The People's Music School Community Programs provide free music education to students immersed in an intense rehearsal schedule two to five days a week at community sites, resulting in rapid skill acquisition and comprehension. The programs are inspired by the El Sistema philosophy from Venezuela, where a national system of 285 youth orchestra programs, supported by the government, is serving over 400,000 youth. The El Sistema methodology emphasizes ensemble instruction as a means to build a sense of community, collaboration, and communication.
While the students' focus is on musical learning, the goals of the program are social and intellectual – as the students learn to play an instrument with their peers in an orchestra, they also learn valuable life skills such as discipline, focus, and persistence. The act of learning and performing music as part of an ensemble functions as a metaphor for society, and every day the students are developing skills that will help them succeed in school and life. In addition to rehearsing as a group, the teaching techniques encourage peer-to-peer instruction in which more advanced students transfer their knowledge to younger students, allowing them to gain a sense of leadership and responsibility.
The first Community Program was established in 2008 with 32 students at Hibbard Elementary School in Albany Park. Today, thanks to our incredible partnership with Hibbard, the Albany Park program serves over 140 students annually. Our Hibbard partnership remains our largest off-site program, with three full Youth Orchestras rehearsing an average of 8 - 10 hours per week. In the summer of 2014, a second Community Program was launched in Evanston in partnership with Family Focus. The Evanston program currently serves 20 students and includes a string orchestra and a bucket band. In the winter of 2015-2016, Community Programs were launched with students at the Gary Comer Youth Center in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, and at Lara Elementary in the Back of the Yards Neighborhood.
Students in The People's Music School Community Programs have played in venues all over the city, including the Chicago Symphony Center, the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, and the Chicago Theater, and have participated in events across globe, including music festivals in Los Angeles, Boston, and Italy. Our vision is for these programs to reach many more students across Chicago who want, need, and deserve more access to high-quality music education and the benefits it brings.