El Sistema is a model for social action through music, founded in Venezuela in 1975 by Maestro José Antonio Abreu, who believes that “music has to be recognized as an…agent of social development in the highest sense, because it transmits the highest values – solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion. And it has the ability to unite an entire community and to express sublime feelings.”
The main learning tool of a Sistema program is the musical ensemble. As Maestro Abreu said, “The orchestra is the only group that comes together for the sole purpose of agreement.” The orchestra forms a model society in which each individual child feels accepted, supported, loved and valued. While musical excellence is an important aim, personal and social development are in equal focus. Children learn that they are capable of feeling and expressing music at the highest level and are also capable of making important contributions to their community.
At the heart of the Sistema program is the nucleo, a musical home where immersive work takes place in a safe and joyful atmosphere, supported by teachers and friends. The nucleo reaches out to embrace parents, extended families and neighbors.
The WHIN Music Community Charter School is the first school to be designed and founded on the principles of El Sistema and is an organic outgrowth of an El Sistema-inspired program-the WHIN Music Project. The WHIN Music Project has been serving hundreds of students (ages 5 to 21) and families in Washington Heights and Inwood since 2012.