Sistema Tulsa Notes

Remember, music learning is a process! 

A Note from our Director, Mr. Hernandez. 

My biggest hope is that our Sistema Tulsa and all students can discover an intrinsic motivation for music. This is the kind of playing that happens not because they are told to do so, but because they want to and can't wait to get to their instrument to polish a song or exercise. How can this happen and can parents help? This is tricky because you don't really want to push your student, but you can gently guide them to the idea that this work can do several things for them: 

1. Create order and independence: playing their instrument allows students to organize their space, time; and control over what and how they practice. 

2. Build shared ownership: remind students that the quality of their playing will positively impact a full ensemble performance when they play in a concert, the better and more confident they sound, the better the ensemble! 

3. Create beauty and new material: beginner sounds are not as pretty as we would like them to be, but every time students play a note, it gets more polished and shinier. Most importantly, everyone has the opportunity to embed their personality into the music and that is an amazing thing to do! Ask them to come up with new melodies with just a few notes. (Hint: most of the great melodies are built with these 5 notes, do-re-mi-fa-sol). 

Remember, music learning is a process. 

Photo: 2019 (Elementary Strings)

Growth Mindset Key to Success 


Our Director of Education, Kelsey Rooney-Dorst, shares how a growth mindset is a key to student success. 

Over the last 6 years, I have had the privilege of teaching and working with over 350 students at Sistema Tulsa. One of those students is Iyana, a flute player. She’s been with the program since its inception in 2015. I distinctly remember many of our flute students in the first year getting frustrated with the instrument. It is a difficult instrument to learn, especially for 4th graders. 

I recall them saying that they would “never be able to play this passage” or that they “should just give up” if they made mistakes. This is what educators and researchers call a “fixed-mindset.” The belief that failure limits our abilities or that one’s potential is predetermined. Part of a teachers’ job is to help students believe in themselves, trust that their potential is limitless, and understand that they can do anything if they work hard, practice, and make a commitment to improve. 

Iyana is still taking lessons at Sistema. She now plays First Flute in our advanced symphony, CYO. During a lesson the other day, we were practicing one of our pieces for our Spring Performance Series. In this particular lesson, Iyana was learning 4 new notes in the highest range of the flute. While we were practicing, I asked her to play a scale that was written in the music that included the 4 new notes. She played it and made a few mistakes. 

I looked at her and said, “Try again, you can do this.” 

She looked back at me and said, “I can do this.” 

Is it okay if I practice it for a minute on my own?” she asked. 

She practiced and played it perfectly, and we moved on with the lesson. 

Something like this seems so small: A student makes a mistake and the teacher says, “try again.” What stood out to me was how confident Iyana was that she would be able to learn this passage. She believed in herself so much, that she took something she had just made mistakes on and said, “I can do this.” This is what educators and researchers would call a “growth-mindset.” The belief that failure is an opportunity to grow and that you can learn anything that you want. 

Six years ago, I guarantee that none of my students were saying “I can do this” immediately following a mistake, but during that lesson, Iyana did. It shows how much she has grown as a lifelong learner and musician. 

My hope is that all students at Sistema understand that mistakes are a part of the process of learning and feel this growth-mindset as they advance. 


Dweck, C. S. (2007). The perils and promises of praise. Educational Leadership, 65(2), 34–39.

Consistent practice is the key to musical proficiency 


A February note from our Director, Mr. Hernandez 

Our students are continuing to learn music virtually and some in-person through small chamber music groups. Every day, I get to talk to students and hear about their progress. They enjoy learning their method book exercises and figuring out tunes that they like; we heard someone playing Star Wars! We have a student who is learning two instruments (violin and saxophone) and joins us for 4 lessons a week and doesn't miss a beat. Many others have perfect attendance! 

While the pandemic has been a difficult and stressful time, I am amazed at our young peoples' resilience. They are going to learn so much from this time: diligence, patience, responsibility, and much more. 

I would like to encourage everyone to practice daily. 15 minutes a day for beginners and 30 minutes for intermediate to advanced students. Consistent practice is the key to musical proficiency. The musical arts are fun, yes, but they are also a discipline. This means that on some days your student may not want to open their instrument case, but they must be reminded and encouraged that personal discipline will take them very far in music and in life. I practice piano every day (even on days that it feels cumbersome). It keeps my musical mind moving. 

Please reach out to our staff and teachers for ways to create structures for daily practice time. Everyone is willing to help!

Jeri Strange Farewell  

We would like to announce that our Operations Coordinator, Jeri Strange, has accepted a new and wonderful job with the YMCA in Texas. She will be serving at Sistema Tulsa until May 23. Jeri has been an incredible asset to our program since its inception. We will miss her dearly. She has always been optimistic, compassionate and a great champion of our students. We are all grateful for having had the opportunity to work with her. “I have been blessed beyond measure to be a part of Sistema Tulsa for the first 4 program years,” Jeri said, “Please allow me to be your biggest fan from afar!” Please join me in thanking Jeri for her service during her last few weeks with us.  

We expect to post a job description on our website, Facebook page and other human resources channels. If you know anyone who would be a good candidate for the position please feel free to forward the job description. We would like to interview as many qualified people as we can and hire someone in time to experience the regular academic year. I feel it is important that our new operations coordinator work alongside with us and Jeri to ensure a smooth transition. We are  very optimistic about the future.  

Again, let us thank Jeri for her wonderful work – we are very proud of her! 

Sistema Tulsa Recognized at the Capitol  

Sistema Tulsa students and teachers traveled to Oklahoma City to participate as a featured ensemble of “Oklahoma Arts Day.” The event was sponsored by the non-profit Oklahomans for the Arts and brought a group of 40 young musicians to perform classical masterworks including the official state song“Oklahoma!” by Rogers and Hammerstein. The Capitol’s south portico was filled with music and the atmosphere was festive. Students served as ambassadors for the advancement of arts education across our state. “This was our first tour performance, Mr. Hernandez said, “Our students shined not just as musicians but as citizens.” The visit was championed by the Tulsa area Representative Karen Gaddis who also formally introduced the program before the House of Representatives. A citation of commendation and congratulations was presented on the House Floor to students and leaders for their artistic and educational contributions to the city of Tulsa and the State of Oklahoma. The event was a milestone for the social change through music program of the Boston Avenue church. 

A Sistema Tulsa plan for after April 2 


Welcome back!  We hope everyone had a very good Spring Break. We remind you that on Monday, April 2nd Sistema Tulsa will be closed due to the church being closed that day. 

Please take a moment to review this announcement: 

  • Sistema Tulsa supports the efforts of teachers and school leaders statewide to pursue fair pay and working conditions. We hope that their appeals will be respectfully acknowledged and that together with the State Legislature they may find shared understanding and a plan for success.  Teachers are instrumental to build a better future for our students and we stand with them. When and if schools close during the statewide teacher walkout we will follow this plan: 
  • All Sistema Tulsa activities will continue to operate as scheduled – it is our goal to operate as normal as possible to provide musical instruction, mentoring, and healthy snacks to all. 
  • Transportation will not be available from our current bussed schools – we work with the district to arrange transportation and this would not be available. 
  • All Elementary age students are welcome to arrive as early as 3:00 p.m. – we will include them in our normal electives schedule. 
  • We will practice flexibility throughout the walkout period and we might create additional rehearsal opportunities as time and resources allow. Each ensemble might be notified. 
  • Our final all-Sistema performance for the year will still take place on May 11 as other scheduled concerts in our calendar. 

As we work through this together, please refer any questions and feedback to Sistema Tulsa Director, Jose Luis Hernandez.

The Sistema Tulsa Team

Sistema Tulsa to lead worship service October 15  

The Sistema Tulsa Community Youth Orchestra and teachers will perform at Boston Avenue on Sunday, October 15, during the 11 a.m. service. The group will lead in the televised (Channel 8) worship service under the direction of Dr. Joel Panciera and Jose Luis Hernandez. 

The musical directors have chosen a menu of beloved hymns with orchestral accompaniment plus the breathtaking Stephen Schwartz song "When you Believe" sung with orchestra by the dynamic BA Chapel Choir. This piece comes to us from the soundtrack of the Prince of Egypt. "There can be miracles, when you believe," is the driving message of the song. An additional anthem will feature Richard Meyer's arrangement of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." 

"This is a wonderful learning opportunity to collaborate with a choir of voices," says Mr. Hernandez, "and to showcase the promise of our musical youth." 

The high school level Sistema Tulsa CYO began almost two years ago and they have made great strides as musical performers with students having performed at Quartz Mountain Festival, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and at Oklahoma State University. 

The Chapel Choir is the flagship youth choir at Boston Avenue and they have excelled as musicians in worship and as servant leaders when touring nationally to major US cities each year. 

"Ever since we started the Sistema program, I've been looking forward to the time when we could work together to collaborate with our church ensembles and form special musical and spiritual bonds," says Dr. Joel Panciera, "this dream is starting to come into focus."

Sistema Tulsa welcomes the Vienna Boys' Choir  



We are delighted to host our third annual Sistema Tulsa benefit concert featuring the Vienna Boys' Choir. The concert is presented by Sistema Tulsa and the Boston Avenue United Methodist Church with the support of the Brannin Family Foundation. The date is Friday, November 10 at 7:00 p.m. in the Boston Avenue church sanctuary. 

Tickets are available online at or by calling 918-596-7111. Enter or mention the code "VIENNA15" for a special discount to our Facebook and Website followers. 

The Vienna Boys Choir, renowned as one of the finest vocal ensembles in the world for over 5 centuries, is a frequent visitor to North America, performing throughout the country in everything from houses of worship to great concert venues like New York’s Carnegie Hall and Chicago’s Symphony Hall. 

For their Tulsa performance, the choir presents "Bella Italia," a program of popular and classical compositions from Italy, to include classical pieces by Vivaldi, Rossini, Verdi, Mascagni and other Italian composers, along with such popular favorites as "Santa Lucia", "O sole mio", "Volare", and more.

Sistema Tulsa to Sound their Best  

By Jose Luis Hernandez, Sistema Tulsa Director 

We are preparing to present our second annual “Spring Concert” for Sistema Tulsa on May 12 at 6:00 p.m. in the Jubilee Hall of the Boston Avenue United Methodist Church.  I believe this will be our best concert yet. Our students continue to strive and work hard to reach excellence in their performance. I hope that everyone will join us to experience what our students have achieved. 

Some of the highlights for this performance include a world-premiere of the American folk-song, “John Henry,” in an arrangement done by Rob Reck. This popular tune tells the story of a "steel-driving man" who believes so strongly in the work that he does with his own hands that he ultimately loses his life in victory against a steam-powered hammer. All Sistema Tulsa students will conclude the concert with a rendition of the fiery Can-Can! Not to be missed is the debut of Levi Davenport, an exceptional 10-year-old Sistema musician who has been learning piano since the beginning of the year. He will play an original sonata by Mozart. The Elementary chorus will be back with a rendition of Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” and our older instrumentalists will perform Tchaikovsky’s elaboration on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” complete with the drama that the story portrays. 

This has been a very exciting and productive year for Sistema Tulsa. Over the last two years, we have served over 100 students. We believe that any student who aspires to learn music should be able to do so, regardless of their background or ability to pay for an instrument or a music lesson. Music is part of our humanity and our freedom. We are thankful for the many supporters from our church who make all this possible by offering their time, their gifts, and their prayers. See you at the concert!

About the blog

This Blog will include notes from our Director, teachers, and volunteers to showcase the progress of our program and highlight special news and events.