A few years ago, I made a trip to Hospicio de San Jose in Manila, Philippines, to prepare an orphaned children’s choir to perform for a fundraiser. I met Ashlyn through this work, a 9-year-old girl with a propensity for both melody and emotional honesty. As we got to know each other, she shared her feelings of unease as many of her friends began to be placed for adoption. She wanted to find a way to express her desire to be satisfied—whether or not she found a permanent home.
“Ate! Ate! Can you teach me how to write a song?” I was taken aback that she trusted me and saw me as an “Ate” (pronounced Ah-Teh), an honorific for “older sister” in Tagalog. The result of our meetings developed into a song called “The Power of Your Love.” I felt like I had unlocked a gateway to her self-expression. This experience of mentoring and collaborating has stayed so present with me (and I still have a recording of it)!
I live as an American-born Filipina in LA. As a second-generation immigrant, I don’t have deep roots in America nor do I have deep roots in my motherland. I’ve always felt “in between” and an “other.” This makes me a stronger teacher because I prioritize connecting with each student over producing “results.” When people feel seen and heard, it’s so much easier to do the work.
After auditing a social justice course taught by the MAT’s Ndindi Kitonga the summer of 2019, I knew Longy would be the ideal place to be surrounded by a cohort of like-minded individuals. I was impressed with Dr. Kitonga’s knowledge and experience serving marginalized communities through experimental, hands-on education. Learning the principles of El Sistema will enhance my teaching practice and provide a better framework for me to create my own programs going forward.
Like Ashlyn, I needed someone to show me how to express myself and now that I’m well on my way, I want to give back. As I experienced in the Philippines, a relationship based on trust and vulnerability enhances the apprentice-mentorship relationship. It sets the stage for any sort of learning. And sharing yourself openly can make a difference in any community—marginalized and affluent alike—when they are fragmented. It is my hope that I can be an “Ate” for others in the Greater Los Angeles area and bridge the equity gap through teaching music.
Check out Kateri’s pitch for a kids’ television show for Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, “MUSIC IS EASY!” Aligned with common core standards, it will debunk the myth that understanding music and music theory is only for the privileged. patreon.com/musiciseasy