El Paso Symphony’s long-running “Tocando” music education program adapts during pandemic

Posted on: September 29, 2020

Students participate in the El Paso Symphony Orchestra’s “Tocando” music education program. The program has adopted new safety protocols due to the pandemic.

“Marlene didn’t say more than a few words. Yair confronted classmates on the playground. Then both found El Paso Symphony Orchestra’s program, Tocando, which teaches much more than music to youngsters,” writes Carol Viescas in Friday’s (9/25) El Paso Inc. (El Paso, TX). “ ‘Marlene changed completely. She is more confident and outgoing. And she is a great violinist,’ … said Alejandro Gonzalez, site coordinator and lead teaching artist…. EPSO executive director Ruth Ellen Jacobsen said the idea to form Tocando [came] after she saw a ‘60 Minutes’ segment on El Sistema [the free music education program in Venezuela] in 2006.… The El Paso program started on a shoestring in 2013 at Hart Elementary” and subsequently expanded to several elementary and middle schools. “Things have been different … since the pandemic. Most teaching went virtual, and the program continued to work through the summer since the usual offerings couldn’t be offered face to face…. ‘We are teaching music, but that’s not really our goal,’ Jacobson said. ‘We want our kids to take advantage of the resources of community they are in so they can finish school … We want them to learn that anything is possible.’ ”