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Trenton Music Makers Orchestra Eagerly Awaits Its Introduction to Gustavo Dudamel

Trenton, NJ – "Watch what you wish for," they say. For Trenton Music Makers, Trenton's El Sistema-inspired youth music program, wishes are being granted at a dizzying pace.


First, last summer: the teaching artists and Trenton kids who have been devoting three and four days a week to intensive music study learned that they had been selected by El Sistema USA, the national membership organization, as part of its inaugural PRESTO (Program for Rising El Sistema Organizations) cohort. In addition to a grant that has allowed the orchestra to open an additional elementary school site at Wilson Elementary in Trenton, Trenton Music Makers is receiving a wealth of advice and support from researchers, music directors, educators, and leaders in the field of Creative Youth Development.


"To be selected by El Sistema USA for this honor was both rewarding and terrifying," confides Executive Director Carol Burden. "We have some of the best teaching artists and most dedicated activists in the region working with us to build this program. But the attention within the national movement has given us more to aspire to, and a crazy number of ideas on the best ways to get there."


But the honors were just beginning. In March of this year Princeton University Concerts had announced the residency of Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the most renowned leader of the El Sistema movement. Dudamel, in his commitment to the development of intensive, excellent, pro-social music programs that emphasize equal access (i.e. El Sistema programs), keeps a finger on the Sistema pulse. As he often does when traveling as a guest artist, he made a request to be introduced to the young people of Trenton Music Makers.


"Of all the people I needed to talk to about the Dudamel residency, I think calling Trenton Music Makers was the most fun," laughed Marna Seltzer, the Director of Princeton University Concert. "His visit to them provides amazing encouragement to the kids, and moves Trenton into the national spotlight."


On January 7, twenty of Trenton Music Makers' most dedicated kids will visit Princeton for a private presentation and working session with someone who is not only one of the world's most important conductors, but perhaps more exciting to them, has risen to international prominence from his beginnings at his El Sistema program in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. His mentor, the late José Antonio Abreu, was the founder and visionary of the El Sistema movement at its inception in the 1970's. Following this, they will have the chance to meet the young people of YOLA (Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles), Dudamel's own youth organization, and to hear their preview event to Princeton University Concerts' 7pm performance by musicians from the Los Angeles Philharmonic. "The YOLA concert will be an extraordinary experience for our students," notes Trenton Music Makers' Artistic Director Lydia Veilleux. "Hearing and seeing other kids from another El Sistema-inspired program from across the country, who play so beautifully, will be inspirational and help them see themselves as part of a bigger global movement."


On April 28, Trenton Music Makers will host 300 players from nine other El Sistema-inspired programs in the region – including New York's Harmony Program, Philadelphia's Play on, Philly!, Baltimore's OrchKids, and the six programs that together with Trenton Music Makers form the El Sistema NJ Alliance – for a full day on the Princeton University campus. In the Venezuelan tradition, this Seminario will include sectional rehearsals, singing, drumming, folk dancing, and will culminate in an outsized youth orchestra concert at 3pm in Richardson Auditorium, both as part of the annual Communiversity event in Princeton, and as an appropriately festive farewell to Maestro Dudamel, and a close to his residency, from some very devoted young people.



The mission of Trenton Music Makers is to bring children together in teams of music learners and makers, to build their minds, imagination, and community. Founded in 1998 to provide high-quality, affordable music instruction to children and adults in Trenton, we bring our early-childhood program, Music for the Very Young: Music, Movement and Literacy, to groups of children in 39 pre-k classrooms across the city.


The Trenton Music Makers Orchestra was launched in 2015, in partnership with the Trenton Public Schools, and with key funding from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the City of Trenton.  Trenton Music Makers Orchestra is now in its fourth year at Grant Elementary School, and has added sites at Dunn Middle School, Wilson Elementary School, and Trenton Central High School. Children learn violin, viola, cello and bass in studio classes, while building peer leadership skills and learning the value of a shared struggle. We are part of the global El Sistema movement, begun in Venezuela in the 1970's, which uses music and ensembles as a platform for social development. Research conducted by longer-established El Sistema-inspired programs has shown conclusively that its children demonstrate better school attendance, raise their grades, and show improved executive function (self-regulation, selective attention, and the ability to shift mental tasks).


One of the guiding principles of Trenton Music Makers is to uphold and strengthen the promising elements already present in children's lives: the network of caring parents and teachers, and the desire to develop skills that make them an asset to their school communities. To this we add proven curricula, access to musical instruments, and instruction at no cost to children and families, provided by professional teaching artists.


For more information, find us online at, Facebook and Instagram at TrentonMusicMakers, and Twitter @TTNMusicMakers.


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