In terms of music, the new year is starting off on the right notes.

First, the film “Crescendo: The Power of Music” will premiere at the Arts Council of Princeton on Monday, January 18, at 7 p.m. The event — developed with the Trenton Community Music School (TCMS) as a salute to Martin Luther King Jr. — is designed to bring awareness to a regional phenomenon: the establishment of El Sistema – Trenton.

El Sistema is Venezuela’s celebrated youth orchestra program established in 1976. It has revolutionized education and engaged millions of students and changed lives through a system that “uses ensemble music to enable every child to experience being an asset within her or his community, inside and outside the ‘nucleo.’ El Sistema develops citizens not musicians — responsible, joyful, contributing citizens,” note coordinators.

While the program has gained notoriety for enhancing learning and community in impoverished communities around the globe, it is also gaining a reputation for producing accomplished musicians, including Venezuela native Gustavo Dudamel, music and artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

“Crescendo” will be introduced by its creator, Jamie Bernstein — a writer, speaker, activist for music education, and daughter of famed American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein. The film focuses on the successes of the El Sistema orchestras in West Philadelphia and Harlem.

The screening will be preceded by a brief performance by Wood N Strings, a youthful Trenton-based string quartet, and followed by a reception with Bernstein and Stanford Thompson, teaching artist and founder of the El Sistema program “Play on Philly!”

The TCMS is a nonprofit program established in 1998 to work in partnership with schools and social service agencies to provide high quality music education throughout the Capital City region.

It launched El Sistema Trenton in February, 2015, at the Grant Elementary School. Participating students have since performed as part of the NJ El Sistema Alliance at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and as special guests of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s 2015 Holiday POPS! concert.

“Crescendo: The Power of Music” and musical selections by Wood N Strings, Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street. Monday, January 18, 7 p.m. Free but seating is limited. Make reservations by E-mailing

Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) is up next to start its 2016 programming with one of its Soundtracks community engagement programs, “Calligraphy as Art and Inspiration,” at the Princeton Public Library Community Room on Wednesday, January 20, at 7 p.m.

The program features Princeton University Art Museum education director Caroline Harris, who will talk about the museum’s collection of Chinese calligraphy, and Jing Jing Luo, composer of the orchestral work “Tsao Shu” (Grass Scripts), a work inspired by the physical actions required to create the art form.

Luo, a native of Beijing, is a prolific composer and performer who combines Eastern and Western music traditions and calligraphy. Her involvement with the PSO is through a 2016 residency coordinated through Music Alive: New Partnerships, a program of New Music USA and the League of American Orchestras designed to establish new relationships between composers and orchestras, and to help orchestras present new music to the public and build support for new music within their institutions.

Luo’s “Tsao Shu” will be featured in the PSO’s classical concert on Sunday, January 31, along with works by Zoltan Kodaly, Osvaldo Golijov, and Mozart.

Calligraphy as Art and Inspiration, Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street, Princeton. Wednesday, January 20, 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public; refreshments will be served.

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