Researchers to study social impact of El Sistema-inspired programs

Posted on: July 7, 2011

In Tuesday’s (7/5) Globe and Mail (Toronto), Anne McIlroy describes the scene in an Ottawa classroom where a chamber ensemble rehearses as part of “an ambitious program modelled on El Sistema, the wildly successful Venezuelan initiative that offers instruments and lessons to thousands of children, most from impoverished families. … El Sistema offshoots are sprouting up all over the world, including Canada. There is one in New Brunswick, another in the works in Winnipeg and one scheduled to start in Toronto in September. Advocates see El Sistema as a way to counter many of the negative forces in the lives of youngsters who grow up in poverty. … But it is important to move beyond the anecdotal evidence about the transformative power of El Sistema, says David Alter, an epidemiologist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto. He and other researchers, who all happen to have musical backgrounds, have applied for funding to track the 55 children expected to start the Toronto program in the fall. They want to evaluate its benefits and learn if El Sistema helps some children more than others.” Laurel Trainor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario says researchers focus too much on cognitive benefits of music education, while “the social and emotional benefits are just enormous and we are just starting to comprehend that.”

Posted July 7, 2011