El Sistema teachers Félix Briceño (conductor) and Ron Alvarez (violinist) are back after spending two weeks, respectively, in Norwich and Liverpool, and they were impressed by the work that is being done by both programmes, and happy to have the opportunity to share some of their ideas with the teachers and children.

‘It has been two weeks of sharing knowledge, experiences and culture through music,’ said Félix, who worked with Sistema in Norwich, an independent programme led by Norfolk and Norwich Community Arts, based in three schools: Catton Grove Primary, Norwich Primary Academy and Lakenham Primary Academy.

Félix led rehearsals at the schools and at Sistema in Norwich’s headquarters. ‘In these sessions I’ve observed the creativity and hard work of the teachers; how they adapt methodologies to their context, making it possible not only to teach music but also share values. I was delighted by the use of technology to include children with disabilities. This is having a deep impact on the community’.

Félix discussed Sistema with Marcus Patteson, Programme Director of Sistema in Norwich, and Steve Copley, Musical Director. He was especially excited to teach some of the children how to conduct an orchestra. ‘I was so inspired with the leadership and passion of one of the girls, that I gave her my baton to keep!’

Much to learn from Liverpool

Ron spent two weeks working with In Harmony Liverpool. He led sessions at Faith Primary School, Everton Nursery and Beacon Primary. He even found time to lead music lessons for some of the parents. ‘It was great to see how they quickly gained confidence.’

‘I was very happy to see how many different methodologies are being applied and adapted to benefit the children in West Everton,’ said Ron. ‘And I was impressed with how music lessons in school are being used to create very good music ensembles. This is something that El Sistema has only stared to do recently, with the Simon Bolivar Project, and I feel there is much that Venezuelan teachers could learn from what is being done in Liverpool.’

Ron met several times with Rod Skipp, Music Director of In Harmony Liverpool, and the rest of the team. ‘The children will achieve anything if we show that we believe in them,’ he said.