It was during a normal meeting of music teachers in D.C. when Ben Hall (Director of Music for D.C. Public Schools) mentioned an amazing music program in Venezuela that was taking the world by storm. He told us how this system of Venezuelan youth orchestras and choirs was achieving social change through musical excellence – and I was immediately sold on the idea! Fast forward to Fall 2010, which found me still teaching music in public schools, but this time just outside of Atlanta, GA. Imagine my delight when I received an email announcing the need for a choir Director (interest peaked)…for a new music program in Southwest Atlanta…(eyebrows raised)…that uses music as a tool for social justice…(now on the edge of my seat)…and is modeled after Venezuela’s “El Sistema“! Ding! Ding! Ding! We’ve got a winner! I could hardly control my fingers as they flew over the keys typing a reply! I would have never guessed that sending that email would bring me to where I am now.
As you can imagine, serving as Choral Teaching Artist for the Atlanta Music Project was an experience comparable to none. I was drawn in by all aspects of the program. I found the leadership of Executive Director, Dantes Rameau, to be refreshing and inspiring. He set clear, high expectations but gave me creative control in which to meet them. I belonged to a group of Teaching Artists that worked as a team from Day One. Our students were zealous learners and our parents supported the program fully. My experience there reignited my dream of communities being transformed through music. Check out videos of our very first concert as a performing ensemble.
It is because of Dantes Rameau and AMP that I am an Abreu Fellow today. How appropriate that my fourth and final week of our Fall Internship be spent here in Atlanta where it all began! I’ve already had a great time shadowing Dantes. It was a proud moment for me when AMP was represented at Monday’s Board Meeting of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Dantes spoke and AMP 4th grader, Chantania spoke and performed. She was such a little lady! I worked with Chantania in Choir last year and let me tell you, her talents are not restricted to violin!
She is just one of many extraordinarily gifted students that visit the Gilbert House and Coan Recreational Center every day. From our “seasoned” students, to beginners on xylophone, I am proud of the work I see here in Atlanta. Thank you for reading! Follow me as I follow the music :)