Lexington program to start state's first El Sistema music-education project

An organization inspired by the famed Venezuelan classical music-education program El Sistema will soon be starting as an after-school program in Lexington.

North Limestone MusicWorks, affiliated with Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras and Arlington Elementary School, is currently reviewing applicants and hopes to begin sessions in the fall.

It will be the first El Sistema program in Kentucky and the only one between Cincinnati and Atlanta.

Daniel Chetel, the music director for CKYO, traveled to South America and observed one of the El Sistema programs a few years ago.

He said he was inspired by what he saw. The music education is "very powerful," he said.

"It's a very positive program for kids after school," Chetel said.

The program will include students with varying music skills.

"The program is vertically integrated, so students of all experiences will be in the program," Chetel said. "This means students are both students and teachers."

The program will operate similarly to El Sistema, founded by composer José Antonio Abreu in 1975, in which students participate in a daily after-school music program with intensive training. Its star graduate was Gustavo Dudamel, the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic; he visited Central Kentucky in 2010 to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in a concert at Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts in Danville.

El Sistema has been heralded for its commitment to social change and for providing children with a safe place to go after school, along with teaching them a valuable skill.

Now, many are interested in seeing the program spread further in the United States. There are currently several dozen El Sistema programs nationwide.

To start El Sistema programs in America, Abreu held sessions for professionals to teach the concepts and philosophy of the program.

NoLi MusicWorks, as it is being called, recently hired a graduate from Abreu's sessions, Rachel Hockenberry, to be the founding director of the Lexington program.

An event was to be held Thursday night at ArtsPlace to launch the program.

The members of NoLi MusicWorks will come from Arlington Elementary, where it will operate as an after-school program or class for second- and third-grade students.

Arlington Principal Kim Lippert said she is looking forward to starting the program next school year.

"I'm just really excited about the opportunity for our students," Lippert said. "It's going to be a great extension of our music program."

The program will include 30 students who will meet for 21/2 hours after school every day at Embrace Church, across the street from Arlington.

The program is free to participants.

Arlington Elementary recently held interest sessions about the program and over the summer will individually contact those who want to participate.

NoLi MusicWorks plans to start the program soon after school starts in the fall.


NoLi MusicWorks: