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Partnership program brings The System to elementary school musicians

September 1, 2011

WAUKESHA, WIS.— A joint project between Carroll University, Carroll Academy, White House of Music in Waukesha and the School District of Waukesha will bring a Venezuelan approach to music education at Hadfield Elementary School. The Greater Milwaukee El Sistema Orchestra will be recruited from the second and third grade classes.

El Sistema (The System) began in Venezuela in the 1970s by Jose Antonio Abreu, who targeted disadvantaged children. "Joining an orchestra produces an irreversible transformation in a child," Abreu said. It provides a daily haven of safety, joy and fun that builds self-esteem, teaches the value of working together in a community toward a common goal, assists in overall improvement of academic excellence, teaches personal integrity and discipline, and creates young musicians who are capable of performing classical and folk music at an accomplished level. El Sistema has become an international success, offering orchestra performance experience to children of all ages, races and economic classes.

The children in the program will gain tremendously from the discipline and focus of studying and performing classical music. Students will receive instruction five afternoons per week throughout the school year. They will begin with musicianship and movement skills, and learn the music notation system of pitch and rhythm. Then they will be introduced to their instruments, learning the melodies and harmonies of simple arrangements of real music, not the exercises that characterize so much educational music. Public performances for parents, community and peers are a central component of the learning process.

The cost of providing professional instruction, instruments and materials for a program of this nature normally costs $2,000 per year for each student. Students in the Greater Milwaukee El Sistema Orchestra will contribute only $25 per year; sponsorship is provided by Carroll University and the generosity of individual donors. Partial support for the inaugural year is being provided through a grant from the Edith Olsen Music Foundation.

Program students will learn from Tony Perez, a violin student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a graduate of Venezuela El Sistema, Kristian Ring, a cello student at UWM, and Lawrence Dale Harper, professor of music at Carroll University, who also serves as conductor.

An informational event will be Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 6:30 p.m. at Hadfield, 733 Linden St, Waukesha. Parents and children from Hadfield, La Casa de Esperanza and St. Mary's School were invited to learn more about the program and see a performance by the Latino Arts Mariachi Juvenil (youth string orchestra) from Bruce-Gaudalupe Community School, a charter school in Milwaukee.

The Board of Directors for the Greater Milwaukee El Sistema Orchestra includes Harper, Cathy Morris of Carroll University's Carroll Academy, Stacy McCoy of Hadfield School, Chris White of the White House of Music and citizens Ralph North and Donna Bonhag.

To learn more about the program, contact Harper at or 262.524.7188.


Contact: Jess Owens 262-951-3104

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