Sistema Aotearoa making a difference for Otara children and their families

Press Release – AUT University
An AUT University report evaluating the Sistema Aotearoa programme has discovered that the programme has not only enjoyed a successful initial year, it is also having a marked effect on the participating children, their families and the Otara community.

Sistema Aotearoa is the result of an Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Ministry for Culture and Heritage partnership, based on El Sistema, one of the world’s most successful music programmes. The programme uses orchestral music-making as a model for social development.

A trial has involved primary school children in Otara, learning an orchestral instrument for one year, immersing them in a collective teaching process.

AUT University’s Institute of Public Policy (IPP) and Kinnect Group have now independently evaluated the first year of the programme.

David Wilson, lead researcher and director of IPP, says the evaluation highlighted the high performance of the programme, along with its strong leadership and management, good systems and structures and high levels of community support.

He says there is also promising early evidence that the programme may well be contributing to a range of social, developmental, musical and educational outcomes.

“These are promising findings that lend themselves to longer-term research investigating the programme’s effects. For example the ‘transference’ of group musical education to other areas of development, such as academic achievement, is not proven. Yet there is enough evidence here and from international experience to suspect that there is something very special about the Sistema method.”

Dr Joe Harrop, programme director of Sistema Aotearoa, says the evaluation is important to the ongoing success of the programme in several ways – the learning and teaching, the community liaison, the programme delivery and its subsequent outcomes.

“The most important success of the programme will be a critical mass of proud, assured, aspiring and contributing citizens,” he says. “people who have shared the joy and benefits of fun, disciplined, collaborative work from an early age. It vividly shows the power of music-making as an instrument of social change.”

Sistema Aotearoa is based at Otara Music Arts Centre (OMAC) and involves professionally trained musicians working with students in a community setting after school and in holidays. Trained professionals teach junior basic musicianship and the skills of playing an instrument in a way that is suitable to the age group involved.

Almost all children in the trial year were aged between five and eight years old and nearly all were from Maori, Samoan, Tongan, Niuean or Cook Island families.

Press Release – Sistema Aotearoa
The children of Sistema Aotearoa today celebrate the end of their second year in style, with a gala concert in front of friends, family and dignitaries. Drawn from seven Otara primary schools, the 180 pupils will play to a full TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre. Split into two groups – the 2011 intake and those who joined Sistema Aotearoa this year – they will honour the international spirit of the Sistema movement and play music from around the world including ‘The Open String Song’ (Venezuela), ‘Mission Mars (Scotland) and Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ (Germany).

The concert is the culmination of many hours’ practice and rehearsal by the children and the Sistema Aotearoa tutor team, led by Programme Director Dr Joe Harrop.

It has been a landmark year for all concerned. Highlights include an all-star fundraising concert at the Auckland residence of Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, the Governor-General of New Zealand; regular public performances in front of large audiences at Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra events; and a special recital for Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, during November’s royal visit.

Sistema Aotearoa’s value to the children and the wider Otara community was also acknowledged in September when the Glenn Family Foundation pledged significant financial support for the next four years.

The positive effects of Sistema Aotearoa are more than anecdotal. An independent evaluation released today by AUT University’s Institute of Public Policy offers early evidence that Sistema Aotearoa may be contributing to a range of outcomes that are not only musical but also educational, social and developmental.

“It’s been incredible to see how Sistema Aotearoa has blossomed this year,” says Barbara Glaser, Chief Executive of Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, which leads the Sistema Aotearoa initiative with pilot funding from the Ministry for Culture & Heritage. “Two years ago many of the children had never seen a violin and now they’ve played to royalty. That success is testament to the work of Joe Harrop and his assistants, and of course the efforts of the children. Most of all it’s a sign that the community recognises the value of the programme, which is critical in an initiative like this one.

“The research from AUT University’s Institute of Public Policy is excellent news and confirms what we’ve always known to be true: that music enriches lives.”
About Sistema Aotearoa:
Launched in April 2011, Sistema Aotearoa is a music education and social intervention initiative led by Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, with funding for a two-year trial programme coming from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Sistema Aotearoa is based at Otara Music Arts Centre (OMAC) in Otara town centre.

The first Sistema programme was founded in Venezuela in the mid-1970s. More than 400,000 children learn an orchestral instrument, and the programme is credited with improving the lives and lifting the aspirations of participants and their families, reducing crime, increasing school attendance rates and preventing anti-social behaviour.

In New Zealand, initial indications suggested that the first Sistema intake would comprise 50 students; however, 80 children turned up on the first day. Sistema Aotearoa now has more than 180 children enrolled and attending regular classes in music instrument instruction.

The students are drawn from seven primary schools, all within walking distance of OMAC. This is part of the Sistema philosophy, whereby there should be no cost – and therefore no economic barriers – to musical participation. Similarly, instruments are provided free of charge, as is the tuition, which is supplied by professional musicians and music teachers.

As well as the after-school classes and school holiday immersion courses attended by the core students, tutors from Sistema Aotearoa travel to the seven schools during class time to give lessons in general musicianship, meaning that the programme has now exposed 650 children in the Otara area to the joys of music making.

More: apo.co.nz/sistema-aotearoa

Photo credits Adrain Malloch

 

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