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Batuta Essay

Batuta Essay

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Published by Richard Kessler

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Published by: Richard Kessler on Sep 26, 2011
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05/30/2014

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Batuta:theColombian“Sistema” 
byBoothandTunstall
1
BATUTA:THECOLOMBIAN“SISTEMA”
byEricBoothandTriciaTunstallTheaccomplishmentsofVenezuela’sElSistemaaregreaterandmorefar-rangingthananythingweintheUnitedStatescanimagine.Itisnotanover-statementtoassertthatElSistemarepresentsthemostsignificantinnovationintheartsandartslearninginourlifetimes.Fortunately,weintheUnitedStatesandaroundtheworldarebeginningtolearnaboutitandtolearnfromit.TheSistema-inspiredworkinColombiacalledBatuta,thesecondlargestsuchnationalprogramintheworld,isalsodoingworkbeyondourU.S.imagining.Andwehaveyettobeginlearningfromit.WehopethatthisessaywillserveasausefulintroductiontotheproudhistoryandthecurrentacceleratedgrowthphaseofSistemaBatutaColombia.
BATUTA:THEBACKGROUND
Twentyyearsago,MaestroJoseAntonioAbreu,thefounderofElSistemainVenezuela,helpedtheColombiangovernmenttosparkthelaunchofBatuta(Spanishfor“baton”)amidsttheturmoilofColombia,acountryrivenbycrime,drugcartels,andpoliticaldivision.Colombia’sproblemsweresimilarinsomewaystothoseofVenezuela–bothcountriesfaced,andarestillfacing,crushingpovertyandintensepressuresonyoungpeopletowardgang,crime,anddruginvolvement.Inaddition,Colombiahasfacedthechallengeofinternalmigration,withthousandsofchildrenlivinginrefugee-typecampsandinmigrantlimbo.Batuta’sgoalhasbeentoaddresstheseglaringneeds.AsinVenezuela,thefocushasconsistentlybeenuponthetwinmissionsofsocializationandmusical
 
Batuta:theColombian“Sistema” 
byBoothandTunstall
2development–withsociallearningequalto,andsometimesevenprioritizedover,musicalskills.Batutahasmanystrengthstobuildupon:asignificantpresencethroughoutthecountry;ahighlydevelopedearlychildhoodmusiceducationcurriculum;anationalfacultyofdedicatedandmotivatedteachers;awidenetworkofaffiliationswithanexistingecosystemofmusicprograms;analreadyexceptionalnationalyouthorchestra;andseveralemergingregionalyouthorchestras–oneofwhichhasjusttriumphantlycompleteditsfirstinternationaltour,toGermanyandItaly.AsinVenezuela,manythousandsofchildreninColombia,inallofthecountry’sthirty-twostatesandincitiesandtownslargeandsmall,haveexperiencedlife-empoweringchangeasaresultofBatuta’swork.Inthewordsofitsdirector,JuanAntonioCuellar,“Socialactionisthemission;musicisthetool.”CuellardescribestakingaplaneacrossaremoteareaoftheAndes,drivingtotheendoftheonlyroad,takingaboattoasmalltown…andfindingthechildrensingingsongsandworkinginrecorderensemblesexactlyastheydoindowntownBogotá.SeveraldifferencesbetweentheculturesandcircumstancesofColombiaandVenezuelahavemeantthatBatuta’sgrowthhasbeensomewhatdifferentfromthedevelopmentofVenezuela’sElSistema.Batuta’sprogramfocusespredominantlyonyoungerchildreninnon-orchestralsettings;ofthe47,000studentscurrentlyengagedinBatuta’sprograms,only9,000playorchestralinstruments.Therestfollowaprogramofchoralsinging,playingOrffinstrumentsandrecorders,andlearningbasicmusicianshipskills.Thisvitalandbeautifulworkisguidedbyanationalcurriculumandaremarkablyconsistentpedagogyforearlychildhoodlearning.Butascarcityoftrainedorchestralteachers,andperhapsmorecruciallyascarcityoforchestralinstruments,haveheldbackthegrowthofanorchestralfocus.ThedensenetworkofyouthorchestrasthatcharacterizesVenezuela’sSistemaisstill,inColombia,verymuchintheprocessofdevelopment.AnotherdifferencebetweenthetwocountrieshasbeenColombia’swiderandmoredevelopedinfrastructureofalready-existingclassicalmusicprograms.EspeciallyinColombia’sfourmajorcitiesofBogota,Medellin,Cali,andCartagena,suchprogramshaveprovidedarangeofopportunitiesformusicaltraining,bothfor
 
Batuta:theColombian“Sistema” 
byBoothandTunstall
3impoverishedandformore-advantagedyouth.Functioningwithinthisexistingmusic-learningecosystem,Batutaleadershiphasemphasizedtherolesofcoalitionbuilderandserviceprovider.Forexample,Batutahasfrequentlyservedascoordinatorforregionalgatheringsofmanymusicprograms.Andoneofitscurrentgoalsistobecomethenation’sgo-tosourceforaffordable,high-endmusicalinstruments.Initsroleoftrustworthynationalagentforcoordinating,supporting,andelevatingtheentirefieldofmusiceducation,Colombia’sBatutaiswithoutparallelinLatinAmerica.UnlikeVenezuela’sSistema,whichisprimarilygovernment-supported,Batutaissupportedbyamixtureofpublicandprivatefunds.PublicsupportcomesthroughthePresidentialAgencyforSocialActionandInternationalCooperation,andfromtheMinistryofCulture,andconstitutesabout70%ofthebudget.Theprogram’smainpartnerintheprivatesectoristheFundacionBolivarDavivienda,thelargestprivatefoundationinColombiaandpartoftheBolivarGroup,oneofthenation’slargestconsortia.(It’sinterestingtonotethatinColombia,muchofthefunding,likemanyoftheregionalorchestralprograms,isconsortium-based.)TheheadoftheFundacionBolivar,FernandoCortes,isanardentbelieverinthecauseofyouthdevelopmentthroughmusic;hisadvocacyhashelpedgarnermajorsupportforColombia’sfirstnationalyouthorchestra,theFilarmónicaJovendeColombia,andalsoforBatuta’steachertraininginitiatives.WehadthegreatprivilegeofvisitingBogotainJuly2011,learningaboutColombia’s“Sistema”throughworkingwithBatutateachers,conversingwithitsleadership,observingperformancesandrehearsals,andteachingwithinitsprofessionaldevelopmentprogram.WhatfollowsisanattempttoencapsulateourexperienceandlearninginBogota,tosharewithallthosewhoareinterestedandengagedintheElSistemamovement.Sinceourstaywasshort,ourobservationsarenecessarilyquitepreliminaryandincomplete.Ourhopeisthattheywillserveasfoodforthought,inspiration,andfurtherexploration.

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