Mark Sarich


Basic vitae:

Mark Sarich earned a BA in music composition from the University of Illinois; Urbana/Champaign (UIUC). Upon completion of this degree he launched a performance program focused on the music, dance and ritual traditions of East Europe. This became the East European Cultures Program of Southern Illinois University. In this capacity Sarich had the opportunity to work as a corollary program to Katherine Dunham’s Performing Arts Training Center in East St. Louis, IL. This program, while highly successful, was cut as part of the down-sizing of academia in the 19080s.

Sarich received a second BA in music education at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and completed coursework and certification for K-12 music education specializing on string instruments. Sarich’s study of music education took an unusual turn due to his abiding interest in the under-served.  Rather than conducting the required observations in the mostly (sometimes exclusively) white Illinois schools that surround Edwardsville, Sarich went to schools serving the population in the Darst-Webbe housing project and the then impoverished neighborhoods of Soulard, McKinnley Heights and Fox Park. Studying the failures and successes in this urban education program could be traced to cultural intolerance. The lessons learned and potential raised by acceptance of cultural diversity in the students’ educational progress he carries to his current work with Orchestrating Diversity; El Sistema St.Louis.

He then transferred to a performance program earning an MA in conducting with a minor in piano/harpsichord. He went on to a DMA in music composition with a minor in musicology at UIUC. It was at this point that he used the resources of his grandfather’s pharmacy to create the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center, a youth oriented project presenting experimental and non-commercial music performances and workshops.  So successful has this venue been that “Mark at Lemp” is now known around the world for providing a comfortable, friendly and respectful place where full attention is given to the performance.  Lemp has made St Louis a destination for independent and experimental music.  Further the focus to develop electro-acoustic music (noise) through an annual festival has created an audience for progressive music.  Josh Levi referred to Lemp as “the place that started it all”.

Sarich pursued his teaching career as a member of the faculty of Blackburn College (a work study college for 1st generation college students), Washington University, Southwest Illinois College, St. Louis College of Pharmacy, and most notably, Forest Park Community College, where he taught an accelerated introduction to music that encompassed both the fundamentals and 1st semester music theory. And as much as he was gratified to be teaching the underserved population he sought to serve initially, he saw the shortcomings in institutional education. After 7 years at Forest Park, Sarich left to form Orchestrating Diversity. The dream of teaching orchestral music to inner city youth had been with him since the early 1990s when he turned away from the academic approach to music education.

Candidate’s connection with and/or expertise in El Sistema-Inspired programs:

While not a graduate of the New England Conservatory Program, Sarich has voraciously sought to learn the details of the El Sistema techniques. He easily saw connections between his own applications of Kodaly and Suzuki ideas and those employed by El Sistema. And, while himself not certified in Delcroze, has had the wisdom to seek out those who are. Perhaps most importantly, his years of work with inner-city youth has brought an understanding of the special considerations necessary for a successful program in this environment. For Sarich, the greatest compliment of his implementation of El Sistema came from a sight visit by Stanford Thompson who cited this is one of the most authentic realizations of El Sistema he has seen in the US.

Special skills/professional expertise/resources/connections that the candidate would bring to the board:

Sarich has served on the Board of Directors of such diverse organizations as The New Music Circle, The Slavic and East European Friends of SIUE, Festival of Contemporary American Music, Serbian Orthodox Choir-Directors of America, Colibri Cooperative Housing Project, and the McGowan Foundation. He was a charter member of the BODs of East European Cultural Heritage Program of SIUE, Tamburitza Association of America and the Polish Folk Dance Association of the Americas in addition to creating the 501(c)3 Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center and Orchestrating Diversity; El Sistema St. Louis. Among numerous awards, he is listed in Who’s Who in American Education. Sarich brings to bear a broad understanding of how organizations are grown. His skills as an educator along with a conviction towards generosity towards practices and information will be helpful in better organizing the sharing of practices among the member organizations. Finally, he brings to bear both the perspectives of contemporary composition and the expertise arising from decades of work with the under-served populations in the inner city. With the understanding that our focus is to serve these young people, his perspective should assist in keeping an appropriate focus to our work.

Why the candidate wishes to serve on the board:

Mark Sarich has lived a life of service to community through music, education and social engagement. He has through each appointment sought to bring to his teaching and work an awareness of the necessity for changing the plight of the poor.  As a graduate in composition, his works are focused on re-defining the relationship between audience and performer; he remains dedicated to active engagement as a needed response to social injustice. This active approach to music is the defining quality of El Sistema. Since first becoming involved with the El Sistema movement in 2009 the concern for what direction El Sistema will take in the US has entered prominently in his life. He took an active role both at San Antonio and in the conference calls and meetings which have brought us to the formation of this organization. Sarich wishes to maintain this high level of participation in the ongoing discussion which will shape our organization.

To no small degree, Orchestrating Diversity is the culmination of his life’s work. Sarich feels that his voice in the continuing process of refining the identity of the National Alliance will bring a perspective which will be very helpful to the tasks before us.


Mark Sarich knows first-hand the hard work and dedication it takes to realize a social development program in a challenging environment. The type of leadership that I feel the board of the National Alliance of El Sistema Inspired Programs need are people like Mark who can help lead the association to fruition. – Stanford Thompson

I heartily endorse Mark Sarich’s nomination for the board of the Alliance.  Mark would bring so many assets to the board as a highly skilled, creative musician and educator who instills all of the values and practices of El Sistema in every aspect of his life and work.  One cannot be less than deeply impressed by Mark’s unique background, experience with Orchestrating Diversity, and unrelenting passion and advocacy for El Sistema in the US. – Mark Churchill

1 Response to Mark Sarich

  1. Beautiful….And deserving of the nomination as a board member of the National Alliance of
    El Sistema.

    Colleen Brezny

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