Nothing Without Joy

by Tiffany Richardson

Earlier this month I had the privilege of attending the Arts and Passion Driven Learning Institute at Harvard University.  Educators, administrators, musicians and artists from all around the world and many different career backgrounds came together to explore how the arts enhance education.  For three days we were urged to experience things as students, and to leave our roles as teacher and professional behind.  What a truly valuable experience to become a young learner again.

Steve Seidel, Director of the Arts in Education program at Harvard opened the session with a quote, “Nothing Without Joy”-Loris Malaguzzi.  He discussed in depth the value of engaging our students through passion, and how this transforms the learning process.  Cellist Yo-Yo Ma discussed the “edge effect,” whereby combining two different worlds we can create a “new ecosystem” for performance and education.  Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project gave an amazing performance, mixing musical styles and combining instruments and live art in a transformative way.

Over three days, the Silk Road Project and Institute staff lead us in workshops exploring different aspects of art integration, from teaching language arts through the use of music and movement, to how to create a collaborative relationship between a teaching artist and a classroom teacher.  It was an incredible opportunity to have time to be with like-minded people, who all share a goal greater than ourselves to better our communities and education through the arts.

I spend much of my time as a performer exploring ways to bring relevance to what we do as classical musicians, for children in an educational setting, but also for the community.  The institute was extremely inspiring and I became a part of a global community of people who truly value the impact the arts have on our culture, education and our world.   

My whole experience in Boston brought me back to, “Why Sound Impact?”  I’ve always believed that music tells a story, and should serve a greater purpose within a community, beyond that of entertainment.  I experienced Sound Impact in Boston…music and the arts bring people together, create an open-ness throughout a community, and serve as tools to learn and experience life in a more colorful way.


Silk Road Ensemble performance



Violist Tiffany Richardson


National Music Education in Costa Rica (SINEM)

By Danielle Cho

Rebecca’s last blog entry was a chronicle of our musical adventures in Costa Rica.  One of the main highlights of our trip was the time we spent at the SINEM School of Music in San Ramon. 

Many of us have heard about the El Sistema program which was created in Venezuela.  It has dramatically changed the lives of so many young children throughout South America by taking them out of poverty and giving them music education.  In 2007, the Government of Costa Rica and the Ministry of Culture and Youth (MCJ) created the National Music Education in Costa Rica, otherwise known as SINEM.  SINEM is based on the El Sistema program and promotes a model of artistic and social formation through the creation of youth orchestras.  SINEM gives children living in poverty and social risk, access to instrumental training and new opportunities through musical studies and performance. 

After we played our concert at SINEM, we were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the students.  Even though we did not share the same culture or native language, the energy and excitement were palpable.  It was a reaffirmation of the power of music and the need to bring music performance and education to communities who do not have access to it.  I asked some of the students to share their personal stories and their impressions of the masterclass and concert. 

This is what they had to say:

by Maury Morel

I am twenty years old, and I listen to all kinds of music like Urban, R & B and Pop, and of course classical music in the SINEM School of Music. Like Danielle, Rebecca and Sarah, I hope to travel around the world. Danielle, Rebecca and Sarah are great role models especially for young people. When I listen to them play, I can feel their passion for music and the subtlety in which they express their music.  The day that we heard them play I had only one word to describe it – “amazing”.  They were a great motivation and although it was a short time I could see the great people who they are, and I hope they will return to Costa Rica very soon.

Tengo veinte años de edad, escucho todo tipo de música y mi enfoque musical son en géneros Urbano, R&B Y Pop, y claro estudio música clásica en la escuela Sinem.  Al igual que Danielle, Rebecca y Sarah, espero viajar por todo el mundo. Danielle, Rebecca y Sarah son un ejemplo a seguir en especial para los jóvenes, en ellas se puede notar su pasión por la música y la sutileza con la que expresan las notas musicales, el día que las pude escuchar solo tenía una palabra para describirlas “Asombroso”, fueron una gran motivación y aunque fue un tiempo corto pude ver las grandes personas que son, y espero volver a verlas pronto.

by Angelo Araya

In 2011, my best friend began telling me about SINEM and I became very interested.  In 2012, I was able to enroll and I began to study the violin.  In 2012 I have had great experiences thanks to SINEM, such as having the opportunity to play in an orchestra.  At the end of 2012, I played an audition and I was able to enter in the National Orchestra of SINEM.  I thought the masterclass (by Sound Impact) was very excellent and we all learned a lot.  For us you were a great inspiration of what we all want to become one day.  Thank you.

En el 2011 mi mejor amigo me empezó hablando sobre lo que es el Sinem, y a mi me interesó mucho, sobre la música y sobre lo que el me contaba, en el 2012 hice matricula y pude entrar decidiendo tocar violín. Durante el 2012 obtuve grandes experiencias gracias al Sinem, como poder participar en una orquesta. A finales del 2012 realicé una audición, por la cual pude entrar a una orquesta nacional del Sinem. La clase maestra me pareció muy excelente, ya que aprendimos mucho, y para nosotros ustedes fueron una gran inspiración a lo que queremos ser algun día  Gracias.

by Su Romero Gomez

In 2007, I began to play the flute and I realized they were going to open the SINEM School.  In 2008, I decided to enroll there and since then I have had many wonderful moments there.  During this time, I was in a deep depression and thanks to music, I was able to get out of it.  Music has helped me a lot.  At SINEM, I go five days a week and take choir, orchestra, flute, and guitar trio. 

En el 2007 inicie con la flauta, luego me di cuenta que iban a abrir un SINEM entonces en el 2008 decidí matricular allí, he tenido experiencias muy muy bonitas allí. Yo estuve en ese tiempo con muchas depresiones y gracias a la música pude salir de todo eso.. Me ha ayudado muchisimo. Yo estudio digamos q 11 horas en el SINEM voy 5 días a la semana. Voy a clases de lenguaje musical, coro, orquesta, instrumento, trio de guitarra y flauta y banda. 

by Hairan Vanessa Arguedas

Since I was little, I loved the violin and I saw it in many cartoons and I got very excited and it caught my attention.  When I was introduced to SINEM, I began with the violin and I really enjoyed the classes and have learned many things that I am putting into practice and have helped me a lot.

Yo desde que estaba pequeña me gustaba mucho el violín y lo veía en las caricaturas y me emocionaba mucho con eso me llamó la atención y cuando conocí el Sinem entre a violín y con respecto a la clase me gustó mucho y aprendí varias cosas que ya estoy poniendo en práctica y me han ayudado mucho.

by Ashley Piñeiro Conejo

My story:  When I was seven years old, I began to play the violin but because of personal reasons I had to give up music.  When I was 10, I started again by studying at SINEM and have studied there ever since.  It has been a beautiful experience.  I love their classes and people like you have encouraged us to continue with music and to make certain changes to enjoy it more and to make people enjoy them too.  Thank you very much for your help.

Mi historia es: Cuando tenía 7 años comencé con el violín pero tuve que abandonar la música por asuntos personales. A los 10 años comencé de nuevo pero con el sinem hasta ahora. Ha sido una experiencia hermosa. Me encantó recibir sus clases, personas como ustedes animan mucho a seguir con la música y poder hacer ciertos cambios para disfrutarla más y hacer que las personas las disfruten también. Muchas gracias por su ayuda. 


Project Costa Rica

By Rebecca Jackson

*SOUND IMPACT, Project Costa Rica (July 2013) team included myself, Danielle, and Sara Lee, a DC based flutist.

Just a few hours ago I departed Costa Rica and during my long layover in San Salvador, have decided to reflect on our richly rewarding trip. 

During our first car ride, my eyes were fed a deep green color only seen in the hydrated tropics.  The green covered high hills were also draped in an ethereal mist.  Our home for the week was Casa de Franco’s, a funky converted mansion with many unique bedrooms. There was a common area with high ceilings and a hodge-podge of framed photographs and art covering every square inch of the walls.  It was here we enjoyed most of our meals, routinely consisting of rice, beans and a protein – which they seem to enjoy covering with different variations on a tomato based sauce. 


During the week we had the pleasure of bringing live music to several Costa Rican communities – the majority of our listeners were children from families of tough socio-economic backgrounds.  Our performances and interactive workshops were for most, their first experience seeing the violin and cello and certainly their first time hearing live classical music.  At a children’s home we performed in a living room for thirteen kids ranging in age from 2 to 11.  As Danielle and Sara played an arm’s reach away, I will never forget how still the 2 year old sat, completely mesmerized.  Another moment we’ll never forget is when Olga (who served us my most favorite meals!) said to Danielle following our Wednesday concert, “I nourished your bodies but you fed my soul.” 


Just when we didn’t think it could get more rewarding, we encountered the kids at SINEM school in San Ramon (SINEM is an after school music program sponsored by the Costa Rican government and modeled after EL SISTEMA started in Venezuela).  This particular school serves 300 kids.  We were encouraged to hear that no child is ever turned away for lack of money.  We were stunned and touched to discover that Manuel co-founder of the San Ramon school, a trumpet player, taught strings before they could find string teachers. 


We began with a masterclass.  A masterclass could be described as a private lesson that is observed by an audience.  The lesson is usually conducted by a visiting musician.  When you are visiting there is a limitation on what can be achieved – our main goal is to encourage, teach core universal principles, and reaffirm things their teachers work so hard on with them.  Shy and nervous at first, the children very quickly warmed up to us.  In 90 minutes I could feel a bond form. 


Following the masterclass, the three of us gave a recital.  The room was so packed, the kids were spilling into the aisles, staircase, and up into the loft.  Danielle, Sara, and I played our hearts out for these kids and hoped we opened their minds to many possibilities and encouraged the pursuit of spectacular dreams. 


As we departed, Manuel warmly said, “Should you return, our doors will always be wide open for you.” 

We can’t wait for our next trip! 

We love Costa Rica!