The SYS Board’s vision is that “our programs nourish every child, in our communities with exposure to music; bringing joy, education, skills and the thrill of discovering rich and valuable opportunities available through engagement with music.” This vision has led to the development of Overture. Our first class began on March 5, 2012 and is now in its 6th season.
Overture, is designed to empower students and their families through music. Inspired by the El Sistema movement from Venezuela, Overture is a program of social change through music. As students become a citizen of the orchestra they transform into citizens of our community. Our first program was based at Fruit Ridge Elementary School and now resides at Father Keith B Kenny School and Pacific Elementary School in the Sacramento City Unified School District. Overture is a free after school program. No prior music experience is required and instruments are provided at no charge.
What makes Overture different than other ‘after-school string music classes’? Overture takes a holistic approach to teaching and supporting children and families. Each day the students learn their instrument by playing in an orchestra. During the week, students also receive group instruction. Each day, the students will learn and then teach what they have learned to the family member who comes to pick them up. As the students advance, they begin to mentor students newer to the orchestra. The lead teacher develops a relationship with each family to be sure that their student is supported and will recruit a core group of parents who will help support the program with snacks, performances and group family activities. The Overture site will become a nucleus for the school community, creating pride and encouraging community participation.
Overture builds community through its participatory model. The program begins with students teaching their parents and helping each other as they develop their music skills. As parents hold and play the instrument, they are drawn into their child’s life. As parents continue to build on their participation through snack time and performances, the parents begin to see how playing in an orchestra interacts with their child’s academic performance and attendance. Siblings see and hear the student practice their instrument and want to join when they are old enough. The only requirements for the students are: a commitment to attend regularly; a practice schedule; and care for the instrument. Parents are required to sign a contract that they will ensure their children practice at home during the week.
Overture builds bridges between music and other academic subjects by integrating orchestra ethics with appropriate social behavior and helping students build self-discipline, self-expression and self-belief; skills that will help them throughout their lives.
Overture teachers meet with all students (violin, viola, and cello) for one and a half hour lessons four times a week. There are two classes with a teacher for a violin and viola class and one teacher for a cello class. Beginner orchestra musicians will focus on rhythm and mathematical fractions, decoding written music and literature, folk songs and diversity in California’s history, and team-work and respect for others. We believe that 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students benefit most from starting on instruments since lessons will cover many of aspects of their academic and social development. Starting this early will, we believe, lead to the best result in student achievement and in time, help build the middle and high school programs since they will be able to offer Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels of orchestra class.