Imagine a place where urban children master orchestral instruments and absorb not only music but also confidence and leadership. Imagine a place where everyone has a voice and everyone listens. Founded in 1998 as Trenton Community Music School, Trenton Music Makers provides opportunities for young people to learn and play music together. This program provides access to great music education, while instilling confidence, awareness, and artistry.
Artistic Director Lydia Veilleux expresses their goals. “We bring children together in teams to develop their minds, imagination, and community. We believe building musicianship also builds great students and citizens.”
“Because each child has a voice in the group, he or she has the chance to be a leader. They learn that leaders show strength when they support others and that striving for excellence together is as important as achieving it,” she continues.
“We ensure that beginners are teamed with stronger players because you perform better with someone more experienced to guide you. High school students serve as interns with the younger children’s groups and middle school musicians have the chance to be apprentices with the orchestra. With such a mix, everyone begins to model the behavior of the more experienced group members.”
The Trenton Music Makers Orchestra brings together young people from second grade through high school into one community orchestra. “In February of 2015, we embarked on a pilot project with the Trenton Board of Education modeled after the renowned youth orchestras built in the barrios of Venezuela. El Sistema uses the orchestra as an engine for social development,” says Veilleux. “This project proved so successful that our entire organization was revised to concentrate on orchestral development.”
El Sistema began in 1975 under the leadership of José Antonio Abreu, an educator, musician, and activist in Venezuela. Now a growing international organization, the philosophy has produced numerous world-class musicians, perhaps most notably Gustavo Dudamel.
Princeton University Concerts appointed Dudamel as the Artist-in-Residence for the 2018–19 academic year. “Because of his devotion to the El Sistema program, he makes a point to reach out to local partners and we are excited to announce that our players will meet and work with him in January,” says Veilleux. “Then on April 28, we will host 300 students from El Sistema-inspired programs throughout the Northeast for a full-day festival and a public performance at Richardson Auditorium.”
Trenton Music Makers is honored that El Sistema USA has chosen Trenton Music Makers to be part of its first “PRESTO” (Program for Rising El Sistema Organizations) cohort. PRESTO grantees will receive funding over three years, as well as mentoring and technical assistance in maximizing the social-development impacts that are associated with ambitious musical pursuit.
Funds from this grant will enable Trenton Music Makers to open two new program sites. For 2018-’19, Trenton Music Makers includes students in the 2nd through 11th grades, in four school sites.
Join with Trenton Music Makers to empower students to excel individually and together. As Abreu famously put it, “the orchestra is the only group that comes together for the sole purpose of agreeing with itself.”
Trenton Music Makers. www.trentonmusicmakers.org. 609-394-8700.