The People's Music School, Youth Orchestras provide free orchestral music education to students in the Chicagoland metropolitan area. Students in the Youth Orchestras are immersed in an intense rehearsal schedule four to five days a week, 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 Youth Orchestras 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. Now entering its seventh year, this 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 Youth Orchestras 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.
Students in the Youth Orchestras program 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 to expand this innovative program to many more Chicago public schools with at-risk populations.