Since 2014, PROJECT MUSIC has partnered with Domus to bring high-quality after school programming to Stamford’s Waterside neighborhood. El Sistema Academy students participate in a variety of music classes 4 days per week, for 90 minutes each day. Every student rotates between four different classes, to develop a broad skill set: chorus, percussion ensemble, band rehearsal, and group lessons on their primary instrument. Almost immediately, they take part in frequent performances around the community, developing an identity as a musician and a natural ease interacting with the public. The students are divided into two levels, based on achievement in both musical and social skills.
Students in the Etude level are beginners in terms of instrumental technique and rehearsal behaviors. They learn in small classes with a lot of individual attention. Etude students choose a primary instrument, and spend much of their time developing strong fundamental techniques. In choir and the “Bucket Band” percussion ensemble, they begin rehearsing and performing as ensembles early in the year. Skills of teamwork, critical listening, and reading musical notation are emphasized so that they can mature into independent learners quickly.
During their second year, students are promoted to the Rhapsody level, with more advanced music and higher expectations. More time is spent in large ensemble rehearsal, where a high degree of independence is a necessity. Focused group sectionals continue to develop instrumental technique and musicality. While less time is spent in singing and percussion classes at this level, the complexity of the musical arrangements increases significantly. Performances for the Rhapsody ensembles are more frequent and varied than those of the younger Etude groups.