Harry Rich Joins El Sistema France!

Harry Rich, last year's Kids 4 Harmony violin mentor, has gone to France to study abroad - and has joined El Sistema France as a violin teacher!

You can read Harry's article (in French, sorry!) here:


And you can read Harry's El Sistema France biography (also in French...) here:


And here is a picture of Harry with the students. They obviously love him.

We're proud to have had such a skilled teacher as Harry in our program last year, and overjoyed that he's spreading the knowledge and love of El Sistema. Congratulations, Harry!

November at Kids 4 Harmony

November has been exciting. A month of learning new techniques, finishing paper violins and meeting new friends, a lot has gone on since we gave our Halloween performances. 

Here are some highlights:

Natalie and Unique welcome K4H volunteer Lorraine back to the program 

The beginning ensemble with their paper instruments

Oshianna and Austin coloring their violins

Jorge Soto conducts his ensemble in Boston

Andrell, Pre-K choir singer!

Leaves are falling!

The Sunshine Singers rehearse for their concert

Raising a quiet hand

Enjoying music time

Liam and Tari in a duet

Gerdrose smiles for the camera

Heather focusing on posture

Jorge Soto helps Tianna with her technique

Gerdlie, focused and inspired

Lilliana and Geivens rehearse for their performance at Longy

Group lesson with the Alvarez twins

October at Kids 4 Harmony

October was a fantastic month at Kids 4 Harmony. We gave our first big performance at this season's final 3rd Thursday street festival, this time on the big stage! Both orchestras gave concerts as the sun set, which made a spectacular image:

October was exciting for another reason: new teachers! Marielisa and Mariesther Alvarez, who were trained in the Venezuelan El Sistema, began coming once a week.
Marielisa and Mariesther Alvarez working with Tianna Houle 
Their disciplined teaching style started our program off on a new foot this year. They helped Kids 4 Harmony staff develop tools to make sure each student has the most solid foundation possible to build on. This means children are sitting up with pride, holding their instruments perfectly, and playing as one group.

This isn't all! Jorge Soto, a friend of the Alvarez sisters and an excellent teacher in his own right, visited the program twice in October. His original plan was to visit once in a while, but he was so impressed that he decided to make weekly visits starting this month, in November. Jorge was also trained in Venezuela's system and is a close friend of renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

Jorge Soto leads a rehearsal

Is this all? Absolutely not! Kids 4 Harmony took on two more new teachers - Amber Naramore, who is directing choir, and Eleni Yalanis, teaching violin! We'll have more information introducing these two soon.

Performance Tonight at the 3rd Thursday Festival!

Kids 4 Harmony will perform at 5:30 on the big stage on the corner of North and Eagle Streets!

Come see a spooky show - our first major performance of the year.


A "Fiesta of Harmony"
Presented by Berkshire Children and Families' Kids 4 Harmony on 
Monday, July 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm

BSO musicians, special guests and leaders from Berkshire Children and Families will gather for a pre-concert conversation to celebrate Pittsfield’s own El Sistema-inspired music program   

In a show of solidarity with the Berkshire Children and Families’ Kids 4 Harmony music education program, a quartet of current and former members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Conservatory will perform a benefit concert of Schubert and Mozart at the Crowne Plaza on Monday, July 29 at 7 p.m. Also performing will be The Kids 4 Harmony Concert Ensemble.

In addition, there will be a 5:30 p.m. pre-concert conversation in which distinguished guests and musicians will speak about Kids 4 Harmony, El-Sistema and Empowering Children through music. The pre-concert conversation will also include a wine and hors d'oeuvres reception.

The concert performers include Joseph Silverstein, former concertmaster and first violin with the Boston Symphony; current BSO violist Kazuko Matsusaka; former BSO cellist Ronald Feldman, who is now director of the Berkshire and Longwood symphony orchestras; pianist Jonathan Bass of the Boston Conservatory; and Berkshire Children and Families' Kids 4 Harmony Advanced Ensemble.

Admission starts at $35. Please click here to RSVP today, or call (413) 448-8281 ext. 14.

Faith and Freedom Walk

Last Saturday, we were honored to be a part of the Pittsfield Fath and Freedom Walk, which went to the Second Congregational Church. This church is the oldest African American institution in the Berkshires; several of our students are members.

Ten students of Kids 4 Harmony played a segment of the moving ceremony following the walk, and were met with huge applause and a standing ovation!

Thank you, Second Congregational Church!

Our Year-End Finale Concert Was Incredible!

Last week, around 200 people gathered in the lovely Morningside Baptist Church in Pittsfield to hear all three Kids 4 Harmony ensembles play. With light pouring in from the elaborate stained glass windows, the setting was perfect for 43 children to perform works by Bartok, Beethoven, Mahler and two different Bachs, as well as classic folk tunes such as Day-O!

Here is a breakdown:

The concert started off with the Intermediate Ensemble, which consists of 18 children from grades one through six. Most of them have been playing under a year. In the first piece, a Beethoven bagatelle transcribed for strings, the kids demonstrated strong, passionate playing, including dynamics and careful bowing. For anyone who saw these kids begin in September with songs like Hot Cross Buns and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, their playing now has come quite a ways.

Next up was the Beginning Ensemble, with 11 kindergarteners and one first grader. What was most touching was how much fun they were having. They showed off their sense of rhythm, playing along to Day-O on their violins, dancing, and smiling. Joy is an amazing motivator, and we can look forward to these children becoming incredible musicians themselves.

When people are enjoying themselves, amazing things happen. Alicia Stevenson, the Artistic Director, led all 43 children in a huge song and drumming routine, and the joy reverberated around the chapel. One could not help but feel that these children are Pittsfield's greatest ambassadors; young lives that will reach out and achieve greatness.

In the second half of the concert, the student string quartet played two pieces. These four children promised success to the rest of the group. They played their difficult music with precision and focus, and a subtle satisfaction. For three of the four, this would be their last performance as Kids 4 Harmony students; they will graduate 5th grade, and return for the summer program as mentors.

The children and audience then got to hear a string trio comprised of faculty from the Berkshire Music School play Pachelbel's Cannon. Not many children get to hear professional performances; the students were understandably riveted by the performance.

Finally, the Advanced Ensemble played three numbers, including arrangements of symphonies by Brahms and Mahler.
It's one thing to read about the concert, and another thing to hear and see it. The most impressive thing, though, is to experience it, every day. For example, the twelve players in the Advanced Ensemble are made up of children grades two through six. Some of the children have been playing the shortest of any in the program - less than six months. Others have been with us since January of 2012. All of them play music written for players several years older than they are.

At the end, the children got thunderous applause and warm smiles. Family and friends poured in to offer congratulations and bouquets. The Berkshire Music School Trio,  qualified teachers, expressed their amazement at the skill of the kids.

This concert was important for our kids. The students of Kids 4 Harmony work five afternoons a week with rarely any breaks. These rehearsals need focused attention and energy. Practicing an instrument for hours is mentally and physically exhausting; add this on to their schoolwork and homework. It's hard to imagine how hard they're working! Yet in the midst of this intensive practice, they are finding their own discipline, peace and joy.

People so wise as to enjoy their work should be celebrated. This concert did just that. Playing stringed instruments is one of the hardest disciplines in the world, and one by one, the students of Kids 4 Harmony prove that they are up to the challenge.