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El Sistema Oklahoma youth orchestra prepares to expand

The El Sistema Oklahoma youth orchestra program will expand to include 100 additional students next year, the organization’s executive director said recently.
by Carla Hinton Published: June 2, 2014
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The inaugural season of the El Sistema Oklahoma youth orchestra recently culminated with a concert performance.

However, leaders with the music program said the end is really just the beginning — as a major expansion is underway.

Robyn Hilger, El Sistema Oklahoma’s new executive director, said the program will expand to include 100 additional students next school year. She said applications are being processed at the six targeted Oklahoma City schools.

Hilger said the program’s growth is because of its popularity among students, the schools they attend and the community at large.

“I think that I would sum it up as everything exceeded our expectations,” she said. “It just makes my heart swell.”

The program is a partnership between St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Oklahoma City University and the Foundation for Oklahoma Public Schools. It is modeled after an internationally acclaimed program called El Sistema — The System — that was started by musician and economist Jose Antonio Abreu in 1975 in Venezuela.

Programs inspired by Abreu’s model exist in areas around the globe, including in U.S. cities such as Austin, Texas; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; Brooklyn, N.Y., New Orleans; Chicago; Lexington, Ky.; and Atlanta.

As part of El Sistema Oklahoma, students in third through sixth grades from a half-dozen elementary schools in the Oklahoma City School District — Sequoyah, Linwood, Gatewood, Kaiser, Putnam Heights and Cleveland — have gathered at Trinity Baptist five days a week for free musical instruction, beginning in August 2013.

Hilger, who succeeded the program’s first director, Jose Luis Hernandez-Estrada, said the 100 additional students who will be accepted into the program will be mentored by the first-year students.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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El Sistema Oklahoma

Executive Director Robyn Hilger said the El Sistema Oklahoma youth orchestra program is seeking music teachers and volunteers for the 2014-15 season. For more information, go online to www.elsistemaok.org.

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