The European Union’s Culture Programme is providing €200,000 in matched funding to allow children from Sistema-inspired programmes on both sides of the Atlantic to get together to perform in England, Italy and Canada. “SMEEC – Sistema-inspired Music Education and Exchange with Canada” will see 2,000 young musicians and music tutors rehearse, perform and work together, announced Sistema England.

The project will provide a strongly visible cooperation and exchange programme during 2014 and 2015 between Europe and Canada in the field of Sistema-inspired music education: Young musicians aged from 9 to 16 years will jointly rehearse and give public concerts with the children choirs and orchestras of similar programmes in other countries.

Julian Lloyd Webber, founder of In Harmony and chair of Sistema England, said: “Music knows no boundaries of language or culture. SMEEC will give these children the opportunity to discover, through the common language of music and the shared social, educational and musical values of Sistema-inspired programmes, the similarities and differences in our respective cultures.”

Research and systematic exchange of music education

SMEEC is coordinated by Sistema England working with Sistema Italia in Italy, The Leading Note Foundation and Sistema Toronto in Canada, and European Mozart Ways and Go-operate in Austria. The project involves:

  • 2,000 young musicians and music tutors that will rehearse and perform together
  • Guests and professional musicians who will play alongside and perform to the young musicians
  • Up to 50 joint concerts, including two large scale international ensemble concerts each with up to 500 young performers
  • Research and on-going exchange of music education experience with music education practitioners
  • The commission of a new composition for children music ensembles
  • Dissemination to experts and to the wide public in Europe, Canada, North America and throughout the world

Sharing knowledge and best practice

Richard Hallam of Sistema England said: “The high profile and scale of these performances will inspire the young musicians and their peers, and will help to raise the expectations of the children involved, and their families, teachers and communities.”

Maria Majno of European Mozart Ways said: “The Sistema-inspired Music Education and Exchange with Canada will give children the opportunity to learn from and to rehearse and perform with children from other countries. The Mozart Ways are enthusiastic about this endeavour, which will reflect the example of Mozart and make it more accessible, inspiring young talents with his universal charisma of the ultimate child-prodigy known to grown-ups and youngsters alike.”

Tina Fedeski of The Leading Note Foundation said: “We are providing opportunities for programmes from different countries to come together, sharing knowledge and best practice and learning from mistakes, thus ensuring maximum benefit and value for money to be realised.”

David Visentin, executive and artistic director of Sistema Toronto said: “SMEEC will also provide opportunities for media exposure and additional funding through consolidating and building on the success of the individual projects, thus securing a sustainable legacy.”

Pilar Bravo of Sistema Italia said: “The project will enable professional musicians and tutors to work with each other and to play alongside and to young people.”

Klaus Behrbohm of Go-operate said: “Through the involvement of parents and extended families, we are enabling future generations to learn more about each other’s cultures.”

Sistema England is a charity, chaired by In Harmony founder Julian Lloyd Webber, that seeks to transform the lives of children, young people and their communities through the power of music making, as part of the international El Sistema movement. It aspires to give every child in England the opportunity to be part of an orchestra or choir, and strive for musical excellence, developing their full potential, both as an individual and as a force for social good within their families and communities.

Sistema Italia, the System of Children and Youth Orchestras and Choirs of Italy was founded in 2010, based on the model of the Venezuelan El Sistema. While Italy benefits from a rich and established musical tradition, the Italian school system does not sufficiently integrate music into overall education, aside from some minimal training for the age range 11-13 (junior high school). “Sistema Italia” aims to provide free and additional access to music both within and alongside the school hours, with particular attention to disadvantaged families, inclusion of immigrants, and integration of children with special needs. Given the variety and abundance of already existing initiatives, the diverse forms of “Nucleos” may operate in schools, music schools or social centres. All, while adapting to specific environments and circumstances, are required to provide free tuition under a common program with shared guidelines.

The Leading Note Foundation’s OrKidstra program, a Sistema-inspired program founded in Ottawa in 2007, is a true reflection of Canadian multicultural and diverse populations. With children ages 5 to 18 from 38 cultural backgrounds, OrKidstra is far more than a music program—it is first and foremost a social development program, giving the children a sense of belonging and a sense of achievement, and life skills to help them achieve their true potential. OrKidstra’s motto is empowering kids … building community.

Sistema Toronto Playing to Potential, founded in 2011, works in collaboration with the Toronto District School Board and is offered at no charge to children in the priority communities of Parkdale and Jane/Finch in Toronto. As an innovative social program, it realizes its vision, mission, and goals through the pursuit of musical excellence. Sistema Toronto’s Playing To Potential program offers intensive after-school instruction teaches children to work toward a disciplined common goal in a non-competitive environment that fosters co-operation, best efforts, and mutual respect. The students work in group settings and social learning environments with professional artists and teachers for two hours at the end of every school day.

The European Mozart Ways are an international network connecting cities, regions and institutions in 10 European countries visited by the child-prodigy Mozart during his travels in the 2nd half of the 18th century. The purpose of the association is to promote the discovery of touristic itineraries as well as fostering cooperation in the artistic, cultural, educational and academic areas, with particular regard to the life and work of W. A. Mozart.

Go-operate is a small membership society from Austria facilitating international projects supported by the European Culture programme.

The SMEEC project was match-funded by the European Union’s Culture Programme.