Findings of A National Evaluation of El Sistema-inspired Music Education Released

November 6, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, MA (November 6, 2017)│ Findings from the first-ever evaluation of the collective impact of 12 El Sistema-inspired programs from across the U.S. have recently been published. In 2014, Longy School of Music of Bard College and WolfBrown, the arts research firm, partnered to carry out this three-year study. Since that time, over 750 third to fifth grade music students in El Sistema programs across the country were studied. Students not participating in an El Sistema program were used as a comparison group benchmark. The full report can be found here.

The study found that students who participated in El Sistema-inspired programs experienced significant musical growth, higher levels of perseverance and cooperation, and a higher growth mindset towards academic pursuits. Taking into account El Sistema's strong social mission, and previously documented musical and social effects in its home country of Venezuela, this study confirms the measurable benefits that these types of programs provide here in the U.S. Some highlights of the study include: 

  • Students in an El Sistema-inspired program for any number of years exhibit significant musical growth, including significant gains in their musical growth mindset
  • Students who participate in an El Sistema-inspired program for three years exhibit significantly higher growth mindset towards their academic pursuit
  • Boys who participate in an El Sistema-inspired program for two to three years exhibit significantly higher levels of perseverance
  • Boys who participate in an El Sistema-inspired program for any number of years exhibit significantly larger growth in cooperation 
  • The Buck Family Foundation and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation enabled researchers to implement this study using a range of measures and tools developed by the National Evaluation Study.

Longy faculty and one of the Principal Investigators in the study, Judith Bose, said, “The results of this study reinforce the intention and success of El Sistema-inspired programs to enrich the lives of children and their communities, and to specifically buffer the effects of poverty, and the risk of unequal opportunities. We are thrilled to be on the forefront of this kind of research and we look forward to seeing other organizations continue this important work.”




More about the Research Team 

The evaluation study is a strategic partnership between the Longy School of Music of Bard College and WolfBrown an international arts consulting firm.

About Longy School of Music of Bard College 

At Longy, we provide world-class training and so much more: we prepare our students to make a difference in the world. While studying with some of the best musicians in the country, you will develop the skills needed to be a professional musician in a rapidly changing musical landscape. You will find many paths to make a life in music and to make music matter—how to engage new audiences outside the concert hall, in schools, shelters, and non-traditional settings; how to teach anyone, anywhere; and how to play your part in making music that can change lives in communities all around the world. Our faculty are Grammy award winners, Steinway Artists, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians. They are master teachers who know how to train and inspire students, and are all deeply committed to helping you find a meaningful life in music. You will have opportunities to play professionally alongside mentors who will support you as you launch your career.


WolfBrown is an international consulting group focused on knowledge building in the fields of arts and culture with a particular emphasis on collaborative projects that build the unique strengths of cultural organizations and help them report on their public value. In the field of music and music education, the firm has worked with major and community-based organizations including symphony orchestras, community schools of music, national service organizations, school systems and city governments. Drawing on the experience of two researchers, Dennie Palmer Wolf and Steven Holochwost, the firm specializes in research and evaluation focused on youth and families, with a particular emphasis on the effects of high quality, long-term participation in arts and cultural education. Many of their evaluations underscore the role that organizations, their staff, as well as youth and family participants, can play in designing, collecting, and reflecting on research findings. In recent years, Wolf and Holochwost have worked with a number of music-focused organizations (Carnegie Hall, From the Top, Community Musicworks, and three nucleos: Play on Philly, YOSAL, and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra). Throughout this work, they have tailored existing and developed original qualitative and quantitative measures designed to capture the consequences of intensive musical experiences. Throughout this work, there is a strong commitment to seeing youth and families as the seedbed for cultural vibrancy.

The Team

Dennie Wolf holds an Ed.D from Harvard University and has taught at Harvard Graduate School of Education and Brown University's Annenberg Institute. Dr. Wolf has grants from the Barr, Carnegie, and Spencer Foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts. Wolf has collaborated with arts educators in communities as diverse as Boston, Chicago, Dallas, the state of Maine, the region surrounding Portland, OR on building city-wide and regional systems of arts learning. She has published extensively in the fields of symbolic and artistic development, arts education, and assessment in the arts and humanities. She is the 2013 national service to the field award winner from the National Guild of Community Arts Education.

Steven Holochwost holds Ph.D. degrees in Developmental Psychology from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Music Composition and Theory from Rutgers University, where he studied with Charles Wuorinen.  He has received awards and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the American Psychological Association, the Society for Research in Child Development, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and the Renee B. Fisher Foundation. Currently, the team is working on evaluations of three distinctive Sistema-inspired nucleos: an emerging program at the New Jersey Symphony, Youth Orchestra Salinas, and an intensive program in West Philadelphia, "Play on Philly."

Judith Bose holds a Ph.D. in Urban Education from the City University of New York Graduate Center and an MM in Vocal Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music. As the Director of Teacher Education and Educational Initiatives at Longy School of Music of Bard College she directed the innovative Teaching Artist Program in Cambridge and was the central architect of the curriculum for the MAT in Music at the Los Angeles campus. Having visited El Sistema sites in Venezuela, she is an active collaborator in the  Take a A Stand  partnership and professional development efforts, as well as served as a lead consultant with WNET and the Annenberg Foundation for an online professional development workshop series on El Sistema-inspired music education.