Carolyn Sybesma


Carolyn holds a BA degree in music from Dordt College, as well as an MAM in arts management from Columbia College Chicago. Throughout her graduate studies, she focused on arts in youth and community development, which trained her in how to effectively manage programs that engage youth and the community through music. In addition, she is a classically trained pianist and violinist, as well as a licensed Kindermusik® teacher. 

Carolyn’s employment history includes diverse experiences in arts administration and music education. From 2007 – 2011, Carolyn worked as the music and drama program director for an ESL school in South Korea, where she created curricula, managed programs, and trained teachers across the country. As the Community Partnerships Coordinator at the Center for Community Arts Partnerships at Columbia College Chicago from 2011 – 2013, she maintained relationships with over twenty community-based arts organizations while managing several community arts programs. In 2012, she was employed by Merit School of Music as a Marketing and Communications Coordinator. Working together with the marketing team in a vibrant educational environment, she played a key role in implementing marketing strategies for Merit’s instrumental and early childhood music programs. In addition, Carolyn was an intern at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Negaunee Music Institute in 2013, where she provided support for several of the Institute’s programs, including the 2013 Youth in Music Festival, the Civic Orchestra, and children’s programming. 

Carolyn taught group piano and early childhood music classes at Merit School of Music for three years, as well as group piano at the Old Town School of Folk Music. She continues to teach Kindermusik® classes at Northwestern University’s Music Academy. As a music educator, she has developed excellent communication skills through her interactions with diverse groups of students and parents. Her extensive teaching experience demonstrates her commitment to and passion for music education. 

Carolyn is currently employed by The People’s Music School as the Program Director for its El Sistema-inspired Youth Orchestras program in Chicago. In this position, Carolyn manages a tuition-free afterschool youth orchestras program of 120 students.

Connections/Expertise w/ El Sistema-inspired programs
Carolyn is currently the Program Director of The People’s Music School, Youth Orchestras – Albany Park at Hibbard Elementary School in Chicago. This afterschool youth orchestras program began in 2008 and starting this fall will include three orchestras and over 120 students, making it one of the oldest and largest El Sistema-inspired programs in the United States.

Special skills/professional expertise/resources/connections that the candidate would bring to the board
Carolyn offers a valuable set of skills and expertise in music education and program leadership. She has over a decade of experience as a music educator, teaching in a variety of organizations that focus on transforming lives through music. As a program director for The People’s Music School, Youth Orchestras, Carolyn has excelled as a leader and proven that she has a firm understanding of how to create stable, sustainable, and dynamic El Sistema-inspired programs. Her knowledge and expertise lies in facilitating social change whilst maintaining the highest standard of musical excellence.

Why the candidate wishes to serve on the board
I believe that I offer valuable insight into what makes an El Sistema-nspired program successful and I am eager to share my perspective and program resources with the larger El Sistema community.

As the Program Director for The People’s Music School, Youth Orchestras – Albany Park, I have successfully brought sustainability, organization, and financial viability to our program so as to better focus on developing our students into excellent musicians and upstanding citizens. I believe that in order to strengthen the US-based El Sistema movement, a greater emphasis must be placed on program sustainability and how our philosophy manifests itself in the North America. 

I also hope that my service to the board will provide an opportunity to learn from and be inspired by program directors, teaching artists, and supporters of El Sistema Inspired programs. My end goal is to better serve my students, their families, and the broader El Sistema community. 

“It is with great pleasure that I nominate Carolyn Sybesma as a candidate for the Board of Directors of the National El Sistema USA. Carolyn, as Program Director of The People’s Music School, El Sistema-inspired Youth Orchestras program in Albany Park, excels as a leader. She has gained the respect of parents and teachers alike and led with confidence 2 youth orchestra programs with over130 children and families participating. Carolyn is inspiring. She radiates happiness and positivity and it is no surprise that our students adore her. Carolyn’s extensive musical training and professional background provide a sound foundation upon which she has built a sustainable curriculum and she looks forward to creating our 3rd program this coming school year with a beginner’s orchestra. She is a true dynamo.

My name is Randi Bergey and I am the Director of Development for The People’s Music School. Please feel free to reach out to me if you need further testimony to Carolyn’s character and ability to lead. I am confident you will find her an asset to your team, as we most certainly do!”

-Randi J. Bergey, Director of Development, The People’s Music School

“I am writing to recommend Carolyn Sybesma as a candidate for the El Sistema USA Board.Carolyn serves as The People’s Music School Director, Youth Orchestra Program at Hibbard Elementary School (Albany Park) in Chicago, IL. She oversees the Albany Park Program, which is in its 7th year, for approximately 130 students each year. Carolyn is a truly talented music educator who exhibits a positive attitude, strong leadership and encouragement when she interacts with her students at Hibbard. I have observed her during both one-on-one and group performance interaction. She encourages her students to excel and perform at their best and truly upholds the El Sistema mission of social change and sense of community. Carolyn would be a tremendous addition to and representative of the El Sistema USA board. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions regarding Carolyn Sybesma.”

– Jenny Willcox, Board of Directors, The People’s Music School

“Carolyn Sybesma embodies the El Sistema philosophy as she is truly an agent for social change.  As the director of the orchestra program at my school with a 97% poverty rate, Carolyn understands what it takes to make a difference.  Carolyn is extremely organized and conscientious taking care of all the details to ensure that her teachers can focus on reaching our children.  She is very dedicated as an expert musician and teacher – leading the program with grace and integrity.  She has a team approach that is always respectful as she creates an environment of cooperation with an upbeat and positive attitude.  Parents are included in all major decisions and feel a part of the El Sistema mission because Carolyn reaches out and is very inclusive.  My students are lucky to have Carolyn leading the El Sistema program at my school as she provides a structure and environment that is profoundly changing their lives – opening up doors and opportunities that otherwise would not exist.”

– Scott Ahlman, Principal, Hibbard Elementary School

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