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Sistema Tulsa to Perform at Ravinia  

Music students from Sistema Tulsa and Tulsa Public Schools Booker T. Washington, Memorial High School, and Mingo Valley Christian School will perform with renowned conductor Marin Alsop at Seminario Ravinia Festival, a national gathering of students from El Sistema-inspired organizations in Chicago. The four-day workshop of orchestral training, mentorship, and fellowship culminates in a concert on Saturday, July 8th featuring the students in a side-by-side orchestra with the renowned Chicago Philharmonic.
The Tulsa students and their teachers are also supported by the Tulsa Rotary Crescendo Awards.
Marin Alsop who is the Chief Conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Orchestra and the first woman to serve as the head of a major orchestra in the United States, South America, Austria and Britain, said of the event:
"The opportunity to work with students so dedicated to boosting their life skills through the universal language of music is as important to me as leading any orchestra. I'm thrilled to have time over these four days to also meet with the educators who are such crucial mentors for these young people, supporting their personal growth and affirming that they are welcome and, in fact, already a cherished part of this national community of musicians."
Jose Luis Hernandez, the director of Sistema Tulsa said, “Sistema programs serve students with free instruments, music lessons, and life-affirming opportunities. After many years of dedication and practice, they have earned the honor to represent our program and the Tulsa arts community at the national level."
Sistema Students attending are:
Amaya Harbin – Booker T. Washington High School
Lamya Smith – Booker T. Washington High School
Victor Fischer – Mingo Valley Christian School
Solomon Williams – Memorial High School
Sistema Teachers attending are:
Amy Van-Vleet – Wayman Tisdale Fine Arts Academy
Eric Noble – Preston Music Schools

Solomon's Story  


This year has been such a blessing for our students and families. I was so proud when we performed the Joy Concert a few days ago and our youngest students recited the Sistema guidelines. They are learning that their journey of learning music involves taking the initiative to learn, being a performer, celebrating and being understanding of each other. When new students join, we welcome them in this culture and we can help them to grow as productive (and caring for each other) citizens. 

For me, it is very easy to make the case for how music education should be a part of every young person's life, because I've seen what happens to students when they work at something they love - diligently and carefully. 

I've known Solomon for 8 years now. When he was at Burroughs Elementary he rode the bus to Sistema each day to start with trumpet lessons and he met Wynton Marsalis when he was our special guest here. Fast forward to now, he is a Senior and teaches in the program, and gets paid to do so. On his first day, he came prepared and brought his own rhythm materials to teach the students. He was patient and kind in how he related to the younger students. Solomon is practicing to audition for state and national festivals. He is considering joining the military and playing music to represent our nation. Throughout all this time, he has had successes and also setbacks, but Sistema has always been a constant and a place where he can always call home. 

Five hundred students have already been part of this program and they have all learned the value of perseverance through music and most importantly, love and care for this community and for each other. I am so thankful that we can offer this gift to everyone free of cost. And that we can be part of this meaningful journey to improve young people's lives. 

By Jose Luis Hernandez

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)

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!