Crashendo! Revealed - our short doco on the Laverton Music Project!

When we first began this remarkable journey with the children of Laverton, we thought it important that the first stages of the program should be preserved for all to see - also as a record of their remarkable achievement in their first year.

We hope you will enjoy watching this short but fascinating video on the Crashendo! Laverton Music Program, run by Sistema Australia.

Please feel free to send the link to your friends and colleagues - and share in the absolute joy of the children's exuberance in their performing, playing in their new orchestra and singing in their choir.

And the best, as they say, is yet to come!

The Results Speak For Themselves

El Sistema is a phenomenal program of music education, which targets children from disadvantaged communities – particularly those in socio-economically depressed communities – and takes them through an intensive program of learning to play a musical instrument and sing, all in the context of orchestras and choirs. The process transforms them, both intrinsically (beautiful joyous music does this), and extrinsically (cognitively, and in developing skills of concentration, teamwork, discipline, self-respect, self-esteem etc.).

These are the five “fundamentals” which define El Sistema and El Sistema-based programs:

1. Social Change – The primary objective is social transformation through the pursuit of musical excellence. One happens through the other, and neither is prioritised at the expense of the other;

2. Ensembles – the focus of El Sistema is the orchestra and/or choral experience;

3. Frequency – El Sistema ensembles meet multiple times every week over extended periods;

4. Accessibility – El Sistema programs are free, and are not selective in admission; and,

5. Connectivity – Every nucleo (Sistema music school) is linked at the urban, regional and national levels, forming a cohesive network of services and opportunities for students across the country.
(Ref.: "The Five Fundamentals of El Sistema" - by Jonathan Govias, Abreu Fellow - Canadian Music Educator Journal, September 2011)

For a child who has never, nor would have, had the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and to play with others in an orchestra, but for this program, this is an extraordinary experience – and a tremendously positive one. It really does change their lives.

In Laverton, Melbourne, the Crashendo! pilot program has been running for six months; already it has made dramatic inroads both musically and socially. No one, including our own teaching artists was expecting such a rapid uptake and transformation of the children. Musically they have come from little or no experience in music, to being able to read musical notation and play simple music, in unison, in different parts, and within a full string orchestra. This sort of progress is not seen in any other children's music programs here in Australia, and is testament to the intensity and fun which is a hallmark of El Sistema-based programs. In the context of their lives and their family... it's been nothing short of extraordinary!

Recently Laverton College compiled a small survey of the children and the parent's perception of the effects of the program on the children and their families. These were the results:

1. Change in their confidence as a result of Crashendo!:

 - 90% said that they had noticed an overall increase in their children's confidence.

2. Changes in their children's general happiness resulting from Crashendo!:

- 95% reported an increase in the general happiness of their children.

3. Changes in the children's hopes for their own future:

- 95% noticed a positive change in their children's hope for the future.

4. Changes that have led to an overall change in behaviour at home:

- 80% reported improved behaviour at home.

5. Changes in respect towards family of child involved with Crashendo!:

- 75% reported a greater level of respect from their children.

6. Crashendo! program making a difference to family:

- 65% get on better as a family now, post program.
- 60% reported that they do more together as a family now.

7. Parent and children's development:

- 70% state that they are more confident as parents as a result of this program.
- 90% of the children have made more friends through the program.
- 75% of the children recognised they had learnt more skills than they originally had.
- 95% of parents report they are more positive about their child's future now.

Isn't that incredible? It's even positively affecting their family – and thus the wider community too!

Please help support this and all the other wonderful Sistema Australia programs under development by donating online at the Sistema Australia Program donation site.

Christopher A Nicholls
Director - Sistema Australia Inc.

Sistema Australia Program: Crashendo! 

Crashendo! is Launched at Laverton!

Unique in Australia - Crashendo! enables children in disadvantaged communities to partake in a rich and powerful music program, specifically in instrument- and choir-based music in the context of an orchestra and ensemble.

Based on the world-renowned “El Sistema” music program in Venezuela, in Crashendo! the music process is simple yet powerful. We build orchestras and choirs by taking children on a musical journey. This takes them from little or no knowledge of music, to being capable, good musicians who not only can play instruments and sing, but in the context of a community of musicians– the orchestra and choir. It subtly develops teamwork, self-esteem, patience, discipline, respect, focus, concentration, and all the while building a musician out of the child.

Learning to play a musical instrument and experiencing music through playing and singing also significantly helps a developing child's brain cognitively. It is also understood to enhance children's abilities in other areas of learning - particularly in reading, arithmetic calculations, and in memory. Learning read music and playing an instrument strongly develops the powers of concentration too. Music is a powerful tool and something which is vital to our development as entire, well adjusted and intelligent human beings.

The most powerful thing that this program offers, is its ability to subtly imbue its participants with a level of socialisation unmatched by similar activities, such as sport or youth development schemes – making music is an intrinsic part of being human; making music together forms bonds based on friendship, teamwork, trust, respect, solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion and joy. There are no losers in this game. As El Sistema's founder, Jose Antonio Abreu states:

“An orchestra is a community where the essential and exclusive feature is that it is the only community that comes together with the fundamental objective of agreeing with itself. Agree on what? To create beauty...”

Sistema Laverton Goes Live!

Venezuela’s music system, El Sistema, has challenged the music education world with its extraordinary program – teaching instrument-based music to children from its slums: the Barrios. Developed as a social-action program for children and youth, it not only produces joy and harmony in the Barrios children, but develops remarkable fine musicians in the process. Programs have spread to over twenty countries around the world, and now the first Australian El Sistema-based program has commenced.

Sistema Australia is working with Laverton P-12 College in the Hobsons Bay district of Melbourne, in partnership with Victoria Police from Hobsons Bay Police Service Area, Hobsons Bay City Council and Hobsons Bay Cultural Development Program to deliver a three-day a week, 2-hour per day, after-school pilot music program to 30 lower primary school children, which will be integrated over time into the entire school, once the pilot demonstrates its success. Funding is confirmed for the first year of operation (2011).

The Laverton program will be entirely free for the children enrolled, and the community as a whole will be integrated with the program – including the parents and other wider community membership. The school itself is tremendously enthusiastic about the project and is well supported within its community. It includes a succession of instruments, leading to the development of a children’s symphony orchestra, bands and choirs.

The first event in the program was a presentation of the program, including a short musical performance presented by the tutors, to the children invited to join, their parents and the wider Laverton community.

The pilot phase commences with 30 children and be expanded to the rest of the children in the school community as it is developed.

Further Details:
Contact Chris Nicholls – 0418 487322

A visit from Kenneth Jones-Madrid

The Venezuelan Embassy had arranged for Kenneth to visit the school in Melbourne, and flew him, his uncle, who lives in Australia and the Cultural Attache from the Venezuelan Embassy down to Melbourne.

Jeff Bell, the wonderful Principal of Laverton College, had organised, in response to this visit, to move the full school assembly from Friday to Wednesday to allow for Kenneth to play for the school and for us to meet the school community – which ranges in age from 6-19, and from dozens and dozens of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Laverton College embraces a wonderful multicultural diversity within its student community and the wider community of Laverton.

Jeff introduced us all, and I gave a short speech about the program we are establishing – then I introduced Kenneth Jones-Madrid. He played a beautiful and complex piece of Bach ( if you want to hear the music, not as played by Kenneth, but the same piece, here ).

His performance went for about 6-7 minutes.

I was watching the faces of the 600 kids and young people as they watched him and listened to him playing. Most were spellbound, some pretending not to be, but all was as quiet as quiet. And still.

As Kenneth finished… the hall erupted into loud and continuous applause, woohooing, whistling and even a bit of screaming! It was like the kind of reception you’d get for a rock-star!

He played another short piece as an encore and the same again. In fact the applause kept coming back.

Several teachers said they had never seen such a reaction from the school before.

I certainly wasn’t expecting it – and nor was Kenneth; he said he hadn’t experienced that before from an audience!

This is so tremendously encouraging, because it means the kids are quite wonderfully accepting of such music, and the program has been boosted by such a reaction. The kids were invited to ask questions for the last five minutes and really asked some very good ones! Even Jeff was impressed by them!

Considerable thanks to Jeff and Steve and the other teachers for organising this at such short notice. And thanks for looking after the Venezuelans so well – they were very touched and impressed by the school and its hospitality. As was I!

Onward and upward!

Christopher A Nicholls
Sistema Australia Inc.

Office: PO Box 4240 Manuka ACT 2603, Australia
P: +61 (0)2 6495 1093
M: +61 (0) 418 487322


An Update on the First El Sistema-based program for Australia

Abreu introduced Venezuelan children of all ages and circumstance to wonderful orchestral and choral music programmes: “El Sistema” – “The System” was born. It is music for all children regardless of ability or inability. Venezuela is now a society in transformation – social action through music. As a wonderful bi-product it has also become the most exciting place in the world from the perspective of classical music and music education. See:

The system has now been established throughout Venezuela and is open to all communities – to any child wishing to participate, committing to practice and to learn. There are now over 350,000 children engaged in this program. In addition it has now spread to 25 other countries around the world including the USA, England, Scotland and Canada– successfully.

Sistema Australia’s Programs
Influenced by this tremendous success and the creation of such a wonderful music system in Venezuela, a group of Australian musicians, music educators and interested others have decided to create an Australian version – to provide a joyous music education program for Australian children. It will focus primarily on those less fortunate communities in Australia but eventually will extend to all Australian children who want to learn and play music. As a community-based program it engages the child, the parent and the community as a whole, in its process.

It is important on so many levels to give children music– Music gives children a boost to their humanity, to their ability to relate positively with others and their community. It helps build their self-confidence and their ability to imagine and realise good futures, to follow their passions and be ultimately successful. Why? Because it is through the rigours of music, learning to sing and to play an instrument with others in an ensemble that we learn about ourselves – and in the context of others, we learn what it is to strive for something beautiful and difficult. We learn inestimable ‘joy’ and avoid future pain and suffering from the lack of such experiences and qualities in our society.

The Laverton Project
Our first pilot program in Australia, which is planned for introduction in 2011 in Laverton, Victoria, is a four-way partnership between the following:

Laverton P-12 College
Laverton P-12 College’s students are from a low socio-economic area and their readiness to learn is affected by a range of circumstances including lack of preschool experiences, family unemployment and other challenging welfare issues. Many students are at risk of not achieving success at school due to poor literacy skills. Many of the parents have poor literacy skills themselves. There are 32 different languages making up 179 of their students. A large and increasing ESL group including new arrivals from the Burmese/Karen community are at greater risk. Many children are at long term risk of disassociation, drugs, alcoholism and criminal activity.

Sistema Australia
Provides tailored instrument-based music/social education programs developing orchestras and choirs for disadvantaged children.

Hobsons Bay City Council
Arts and Culture Unit and Laverton Community Renewal work with the community to resolve issues that impact on access and participation, to promote and enhance community pride and sense of belonging and assist in delivering annual community cultural development projects. Laverton Community Renewal is a state government initiative addressing issues of social disadvantage faced by the residents of the community of Laverton and will support Laverton P-12 Music program through active participation on working group and through communication and marketing.

Victoria Police – Community Liaison
Hobsons Bay Police acts as a community leader, providing in-kind support for the program including involvement of police on a regular and casual basis to attend programs and, one or more of the three Victoria Police Bands as a resource for the project.

Partnering with Sistema Australia, the Victorian Police Community Liaison, Hobsons Bay Council and Laverton Community Renewal, gives the school a wonderful and powerful opportunity to engage many children, bringing them to work together in ‘concert’ as members of orchestras and choirs which meet and act as little communities. They are also about discipline, teamwork and fun, without the penalty and fear of further loss, failure, and or violence that is often associated with their society and young lives. The program is being developed exclusively for Laverton P-12 College. It will be run initially as a 3-day per week after-school program – free to the children.

The Principal of the school, Jeff Bell is completely and enthusiastically behind it, and wants to extend it from the initial pilot of 50-100 kids, to the whole school eventually.

Supporting Organisations and Individuals
Along with these, there are several other organisations and individuals who are assisting in various ways, including the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (free concerts for the children in the Laverton project), Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra (school visits and concerts), Jonathon Welch and the Choir of Hope and Inspiration/Choir of Hard Knocks (choir and singing workshops), the Victorian Police Band (wind and brass workshops), and several other prominent Australian and international musicians. We are also commissioning a film production company to make a documentary of the progress of this program. The Venezuelan Embassy has also pledged to help with liaison with the Venezuelan headquarters of El Sistema and Maestro Abreu himself has signaled that they will do what they can, to help us with our program.

Project Funding
It is early days, but the first year of the program is fully funded, by Sistema Australia, Victoria Police Community Programs, and the Hobsons Bay Council ~ $75,000. So far (including the Laverton project), Sistema Australia has contributed over $100,000 in developing it. External funding will be required to maintain and expand it as it progresses.

El Sistema Programs to Commence in Australia

Sistema Australia is working with Laverton P-12 College in the Hobsons Bay district of Melbourne, in partnership with the Victoria Police Community Liaison, Hobsons Bay Council, and the Hobsons Bay Cultural Development Program to deliver a three-day a week, 2-hour per day, after-school pilot music program to 50-100 lower primary school children, which will be integrated over time into the entire school, once the pilot demonstrates its success. Funding is confirmed for the first year of operation (2011).

Whilst not entirely equivalent to the Venezuelan Barros, Laverton is a low socio-economic area with many of the Laverton students at risk of not achieving success at school due to poor literacy skills . Music is seen as an important introduction as it has had influences in transforming children in the areas of literacy, numeracy and in cognitive development. The Laverton Community is one of three Regeneration Projects across the state – Laverton P-12 College will be the hub of the community.

The Laverton program will be entirely free for the children enrolled, and the community as a whole will be integrated with the program – including the parents and other wider community membership. The school itself is tremendously enthusiastic about the project and is well supported within its community. It includes a succession of instruments, leading to the development of a children’s symphony orchestra and choir.

Sistema Australia is in the process of securing tutors and teachers to support the program – these are paid positions, although we also keen to develop a volunteer program, for professional musicians to visit the school and program. We are very keen to enlist the wider support of Australia’s premier artists, ensembles and music organisations in working with the Laverton children and program. Several have already expressed a commitment to working with the project.

Integrated with this program will be a visit program to Melbourne Symphony Orchestra concerts for 100 children, very generously provided by the MSO’s Education program.

We are also looking to engage the services of an Australian university to monitor and record the progress of the pilot and program, so that we can establish the true empirical, intrinsic and extrinsic value of what we will be doing. This will hopefully provide real data and supporting evidence for the value of such a program.

Based on the process and structure of El Sistema in Venezuela, the Laverton program will also be given input from the State Foundation for the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela – FESNOJIV – to assist with its development. As a part of that Sistema representatives, have been invited by FESNOJIV to visit Venezuela to experience El Sistema first-hand, touring their ‘Nucleos’ (music schools), and to meet with them about the development of the Sistema-based programs in Australia. This is set to take place in November 2010, as a part of their International Visit Program.

Our next project will be to find a similar school in NSW to establish another pilot there – and then to other states as we can. With at least 500,000 children, or 11.6 per cent of Australians under the age of 18, estimated to be living in disadvantage and poverty, there is much musical work to be done!
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You are invited to become a supporter of the Sistema Australia music programs. By making a tax deductible donation to the Australia Cultural Fund, operated by the Australia Business Arts Foundation – it will provide essential financial support for Sistema Australia's after-school music program for children during 2012.

Download a PDF of the AbaF Donation form, or donate online here.