Dan Berkowitz (4, 5) is manager of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, Los Angeles Philharmonic. Named one of Forbes’s “30 Under 30” for education in 2014, Dan is a musician and educator with degrees in economics and trombone performance from Northwestern University. He began his career with Morningstar Inc., moving to London to start up their European fund research endeavor. In 2009, he was chosen as an inaugural Sistema fellow at New England Conservatory. After graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to build one of the nation’s most robust El Sistema programs, Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA). With the support of the LA Phil, Gustavo Dudamel, and community partners, Dan has grown YOLA to over 600 students — each receiving twelve to fifteen hours of free programming each week. Internationally, Dan designs symposiums that explore the intersection of music and social innovation for the LA Phil and its institutional partners. He also advises organizations worldwide through various stages of development, and has had residencies with El Sistema Japan and Sistema Taiwan.
Michael Blakeslee (1, 3, 5, 8) is deputy executive director and chief operating officer of the National Association for Music Education. He received BAs in music and psychology and an MA in music composition from the University of Virginia. He has taught at institutions in the United States and abroad, notably at Northern Virginia Community College, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Universidad de Los Andes, and the Universidad Nacional Pedagogica de Colombia. At NAfME Blakeslee has served as editor of the award-winning Music Educators Journal and Teaching Music magazine. He has directed the development of music education initiatives and innovative online tools for music education. In 1994, he was editor of the National Standards for Arts Education: What Every Young American Should Know and Be Able to Do in the Arts. In 2010, he managed the process that resulted in the 21st Century Arts Skills Map, published by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. At NAfME he has also overseen significant cooperative ventures resulting in the development of teachers’ materials and other support for teachers and the public, and the institution of initiatives encouraging decision-makers to engage more effectively in supporting music education. In 2006, Blakeslee was designated a Lowell Mason Fellow, a distinction awarded to outstanding individuals in music education.
Judith Hill Bose (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8) is the director of teacher education and educational initiatives for the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She holds a PhD in urban education from the City University of New York Graduate Center and an MM in vocal performance from the New England Conservatory of Music. At Longy she directs the teaching artist program in Cambridge and is the central architect of the curriculum for the Master of Arts in Teaching at the Los Angeles campus. She is an active collaborator in the Take a Stand partnership and serves as the Longy principal in the Sistema Evaluation Project with WolfBrown.
Leon Botstein (1) has been president of Bard College since 1975, and is a leading advocate of progressive education. He is music director and principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra, and leads an active schedule as a guest conductor all over the world. Mr. Botstein is also co-artistic director of the Summerscape and Bard Music Festivals in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, and conductor laureate of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. He is the editor of The Musical Quarterly and the author of numerous books and articles. For his contributions to music, Mr. Botstein has received the award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Harvard University’s Centennial Award, as well as the Cross of Honor, First Class from the government of Austria. In 2009 he received Carnegie Foundation’s Academic Leadership Award, and he is also the 2012 recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award for the Elevation of Music in Society.
Aisha Bowden (6) is the co-founder and director of AMPlify, the choral program of the Atlanta Music Project and the first Sistema-inspired choral program in Georgia. In 2012 Aisha completed the Sistema Fellows Program, a prestigious post-graduate fellowship of New England Conservatory that trains gifted musicians and educators to lead El Sistema-inspired programs in the United States. Prior to the fellowship, Aisha was an award-winning public school music educator for eleven years. As chair of the music department at Thomson Elementary School in Washington, DC, Ms. Bowden provided general and vocal music instruction to the full student body, directed the Thomson Choir, and managed several partnerships with leading arts organizations, including the Washington National Opera and The Choral Arts Society of Washington, DC. Under her direction, the Thomson Choir performed for the King and Queen of Norway, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, and the Bicentennial Celebration of Abraham Lincoln at which President Obama was the keynote speaker; it also appeared on CNN, C-SPAN, and Good Morning America. Ms. Bowden has been recognized for excellence in arts education by the Arts for Every Student Program, Who’s Who in American Educators, and the Mayor’s Arts Awards in Washington, DC.
Tony Brown (4) has been the executive director of Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) since 2007. He is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and received a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee in sports management/marketing. After working at HOLA in the 1990s, Tony worked for several years as a teacher and served as an athletic director and coach for private schools, while owning and managing several successful camp programs. Tony is a Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Center for Social Innovation fellow and serves on the University of Tennessee’s College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences Dean’s Board of Advisors. Tony has been acknowledged by LMU with the Distinguished Alumni Award, by Bank of America with the “Local Hero” award, and by KTLA as a “Hometown Hero.” Most recently, he received the Leadership Excellence Award from the Los Angeles Business Journal.
Katy Clark (1) has served as president & executive director of Orchestra of St. Luke’s and The DiMenna Center for Classical Music since 2010. Prior to her career in arts management, from 1994 to 1999 Katy was a violinist with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London. In addition to the BBC, Katy performed with a number of ensembles, including the Scottish and English Chamber Orchestras, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Opera Company of Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. From 2001 to 2004, Katy led the Philadelphia chapter of the American Composers Forum. Katy is an alumna of the League of American Orchestra’s Orchestral Management Fellowship Program, during which she worked at the Aspen Music Festival and School, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. A graduate of Cambridge University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in history, she also holds a master’s degree in violin performance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a certificate in arts management from Birkbeck College, University of London. Katy joined Orchestra of St. Luke’s in 2005 as Director of Development.
Jon Deak (8) is the young composer advocate of the New York Philharmonic, where for many years he was associate principal bassist. As a composer, he has written over three hundred works, and has had his music played by orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony, the National Symphony, and the New York Philharmonic. His concerto for string quartet and orchestra, The Headless Horseman, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1992. His music may also be heard on several TV series and many recordings. In 1995 Jon founded Very Young Composers, an award-winning program now international in scope, for public-school children ages nine to thirteen. Student compositions developed through the program have been performed by the New York Philharmonic, the Colorado Symphony, and ensembles across the country and on four continents.
James Dekle (6) is a teaching artist with AMPlify, the choral program of Atlanta Music Project. He graduated magna cum laude with his bachelor of science degree in music education from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, and received a master’s degree in music education from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. While in college, he joined the world-renowned FAMU Marching 100 and the FAMU Concert Choir. His involvement with the Concert Choir led him on several national and international music tours including the Bahamas and Ethiopia, where choir members performed with Lauryn Hill, The Marley Brothers and the I3’s featuring Rita Marley. In addition, James provided background vocals for R&B and gospel singer Kelly Price in 2005 and toured Spain as a soloist/musician for The Florida Singers in 2006. In 2007, James began teaching at Albemarle Road Middle School, where he developed the choral program. He completed his master’s degree in music education in the spring of 2011 and was invited to be a member of Pi Kappa Lambda, a national music honor society. Currently, James is working with the Atlanta Music Project at Coan Park Recreation Center and promoting his debut CD release entitled Purpose.
Gustavo Dudamel (4) is concurrently serving as the music director of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He also guest conducts with some of the world’s greatest musical institutions each season. Gustavo grew up in Venezuela, where he studied music through El Sistema. Since it has been so important in his own life, Gustavo wants all young people to have the opportunity to study music. Under his leadership, the LA Phil has extended its reach through Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA), bringing music to children in underserved communities. Along with his mentor, Dr. José Antonio Abreu, he was granted the 2008 “Q” Prize from Harvard University for extraordinary service to children. When he was asked what it takes to be a good conductor, Gustavo said, “You need to feel that you are only a bridge between the composer and the orchestra, and you have to have humility.”
Melina García (1) is the founder and executive director of the Union City Music Project. She is a native Venezuelan and current resident of Union City, NJ. An active member of her community, she saw a need to create a program that would enrich the lives of Union City’s children and their families. Melina has over 15 years of experience in public and media relations, international politics and development, fundraising, and project management. She has also held positions at the William J. Clinton Foundation, the Venezuelan Mission to the United Nations, and The Wayuu Taya Foundation, as well as affiliations with several national and local non-profit organizations including Arts Plan NJ, Art for Change, and Por un Mejor Hoy. Melina holds BAs in media studies and studio art from Hunter College, and has taken courses in cultural planning and creative place-making at Rutgers University
Lorrie Heagy (2, 6, 7) is a music teacher and program director of Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM), an El Sistema-inspired program that provides violin instruction for more than four hundred students in Juneau. In 2009, Lorrie was selected to be a Sistema fellow at the New England Conservatory. She has seventeen years’ experience in the classroom and has provided training for other El Sistema initiatives in early-childhood practices, brain-based learning, and student engagement. She is honored to have represented Alaska’s teachers as the 2011 Alaska Teacher of the Year. Lorrie holds three master’s degrees in education: elementary, music, and library education. Lorrie is pursuing a PhD in education with a specialization in instruction, learning, and innovation.
Erik Holmgren (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) had the privilege of directing the Sistema Fellows Program at New England Conservatory and working with courageous, ambitious colleagues to develop musical opportunities for culturally underserved students around the world. Following his work with the Sistema Fellows Program, Erik accepted a position as a program officer with the Massachusetts Cultural Council, where he is overseeing the development of the first government support system for El Sistema-inspired work in the country. Erik holds five degrees in music and education, including an EdD from Teachers College, Columbia University, and is the founder of Musical Perspectives, the first online academic journal focusing on research in music performance.
Jennifer Johnson (3), a native of Wyoming, traveled to New York City to pursue her development as a musician. There she had the opportunity to study under Joey Corpus, Charles Neidich, and Burton Kaplan and participate in master classes with Miriam Fried and Stephanie Chase. However, it was when she volunteered with the Corona Youth Music Project during its inaugural year in 2010 that she found her true passion: using music education as a vehicle for social change. When Jennifer graduated summa cum laude from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College with a degree in violin performance in 2012, she decided to continue her work with CYMP, where she ultimately became the head violin teaching artist. Her interest in mastering the art of teaching as well as providing access for all children to create high quality music has been highlighted by her participation in the 2013 Institute of Musicianship and Public Service at Community Music Works in Rhode Island, her appointment as an ambassador for the 2012 Take a Stand Symposium in Los Angeles, and her selection as one of thirty New York City teachers to attend a year-long music educator’s workshop at Carnegie Hall.
Emily Kubitskey (4, 5) is the woodwind specialist and wind ensemble director for the LA Phil’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) program. She works at the HOLA (Heart of Los Angeles) site in the Rampart District, where, as a member of the inaugural staff, she helped build the wind program and curriculum to eighty students from ages eight to fifteen. At HOLA, she is also the chamber ensemble director, where she has created and organized YOLA at HOLA’s top-performing ensembles, repertoire, and performance schedule. Simultaneously, Emily is a curriculum writer and teaching artist for the LA Phil’s in-school residency program. In this position, she has created, presented, and taught curricula that are implemented in over fifteen LAUSD schools to hundreds of teachers and over three thousand students. Emily is also a mentor teacher for Longy and Bard’s Master of Arts in Teaching program where she assesses, guides, and works with students who have a focus on teaching in an El Sistema setting
Eun Lee (3) is a teaching artist with the Corona Youth Music Project. An educator and musician based in Queens, New York, she was born in South Korea and raised in New Jersey. Eun attended Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music education. After spending two years in South Korea teaching English and studying Korean traditional music, Eun returned to the U.S. in 2011 and has worked as a music educator in public school and private settings. Eun specializes in teaching woodwinds as well as early childhood music, and has a strong interest in arts advocacy and outreach. Since 2012, Eun has worked as a teaching artist at the Corona Youth Music Project, an El Sistema-inspired music program serving families in Corona, Queens, since 2010. In addition to teaching, Eun is a practicing classical musician and performs in chamber ensembles throughout the five boroughs.
Samuel Marchán (1) is the artistic director of the Union City Music Project. Originally from Mérida, Venezuela, Samuel has over twenty-five years of experience as a violist and extensive educational experience in the New York public schools and in Venezuela, teaching privately and in small groups. Samuel was part of El Sistema in Venezuela and is co-founder of the first núcleo in his home state. A recipient of the 2005 King-Chavez-Parks Visiting Professorship Award from the University of Michigan, Samuel holds a bachelor’s degree in viola performance from the Juilliard School and a master’s degree in music performance from New York University.
Angélica Negrón (8) is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and teaching artist with the New York Philharmonic Very Young Composers and The Little Orchestra Society’s Musical Connections Program. She also co-founded the Spanish immersion music program for young children, ¡Acopladitos! Interested in creating intricate, yet simple, narratives that evoke intangible moments in time, she writes music for accordions, toys, and electronics, as well as chamber ensembles and orchestras. Her music has been described as “wistfully idiosyncratic and contemplative” (WQXR/Q2) and “mesmerizing and affecting” (Feast of Music) while The New York Times noted her “capacity to surprise” and her “quirky approach to scoring.” She was selected by Q2 and NPR listeners as part of “The Mix: 100 Composers Under 40” and by Flavorwire as one of the “10 Young Female Composers You Should Know.” Angélica received an early education in piano and violin at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, where she later studied composition. She holds a master’s degree in music composition from New York University and is currently pursuing a doctorate in music composition at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her music is published by Good Child Music.
Gretchen Nielsen (4, 5) is director of educational initiatives, Los Angeles Philharmonic. Since 2007 Gretchen has designed, implemented, and supervised an integrated set of LA Phil education programs that reach more than 150,000 schoolchildren, teachers, families, young musicians, and concert-goers annually. In 2007, Gretchen launched Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA), Gustavo Dudamel’s signature program based on El Sistema. Since that time she has worked to expand YOLA locally, and broaden its reach nationally by helping to form the Take a Stand partnership with LA Phil, Longy School of Music, and Bard College. Internationally, Gretchen is connecting the social and artistic imperatives of the Los Angeles Philharmonic by leading LA Phil education projects with the Barbican Centre in London and El Sistema in Venezuela. Gretchen is a former management fellow of the Opera America Fellowship Program, a current member of 24th Street Theatre’s Board of Directors, and a proud mentor of YOLA students.
Alvaro Rodas (3) is the founder and director of the Corona Youth Music Project. He was in the leadership team that hosted the first replication of El Sistema in his native country, Guatemala, in 1997, and worked as a teacher and mentor of young musicians in Guatemala until 2004. There, he also taught percussion at the National Conservatory and was the principal percussionist at the National Symphony. His interest in leadership and administration related to El Sistema earned him a Fulbright scholarship to complete an MA in arts administration at Columbia University in 2006. In 2009 he was selected as part of the inaugural class of Sistema fellows at the New England Conservatory. A direct result of this fellowship was the creation of the CYMP in 2010. That year, Alvaro was a consultant for the government of El Salvador to develop the plan for El Sistema in that country.
Nikki Shorts (4, 5) is a string specialist and children’s orchestra conductor with Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) at Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA). Nikki is a freelance performer and teacher throughout Southern California who believes in making music available to all people, especially within underserved communities. She is a member of the Kroma Quartet and has performed with The Southeast Symphony, Camerata of Los Angeles, Marina del Rey Symphony, Culver City Symphony, Santa Monica Symphony, Downey Symphony, and MESTO (Multi Ethnic Star Orchestra), which is known for its performance of orchestral transcriptions of traditional Middle Eastern music. As a recording artist, she has worked with pop artists Tyrone Wells, Rihanna, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. As a teacher, she works as a curriculum writer and teaching artist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s School Partners Programs and the LA Phil’s YOLA program. At YOLA at HOLA in the Rampart District of Los Angeles, Nikki is the lead strings teacher and conductor of the HOLA Children’s Orchestra. She is also a mentor teacher for the Longy/Bard Master of Arts in Teaching program. Nikki received her master’s in viola performance from Northwestern University in 2007, and her BM in viola performance from California State University Long Beach in 2004.
Ollantay Velásquez (1) is a violinist with the Simón Bolívar Orchestra of Venezuela. Ollantay was born in Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela, in 1981 and started his musical training at the age of eight in the city of Carúpano. He enjoyed success at a young age, winning the “Concurso de Ninos y Jóvenes Instrumentistas” in Argentina at the age of eleven. A key member of the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, Ollantay was selected as concertmaster of the Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Iberoamericana and toured extensively in this role. He was also a member of the Millennium Quartet. As a soloist he has performed many of the major concerti including the Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, and The Four Seasons by Vivaldi.
Christine Witkowski (4, 5) is the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) at Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) program director and music director at HOLA. Christine is dedicated to providing El Sistema-inspired music programming to children and families in the Rampart District of L.A. The El Sistema journey began for Christine in 2009, when she was chosen as one of ten fellows to participate in the inaugural Sistema Fellows Program at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. As a fellow, Christine studied the El Sistema movement in the United States and Venezuela. She is now a member of the ever-expanding network of El Sistema leaders in the U.S., mentoring other programs and teachers while continuing to adapt and implement best practices from the movement to the particular needs and strengths of the HOLA community. Christine is a horn player and holds a bachelor of music degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, and a master of music degree from McGill University in Montreal, QC. Christine also holds a certification in community counseling from the Southern California Counseling Center.
Karen Zorn (1, 6) has been president of Longy School of Music of Bard College since 2007 and a vice president of Bard College since 2012. Since her arrival at Longy, she has balanced the budget, boosted enrollment, executed a merger with Bard College, and established partnerships with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Fundamusical Bolívar (El Sistema in Venezuela) to launch innovative programs of study and community engagement. These include the recently launched Take a Stand program and new Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Music program based in Los Angeles, as well as initiatives that embed Longy Conservatory students as teaching assistants in public schools, community centers, prisons, shelters, and other external venues where the traditions of music education can contribute to public life. Zorn is herself a classically trained musician, having been educated as a pianist in the United States and Germany. Prior to her tenure at Longy, Zorn served as associate provost at Berklee College of Music and acting director and director of instruction at MacPhail Center for the Arts in Minneapolis. She has taught as a member of the faculties of Berklee, MacPhail, and the University of Missouri, Kansas City.