Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Music (BM)


School of Music


Pedro Aponte

Andrew Connell

Carl Donakowski


Through my Senior Honors Project, I study the connection between music and social change through the publicly funded and internationally recognized music education program of Venezuela, El Sistema: The National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela. This program has been immensely successful in Venezuela in terms of improving the future prospects of Venezuela’s children. The program has generated much attention from the international music community in recent years, as stellar performances by some of El Sistema’s ensembles including the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra captivate audiences worldwide. By teaching at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Waynesboro, Staunton, and Augusta County, I examined the process of implementing a social music education program like El Sistema in the United States in a semi-rual area and tested some of the teaching philosophies of the program. In the United States, El Sistema-like programs have been successful almost exclusively in urban environments. In Venezuela, El Sistema reaches the country’s most remote and rural corners. The following are my original guiding questions: What are the cultural associations that Venezuela has with classical music? How are cultural associations with classical music in Venezuela different from ours in the United States? What is the role of government in El Sistema? How is the program organized at the national level? Where does its funding come from? As soon as the music teaching and learning began, I abandoned some of these ideas in order to focus on the practical components of running the string program. Therefore, I did not focus my efforts on making general conclusions conclusions about the role of classical music in American society. Rather, I found that piquing the musical interests of children in Waynesboro in Staunton by offering them free instruments and lessons was invaluable to the children, their parents, and their community. Beginning in October 2012, I taught three to six weekly group violin or cello lessons at the Boys and Girls Club locations in Staunton and Waynesboro as part of a program sponsored by the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra and the Virtu Foundation. My Journal of Progress highlights key experiences over the past year, including performances by the students, challenges experienced by the students and myself, and connections between the Boys and Girls Club program and El Sistema. My main purpose in designing project was to celebrate and highlight the powerful positive effects that music education programs have on society by empowering children with a strong internal locus of control over their own futures. Inspired by my own personal experience studying and participating in El Sistema in Venezuela in May of 2010, I would like to share my experience with the JMU community through the performance and research paper components of my project.



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