Kiwanis fight cycle of poverty with music
by Staff Writer
The Lake Norman Kiwanis Club announced at the group’s Aug. 4 meeting they will teach underprivileged children not only how to make beautiful music but also how to turn those tunes into triumphant living.
Matthews native and 23-year-old professional musician Ben Fuller explained the program, called the el Sistema program, as a way to provide kids from lower income households with musical instruments and teach them to play in an orchestral setting.
According to Fuller, el Sistema was founded more than 35 years ago in Argentina by Dr. Jose Abreau. Since that time, more than 800,000 children from low-income families in that country have taken part. In America, el Sistema is based at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where Fuller recently won an Abreau Fellowship.
Fuller’s relationship with el Sistema came after he visited a lower income area of Scotland and saw how it had helped improve children’s sense of self worth.
El Sistema was featured on the CBS news show “60 Minutes” in 2008. Kiwanis member Russ Smith saw the broadcast and started the process of getting Fuller involved in the Lake Norman area.
“I was so moved by the ‘60 Minutes’ show on el Sistema I could not get it out of my mind,” Smith said. “I contacted the Charlotte Symphony, and they referred me to Ben.”
Fuller told the Kiwanis crowd that the lessons children learn by participating in el Sistema go far beyond the band room.
“The biggest problem with poverty is not a lack of food or shelter,” Fuller told the Kiwanians. “It’s the sense of hopelessness and isolation. We can fight this with el Sistema. An orchestra is ideal because everyone plays together, and all members are winners. This concept can be extremely empowering for kids and can change their lives.”
Currently, the Lake Norman area el Sistema program is in the embryonic stages.
“We are hoping to start in 2012,” Fuller said. “Now, the most important thing is to form partnerships with kids, parents, teachers and schools in the area. We have visited several elementary schools and want a two-way relationship with them.”
Fuller said he hopes to start the Lake Norman area el Sistema program with 60 students from kindergarten to fifth grade.
There’s also financing and the acquisition of violins and other instruments to consider as well.
“We want to get the word out and raise everything we can at first,” Fuller said. “We will get the instruments later on down the road.”
According to Lake Norman Kiwanis President Gerald Worrell, getting a local chapter of el Sistema rolling will be an interesting challenge.
“It’s bigger than anything we have ever done,” he said. “But we have embraced something that will bring kids out of poverty.”
Want to know more?
For more information on helping the Lake Norman Kiwanis Club get el Sistema started, contact Robin Noud at email@example.com or 704-351-5644. Contact Ben Fuller at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-877-0206.