Sunday, August 5, 2012

El Sistema Comes to Rochester, Again

Charles Valenza reports on "the RocMusic program, which will provide tuition-free music instruction and access to instruments for city youths," "inspired by the acclaimed 'El Sistema' program in Venezuela" — There's more to music than fun and entertainment. "The announcement has many ironies, however," the author reports:
    Rochester once had a similar program that was recognized as the finest in the country, and was a key component in establishing the city as a cultural center. Ultimately, it was abandoned.

    The program was a collaboration of George Eastman, the Eastman School of Music, and the City School District. In 1919, Eastman donated $15,000 to the CSD (the equivalent of $200,000 today) to purchase 250 musical instruments. All city students were given a musical aptitude test, and those showing interest and aptitude were loaned instruments.

    Low cost instrumental lessons (50 cents per lesson in my day) were available to all students at one of the city high schools every Saturday during the school year.

    The program gradually was disbanded when city school leaders increasingly regarded music and arts programs as “frills” not worthy of substantial funding.

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