Kristen Swartley and El Sistema

Our Observance of Peace Day in Oklahoma City
will Feature Music by the El Sistema Jazz Combo

Do you know about “El Sistema?”

It is an international movement for music education — “The System,” in English.

It came to Oklahoma about a year ago, the result of a commitment by Phil and Cathy Busey, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, and the Wanda L. Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University.

Kristen Swartley, a teaching
artist for El Sistema Oklahoma,
will introduce the orchestra’s
jazz combo at our Peace Day
celebration on Sept. 21.

The first concert of the El Sistema Oklahoma youth orchestra was last October. One hundred children in grades 3 through 6 delivered a rousing performance in downtown Oklahoma City. It included young people from several Oklahoma City elementary schools, including Sequoyah, Putnam Heights, Cleveland, Linwood, Gatewood and Kaiser.

As a mission project of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in partnership with the Wanda L Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University, El Sistema Oklahoma benefits from a variety of community partners for their success.  In addition to St. Luke’s and OCU, Trinity International Baptist Church provides classrooms for after-school practice sessions.

“We are honored to serve our community by providing a place where children and their families can feel an abundance of grace, hope and joy on a daily basis.  When children see that they can be good at something and be part of something great, it has the power to change the trajectory of their lives,” says Robyn Hilger, Executive Director of El Sistema Oklahoma.

We’re happy to report that a group of young musicians from El Sistema Oklahoma’s new jazz combo will perform at our Peace Day event on Sunday, September 21st:


For your viewing pleasure: Here’s a 30-second clip
of El Sistema Oklahoma’s full orchestra performing
Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” on YouTube.


Sunday, September 21st — 6:30pm
The Great Hall of the University Center
Oklahoma City University
2501 N. Blackwelder, OKC

The program is free. We hope you’ll join us.

Introducing the jazz combo will be Kristen Swartley, a teaching artist for El Sistema Oklahoma.

Ms. Swartley will talk briefly about her experience living and working in Bolivia in 2009 and 2010. It was there that she heard about El Sistema and realized its potential for youth development and social engagement.

Appearing with Ms. Swartley will be Robyn Hilger, the executive director of El Sistema Oklahoma.

Children who study music don’t just get better at playing
the trombone or violin. They also gain a better ability to
process language. That’s according to a new study published
in The Journal of Neuroscience. Learn more from NPR:
“This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain On Music”

El Sistema started in 1975, inspired by a Venezuelan economist and musician, José Antonio Abreu.

Abreu believes that an orchestra represents the ideal society, and the sooner a child is nurtured in that environment, the better for all.

We are fortunate that we have visionary leaders in our community who are willing to invest in the education of our young people in this way.

And, we are proud to showcase the El Sistema Oklahoma Jazz Combo as part of our celebration of the International Day of Peace.

“Music has to be recognized as an agent of social development, in the highest sense because it transmits the highest values – solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion. And it has the ability to unite an entire community, and to express sublime feelings”
–José Antonio Abreu

Find out more about El Sistema:

“El Sistema”
CBS News, 60 Minutes

(12 minute video report)

“Venezuela’s El Sistema”
The New York Times

(3 minute video)

“Fighting Poverty, Armed with Violins”
The New York Times

(online article)

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