STOCKTON, CA—Delighted community members sat quietly as they listened to the musical abilities of K-8 students; Harmony Stockton students held their first spring concert on Thursday May 10 at Marshall Elementary School. The hour long concert featured performances with violins, recorders and a chorus.
Harmony Stockton mirrors the educational structure of “El Sistema,” a 35-year old music program with global recognition for its musical and social benefits. The Stockton Symphony in partnership with the University of the Pacific, Stockton Unified School District and United Way established Harmony Stockton 10 months ago.
The projected outcome of the program is to use music as a tool to develop life skills.
“This is the 7th time that Harmony Stockton has performed in public and by the end of the year there will be ten performances,” said Randy Fisher, Harmony Stockton Director and Director of Community Engagement for the Stockton Symphony. “We had ten professional musicians come and visit the students; including a composer from Venezuela who grew-up through El Sistema Program.”
The program is currently available to students in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade and it is projected to expand to serve more students in higher grade levels by August of 2012.
“We are not alone in this project,” said Fisher. “There are about fifty-five programs in twenty-eight other states around the country, and there is an organization currently forming called El Sistema USA.”
Twenty additional students started the free after school program in January. “Some of the students that joined in January are already playing some of the stuff that the more advanced kids are playing,” said lead teacher, Luana Hernandez.
Among those twenty students that recently joined is fourth grader Ezequiel Parra. “Ezequiel had never touched a violin before,” says the mother of the ten-year old, Patricia Parra.
Parra and 39 other students started practicing with cereal boxes and now feel confident holding a violin in their hands.
Parra is impressed with the progress her son has made, saying that the program has sparked Ezequiel`s interest in music. “He is very excited and motivated to learn how to play other musical instruments.”