MN Orchestra could spearhead network of neighborhood youth orchestras

The resolution of the Minnesota Orchestra lockout may be comforting to many, but an uncomfortable reality will re-emerge if the institution goes back to the same 50-year-old vision that got it in trouble in the first place.

The tension of the lockout held within it great promise for creating a radically new, surprisingly relevant American orchestra model — one that could spark the imagination of orchestras nationwide caught for too long in the rehash of a limited understanding of their own power to transform lives with music.

But there is still a chance for Minnesota. Through an uncompromising commitment to creating deep and broad partnerships with young people and local community centers, the orchestra can use its artistic excellence and organizing expertise to develop a widespread network of life-changing neighborhood orchestras in the spirit of El Sistema and possibly help close the state’s education achievement gap. What better way to rebuild public good will?

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Elizabeth Erickson on 01/22/2014 - 10:43 am.

    Educational Outreach

    These are wonderful ideas. It does sound like the writer may not be aware that the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians already have an El Sistema program in place and have done incredible work in the North Minneapolis area. During the lockout, the musicians also performed for 12 area high schools and many other members of the orchestra went into schools individually to help. All of this educational outreach was accomplished by the musicians on their own while they were without salary or benefits. Imagine what they could accomplish if businesses, the MOA, and the city and state leaders got behind them!

    • Submitted by Camille Kolles on 01/26/2014 - 08:44 pm.

      Not a sideline but a major part of vision

      Elizabeth –

      Thanks for your note. Yes, indeed, I am aware of the Minnesota Orchestra musicians’ involvement in El Sistema and the wider outreach programs. In particular, I was pleased to attend the ACME/El Sistema Minnesota fundraiser last year during which the musicians generously performed. I’m also involved in the new El Sistema program in the Frogtown neighborhood in St. Paul.

      What I’m proposing is that these efforts are not sidelines or programs relegated to Minnesota Orchestra’s education department, but rather integrated as a major part of a new vision for the Orchestra, requiring partnering in deep and serious ways with community leaders to achieve real goals of community transformation. Yes to your parting thought!

  2. Submitted by Kelly Carter on 01/23/2014 - 12:52 pm.

    El Sistema Minnesota

    Hi, Camille

    I am the co-founder and executive director of El Sistema Minnesota. Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have been volunteer teaching this program for almost 2 years now, as well as, serving on our board of trustees. Additionally, through ESMN, the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra performed the first 2 community concerts ever performed in North Minneapolis.

    Now that the lock out has ended, I would love to invite the management of the Minnesota Orchestra to join us in our mission to alleviate violence in North Minneapolis through classical music. I also understand that you have a deep history with El Sistema.

    If you would ever like to chat, feel free to send an email!


    Kelly Carter

    • Submitted by Camille Kolles on 01/26/2014 - 11:10 pm.

      El Sistema in Minneapolis

      Hi Kelly,

      Thanks for writing. I believe we met briefly at your terrific fundraiser last year. Great to hear about your continued good work! It’d be great connect again. Please feel free to contact me:

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