Prepare the Pomp and Circumstance

by Monika Vischer, El Sistema Colorado President
February 23, 2012

Kindergartners are ready for the Paper Violin Orchestra Graduation this Saturday. It is their right of passage to receiving real violins. With a few bridges, tail pieces and strings to attach to all 73 actual-size paper mache violins, we’re nearly ready.

Garden Place Student with Paper Violin

The very first group of El Sistema Colorado kindergartners will debut, singing and demonstrating the command of their cardboard Strads. They’re mastering the bow-hold, performance readiness and the coolest part – holding the violin under the chin with no hands. Each has learned to respect and care for the instrument like a precious child. They’ve learned the motion of drawing the bow across the strings. Upon receiving their wooden violins, they will put sound to motion. They will begin the discovery of contributing to the whole as the orchestra plays. From these diminutive instruments, they will begin learning a universal language with which they’ll one day summon their deepest emotions where words will not do. What a grand sequel to the third graders premiere just last month, when they sang so proudly to the 250 family members in attendance.

Special new friendships are organically gelling among the students. Parents who didn’t know each other before are meeting, bringing food and volunteering their time. Last week, third grade teacher, Hillary Hoffman shared with me (to her surprise) that her students never tire of El Sistema going until 6pm every night. Indeed, the students are coming every day. Their appetite is only growing. The string instruments continue to arrive as we count up to our first round of 110. In the fall, the first and fourth graders join the orchestra after school. Winds, brass and percussion will join in. By fall of 2013, all school grades, pre-schoolers through fifth graders will be involved. Meanwhile, carpenter Dale Day and his buzz saws busily whittle the sheets of wood that will store the instruments.

How humbled and privileged I am to be here, now, at this exciting time to help foster El Sistema’s arrival in Denver at Garden Place Elementary with the help of amazing community partners. It is a new birth toward trust, greater human and cultural understanding and toward a better way – starting with the children. As Dr. Abreu says, “Trust the young.” Let the journey begin as they lead the way.