Polyphonic Member Login

Lost your username or password?

Not a member yet?
Sign Up for Free!

Register How to Create a Profile

Baltimore Symphony’s Dan Trahey and El Sistema

0 June 17, 2019

Postcards from Venezuela, June 2009

My name is Dan Trahey. I am a Teaching Artist, Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s ORCHkids, Director of Tuned In at the Peabody Preparatory of the Johns Hopkins University, tuba player with the Archipelago Project, and a community music organizer.

I hope that these postcards will expose my readers to the wonders of El Sistema and help invigorate educators, musicians, administrators, parents, students, and community members through the belief that we can create social change through music. For more information on El Sistema, please visit elsistemausa.org.

June 26th Photos

mighty_tubas

Mighty Tubas!

This was a fabulous section to work with. My friend Alvaro to my left is Principal Tuba in the Guanare Symphony.

composition

Barquisimetal

 

 

 

 

 

 

The composition Barquisimetal by José Arvelo. José is from Barquisimeto (the home of Gustavo Dudamel) and the Spanish word for brass is metales. We were approached with numerous compositions. This one was performed on the two final concerts. Composition is a very important part of El Sistema.

 

Video of a rehearsal of Danzon by Marquez, a Mexican composer.

trumpet_section

Trumpet Section

A great picture depicting the age range of the students. The older kids act as mentors both in music and life. In the better sections there is a feeling of being part of a large family.

 

young_violinist

Young violinist

 

This young man was always practicing, and our cameras couldn’t stop taking pictures.

 

jam_session

Jam Session

This was one of many times when the children would play on a riff and break out into a full-blown jam session.

 

eli_with_translator

Eli Wirth with translator.

Eli Wirth (of Peabody Preparatory and Carroll Community College), getting a little inspiration from the Bernsteinesque towel around his neck, tries to comprehend an orchestral member’s question with the help of our translator, Felicitas Sommers.

arch_night_concert

Archipelago Group concert

Archipelago played a few different sets for the children over the course of the week. Often times the kids would join us for a few selections, or just stand up and solo with the band.

media_attention

Media attention

There seemed to always be a reporter around. We did a daytime television show that reminded me of the Latin American version of Regis and Kelley.

June 25th Photos

perc126

Percussion section

 

The percussion section was amazing to watch. I would say they were more like a rhythm section than a percussion section. This really helps, especially in the Latin American orchestral works that call for numerous Latin percussion parts.

221

Percussion section

The percussion section signs a tambourine for Archipelago drummer, Chris Baker.

215

Two young El Sistema violinists

Two young El Sistema violinists hold a poster for an Archipelago Project concert.

 

Sunday, June 13: Greetings from Nucleo Portuguesa, Acarigua, Venezuela.

Dan_mouthpieces

Dan giving out mouthpieces.

After a 6 hour ride from the Caracas airport, the entire group has arrived in Acarigua. Our mission in Venezuela is to gather as much first hand information about El Sistema through observation and immersing ourselves into the culture of daily musical work.

97 students have gathered from four separate music schools to participate in a one-week workshop. The students rehearse from 8:00 AM - 1:00 PM and again from 3:00 PM - 7:00 PM. Each day is composed of sectionals, large ensemble, and chamber music (plus many water breaks due to the oppressive heat of the desert).

Dan_mouthpieces2

Dan checking a mouthpiece.

The student’s playing level varies greatly but every child seems to have a great appreciation and love of music. The children seem very content to rehearse and spend the day making music and socializing with their “teammates.”

The group mentality is absolutely stunning, never more present than when on the stage making music together. The older students of 16-18 years of age are already great teachers and leaders, and take great care in nurturing the younger musicians in their sections.

young_conductor

12-year old conductor.

We are working on very difficult literature for our final concert. Two highlights for me are Dvorak’s New World Symphony and Richard Strauss’s Wiener Philharmonic Fanfare. The children are attacking the parts with passion and self-assured vigor. There is a sense that the children sweep through the music, not concerned with individual notes or rhythms but concentrated on the entire work of art.

On Wednesday, The Archipelago Project will present a concert at the Ecological Inn, an eco-friendly luxury hotel in Acarigua. We are guests of the Eco Inn because of a generous gift from the owner Jose Antonio Oliveira. Daily siestas have been a perfect place to catch a few relaxing rays of sun, poolside.

gift1

Mouthpieces galore.

June 10th Postcard

Before embarking on our journey to Venezuela, each member of our entourage was required to solicit donations for the children of El Sistema.

gift2

The group donated over $5000 worth of musical materials.

 

 

The group raised over $5000 worth of musical equipment, instruments, and study materials for the orchestra. Each member of the brass section received a new mouthpiece.

 

gift3

An El Sistema member is happy with a cleaning kit, oil, and grease for his trombone.

 

Items included: 150 brass mouthpieces, clarinets, trumpets, trombones, flutes, 100 music books, conducting scores, oils, cleaning kits, strings, rosin, manuscript paper, pencils, and 100 Baltimore T-shirts.

 

gift4

Calvert Hall High School donated over 100 Baltimore T-Shirts to the orchestra.

 

 

The children were thrilled, as most instruments are in disrepair, mouthpieces are almost unplayable, and music has been copied so many times you can barely read it.

 

gift5

Members of the orchestra received a copy of the Archipelago Project's latest CD, "Lights Off, Archipelago On."

Calvert Hall High School in Baltimore donated over 100 Baltimore T-Shirts to the orchestra. The students were chanting Bal-ti-more, Bal-ti-more.”

These conditions however are not even talked about as the music is the sole purpose for coming together. Tochar Y Luchar. To play and to fight.

Introduction

My name is Dan Trahey. I am a Teaching Artist, Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s ORCHkids, Director of Tuned In at the Peabody Preparatory of the Johns Hopkins University, tuba player with the Archipelago Project, and a community music organizer.

I hope that these postcards will expose my readers to the wonders of El Sistema and help invigorate educators, musicians, administrators, parents, students, and community members through the belief that we can create social change through music. For more information on El Sistema, please visit elsistemausa.org.

I will be in Venezuela from June 13-21, attending workshops, master classes, orchestra concerts, and speeches throughout rural Venezuela. I will be joined by 14 members of The Archipelago Project, a non-profit music education ensemble based in Traverse City, MI and Innsbruck, Austria, and a few very special guests:

  • Eli Wirth, Peabody Preparatory, Carroll Community College
  • Nick Skinner, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
  • Nick Marini, Calvert Hall High School
  • Laura “Danger Flute” Stevens, University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Here is a brief description of the planned work in Venezuela:

barrio_in_Caracas

A barrio in Caracas

The Archipelago Project will be in residency at the invitation of El Sistema from June 12 through 21, 2009. A collaboration between Archipelago and Nucleo Acarigua will work to solidify a permanent partnership between these two organizations and create an exchange program between Venezuela, the US and Austria.

This exchange program follows fieldwork done by Archipelago member Dan Trahey on site in Venezuela in the spring of 2008, where he created many professional contacts and solidified local funding for many aspects of the Archipelago residency. Archipelago will be performing for various nucleos in the state of Portuguesa and also in Caracas. Concerts will include music from various cultures but will specifically promote Venezuelan, American, Austrian and German music.

Here is a brief description of the planned work in Venezuela:

Dan_and_trombonists

Dan Trahey and Venezuelan trombone students

Students will work with Archipelago for one week, culminating in a final concert. Aspects of improvisation, practice technique, rhythm, music business, technology, and cultural awareness will be taught during the one-week residency. El Sistema teachers will be present throughout the week to learn different teaching techniques, styles of classroom management, and motivational styles. The residency will also provide an opportunity for Archipelago to study the phenomenon that is El Sistema with the hope that members will implement certain techniques developed by El Sistema into their own educational institutions.

small_trombonist

Photo of a very young trombonist

 

 

All of this information will be presented at the Urban Music Leadership Conference in Baltimore, MD from October 22-24. http://umlc.org/

I would like to thank the following individuals for their support on this project: Carolee Stewart, Mark Churchill, Roberto Zambrano, Garrett Mendez, Marin Alsop, The Peabody Conservatory and Preparatory, The Baltimore Symphony, and the dedicated and beautiful children of ORCHkids and Tuned In.

Dan

View more posts by

Comments feed top ↑

No comments yet