A fellowship that will not end

Photo credit: Dantes Rameau

Photo credit: Dantes RameauI’m telling the story out of order, but it’s my story, and I’ll tell it the way I want to. On the 16th of June the Abreu Fellows program officially concluded with a ceremony at the New England Conservatory. For the second major presentation in a row (the first being LA) I spoke last for the Fellows, a privilege and honour for which I sincerely thank my colleagues. I’m particularly grateful for the opportunity because it forced me to think about my experiences and articulate them in a meaningful way.

That being said, it took me five years to absorb the experience of my first fellowship, and although I’ve just finished my third I doubt I’ll be much faster this round.  It might be easier this time because of my blog, which has been a substantial investment of time but one I do not regret. It’s a record of how my thoughts have evolved, how my understanding of some of the issues has grown and deepened. Case in point: in the space of a month I go from wondering how we’ll ever articulate the fundamental principles of el Sistema to defining five very clearly. Simple, in hindsight: the time for philosophizing was over, and people I met had questions that deserved answers.

Having completed my Doctorate at the same time as finishing the program ( it was awarded May 27th) I’ve completed a fair chunk of education, so I’m not surprised to say that I didn’t acquire much in the way of factoids to regurgitate, just experiences upon which to dwell. And of those, the Acarigua story is one that has found near-universal resonance. In the space of two weeks in a small town in Venezuela, our lives were changed irrevocably. By “our lives”, I don’t mean just me, and my colleagues Dantes and Stan, but the lives of every single person in that orchestra. Think about this. That was just two weeks, in a remote town on the plains in the middle of nowhere. Just imagine, imagine if those experiences could be had for months instead of days, years instead of months, if it weren’t limited to just one small town but expanded to encompass a state, or a nation. This is el Sistema Venezuela, and this is what we want this is what we work for, for the rest of the world.

The Fellowship isn’t over. The NEC program is, certainly, but the Fellowship – the company of people, sharing the same aim – has just begun.

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