National El Sistema Forum

As you know the National Alliance of El Sistema Inspired Programs was launched a few months ago, and we’re working very hard on the startup process. We’re very excited about the potential of the NAESIP to effectively serve the El Sistema movement in the US as do so many other wonderful organizations and individuals. To that end, we felt that forming cooperative understanding amongst major contributors on the national level to the growth of the El Sistema movement in the US could create a framework to multiply impact for all programs around the country.

In conversations with Mark Churchill, founder and director of El Sistema USA, we have been working closely together to realize a strong partnership between our efforts. As being the two initiatives that were formed to tie together and serve the needs of every aspiring program in the country, we found a lot of common ground and approached Fundamusical Simón Bolívar (El Sistema) about the current situation and future of El Sistema in the US. After meeting with Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu and Eduardo Mendez, the Executive Director of Fundamusical, we received the following statement from Maestro Abreu:

“At present, we have received support from different sources interested in developing and expanding El Sistema (in the U.S.A,) and we welcome all of them, hoping to build together the institutional solidity that is essential for the permanence and strengthening of this experience through the years. One of these sources is undoubtedly the NAESIP (National Association of El Sistema Inspired Programs), with its many members that represent the wide, rich and varied territory of the United States. The participation of the YOLA Longy-Bard alliance is an essential element of this association. The link between NAESIP and El Sistema USA, run by Mark Churchill, as an information and networking service is as well extremely valuable, as is the initiative of the monthly newsletter “The Ensemble”, led by Eric Booth and Tricia Tunstall. The New England Conservatory has likewise expressed its wish to continue with the Sistema Fellows experience, probably by diversifying it. Last but not least are isolated experiences that, hopefully, will become part of this multiple alliance that will assure a values-driven stable growth of El Sistema in the Unites States, impeding elitism and constructing a collective voice. Now the challenge is to think of a structure that could encompass all of them, although maybe it could be the NAESIP, by widening its membership”.

The message further stated that Eduardo Mendez “hopes to meet with you in Boston sometime in September, as well as with the rest of the Sistema-inspired initiatives in the U.S.A., in order to exchange ideas about future developments of El Sistema in your country.” It was clarified through further exchange that the Venezuelan leadership was looking to the Alliance to convene the major “Sistema-inspired initiatives” and that Eduardo Mendez was available to attend.

We felt that ongoing conversations would be necessary to properly exchange ideas about the needs and development of our field. Also it was clearly not feasible to convene all 100+ El Sistema-inspired programs on such short notice and would present several logistical challenges and not enough time for everyone to be heard. We moved forward to organize a preliminary National Forum for major national contributors to the movement in order to begin the conversation and plan for ways the entire field can communicate regularly, develop a strong sense of solidarity, and collectively address the future needs of the El Sistema movement. The September Forum will take place at Harvard University on September 17 and 18, and the attendees are listed below. Our agenda it to think through major challenges facing our movement, what we are doing individually to face them, and our ideas and hopes of how we best work together to further the overall mission.

We understand that there are many more people who could contribute to this conversation and have played important roles in the development of our field. We have our limitations on how many people our resources allow us to invite, but also felt that this diverse group could begin to build a consensus on our capacity to use our unique contributions in service of all programs in the country. We will publicly share the minutes from this meeting, which is being facilitated by Bill Nigreen. Bill was welcomed into the movement last year as a coach and evaluator for the Sistema Fellows program at NEC and has an ideal background for this role. We are confident in his thoughtful and knowledgeable facilitation will enable the work we aim to accomplish together.

We welcome your thoughts and questions about the Forum and invite you all to contribute to this evolving process. We wish you all success in your efforts this year!




Stanford Thompson 
Chair – National Alliance of El Sistema Inspired Programs 
CEO – Play On, Philly!


Participants Expected to Attend
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
   Daniel Trahey
Jamie Bernstein
Eric Booth
El Sistema USA
   Mark Churchill (member of the NAESIP Executive Committee)
Fundamusical Simón Bolívar
   Eduardo Mendez
   Bolivia Bottome
   Patricia Diaz
Harmony Program
   Anne Fitzgibbon
League of American Orchestras
   Polly Kahn
   Jessical Balboni
National Alliance of El Sistema Inspired Programs
   Stanford Thompson
   Richard Makumal
   Albert Oppenheimer
New England Conservatory
   Heath Marlow
   Virginia Hecker
Sistema Global
   Glenn Thomas
Take A Stand (LA Phil, Longy, and Bard)
   Karen Zorn
   Judy Bose
   Anna Verghese
Tricia Tunstall
Invited Guest with Regrets
Carnegie Hall
   Sarah Johnson
   Anne Gregg
San Diego Youth Symphony
   Dalougue Smith

About Stanford Thompson

Stanford Thompson is a musician and educator who serves as the Founder and Executive Director of Play On Philly and Founding Board Chairman of El Sistema USA, bringing music education to students in underserved areas throughout Philadelphia and beyond. Recognized as a TED Fellow in 2017, Stanford believes that music education is a powerful tool for positive personal and community change. Mr. Thompson serves on the faculties of the Global Leaders Program, SAAVY Arts Venture, and Dean of the Sphinx LEAD program while regularly lecturing at major Universities and Conservatories about leadership, entrepreneurship and social justice. As a consultant, he has guided the development of dozens of El Sistema-inspired programs across the United States and collaborated with major orchestras and arts organizations to develop new strategies and initiatives that helps provide equitable access to the arts. As a professional trumpeter, Stanford has performed as soloist and section member with major orchestras around the world and continues to perform chamber music and jazz. Stanford is a native of Atlanta, GA and hold degrees from The Curtis Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory’s Sistema Fellows Program.
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