National Take a Stand Festival Culminates in First-Ever National Youth Orchestra from El Sistema-Inspired Programs Conducted by Gustavo Dudamel at Walt Disney Concert Hall

July 7, 2017

Cambridge, MA (July 7, 2017) – Longy School of Music of Bard College in partnership with The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, and Bard College announces details for the National Take a Stand Festival (taking place July 15 to 22, 2017) and the fifth annual Take a Stand Symposium (taking place July 20 to 22, 2017) in Los Angeles. The National Take a Stand Festival is an unprecedented three-year initiative launched in 2015 with the mission of creating a unified national platform for U.S. programs inspired by, and aligned with El Sistema. El Sistema is the visionary Venezuelan program which nurtured LA Phil Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel. The Festival culminates this year with the first-ever national youth orchestra comprised of students from El Sistema-inspired programs from across the U.S., performing in a concert conducted by Gustavo Dudamel at Walt Disney Concert Hall on July 22. 

From July 15 to 22, 101 students ages 12 to 18 from 34 El Sistema-inspired programs across 30 cities and 15 states will come together for an intensive seven-day national youth orchestra festival. Out of these 101 young musicians, 18 are members of Longy School of Music of Bard College’s Sistema Side by Side Orchestra. Longy’s Sistema Side by Side program, celebrating its 5th anniversary this summer, brings together students from El-Sistema nucleos across Massachusetts including: Berkshire Children and Families’ Kids 4 Harmony, Boston String Academy, Conservatory Lab Charter School, El Sistema Somerville, Worchester Chamber Music Society’s Neighborhood Strings, Josiah Quincy Boston, the Margarita Muñiz Academy, and Youth and Family Enrichment Services.


During the festival, the young musicians will have access to extraordinary artistic and educational resources, and experience some of the world’s finest learning institutions and concert venues. In addition to learning from Gustavo Dudamel, students will be led in rehearsals by Thomas Wilkins, principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Students will also be instructed and mentored by a teaching staff which includes LA Phil musicians, members of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, and a world-class faculty of teaching artists from across the country. The seven-day intensive will begin at Soka University in Orange County, where students will stay in residence halls on the 100-acre campus and have access to the school’s state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center. The program will culminate with three days in downtown Los Angeles, participating in rehearsals and educational workshops leading up to a final public performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall conducted by Gustavo Dudamel and Thomas Wilkins.

With the opportunity to be mentored by exceptional musicians in inspiring settings, students participating in the Festival become ambassadors to their local programs. This project aims to develop a model for excellence and a national community of citizen musicians from historically excluded and under-served populations in the U.S. Travel, lodging, and food are free for all students. The three-year National Take a Stand Festival project began in 2015 with a teacher-training pilot program in Los Angeles. In 2016, the program continued with two regional youth orchestra festivals: one at the Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado and one at Bard College in upstate New York.

The 2017 National Take a Stand Festival also coincides with the fifth anniversary of Longy’s Masters of Arts in Teaching in Music (MAT) program. In partnership with the LA Phil, Longy’s MAT program was launched in 2012 to support the growth of the global El Sistema movement. This 12-month community-based teaching residency provides MAT candidates with an integrated graduate music program focused on performance, pedagogy, and social justice. Over the past 5 years, the program has seen tremendous success with over 50 MAT graduates currently employed in music education.

In conjunction with the National Take a Stand Festival, the fifth annual Take a Stand Symposium will be held from July 20 to 22. The Symposium will bring together leaders, teachers, researchers, and key stakeholders from around the world with a vested interest in the El Sistema movement and progressive practices in music education. Participants will address the past, present, and future issues facing the field. 

Take a Stand Symposium 2017 highlights include:

  • Keynote by Thomas Wilkins, principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra
  • Performance by the National Take a Stand Festival Orchestra, led by Gustavo Dudamel, at Walt Disney Concert Hall
  • Collaboration with National Take a Stand Festival students
  • A focus on the interplay of excellence and inclusion in El Sistema-inspired work, including sessions on:
  • Best practices in music teaching & learning;
  • The findings and implications of major research studies on music’s effect on brain development and socio-emotional outcomes in students in El Sistema-inspired programs;
  • Practical evaluation and assessment strategies for teachers and administrators;
  • Best practices for supporting young musicians that aspire to a musical career pathway.