotes aims to provide an opportunity in a safe, nurturing environment that promotes academic, social, and cultural development. The frequent performances of orchestras and small ensembles inspire pride and self-confidence among students.

During DukeEngage Academy, we learned that working in a nonprofit is often very busy due to limited resources and staff. This has certainly proved to be true in my three weeks at Kidznotes so far! My internship has been a great learning opportunity and a way of practicing handling many projects at once. I have dug into research, redirected many phone calls, facilitated video interviews, and navigated donations processing. There may be many tasks to complete, but I am never bored or lacking something to do. It’s been engaging and fun working on long-term projects and dealing with short-term ones on the spot. I really look forward to the latter half of my time here!

To learn more about Kidznotes or the El Sistema model, check out these links:

Kidznotes Website

El Sistema Official Website

El Sistema USA Website

Gustavo Dudamel Website