Side By Side By El Sistema – Sweden

Art Forms: Music & Composition.

Participants: 7 – 17 year olds

Country: Sweden

Description of the work

Side by Side by El Sistema Sweden: Joining a Gigantic Event

By Yefren Carrero Murrilo, Artistic Director and Teaching Artist, Passeurs d’Arts, Paris, France

Side by Side by El Sistema Sweden is a huge and unique international youth music camp that happens each year during the week of the summer solstice. It is sponsored by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in partnership with El Sistema Sweden and the city of Gothenburg. This summer, we at Passeurs D’Arts in France were thrilled to bring 18 of our students to the camp—they are between 7 and 17 years old, and come from two of our nucleos, Tutti Passeurs D’Arts Méditerranée and Garges-les-Gonesse in Paris.
At first, our kids were astonished by the sheer number of kids and the number of ensembles. There were six orchestras (Beginner, Basic, Intermediate, Upper Intermediate, Pre-Advanced, Advanced), four choirs (Beginners, Childrens, Upper Voices, Youth), as well as an Open Choir for children with special needs, a Folk Ensemble, an Early Music Ensemble, and a Sing-along. 2,400 kids performed separately and together at the culminating concert, held in a hockey arena.
Our students played in a number of different orchestra levels. It was wonderful for them to see the great number of kids all together making music, and also to see all the different levels working in such a progressive way. In fact, I felt transported back to Venezuela several times, because this was such a perfect example of progression through numerous levels, demonstrating a clear pathway for the students—the path they have travelled and the path that lies ahead of them.
I could see that this was tremendously motivating for my students. Some of them were brass players in the Upper Intermediate orchestra; others were fairly new students playing in the Basic Orchestra. We thought it was very important to include students who were playing at different levels. “Motivation” is one of our key words—and there is no better way to motivate students than a festival like this, where they can be inspired by other students who show them what is possible. For example, my brass students were presented with some very challenging repertoire—and I was proud to see them take responsibility and rise to the challenge!
The camp was a happy experience for my students in many ways. It’s always great to have the opportunity to travel; but when you do it with friends, and your purpose is doing the activity you enjoy the most, it becomes a real adventure. It’s especially enriching to share this activity of making music together with students from many other countries. The students were also sharing lodging, meals, basketball games—and most important, I think, sharing stories. Human sharing of one another’s experiences is a very powerful way to bring people together. Side by Side offers the chance to do this.
In addition, it was great for them to have the chance to work with and learn from the wonderful team of Side by Side teachers, some from Sweden and others from all around the world. They were learning new ways to approach technical challenges, and new ways to think about music.
My students returned to France with two important things: more confidence in their own abilities, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the understanding that they have a long way to go. I am very sure that the combination of these two lessons will yield positive life lessons and strong musical results for these students.
I have lived in Paris for several years, studying and teaching, but I grew up in El Sistema Venezuela. My work with Passeurs d’Arts in France is always inspired by what I learned there, and I often return to teach and conduct. The experience of Side by Side by El Sistema Sweden made me very happy, because I could clearly see that all of us are following the incredible legacy left to us by Maestro José Antonio Abreu.