Music for Social Change Workshop

Community leaders, educators, students and government officials will gather on Monday, January 12, at the Goshen College Music Center for a day-long workshop entitled Music for Social Change. The event is being hosted by Horizon Education Alliance along with the support of partners Conn-Selmer, Inc., Elkhart Community Schools and Goshen College, and will feature keynote speaker, Karen Zorn, President of Longy School of Music of Bard College in Boston. Longy’s mission is to prepare musicians to make a difference in the world.

The workshop will introduce participants to El Sistema, an international youth development program that uses rigorous music study to develop contributing and productive citizens. In El Sistema, the orchestra is presented as a model for society, with every individual playing a crucial role and all members working together for a common cause. The net result of these activities is the empowerment of young people, development of a broad array of skills, and the building of community. Next Monday’s activities will allow Elkhart County participants to experience the transformative power of El Sistema and learn about the impact it is having globally.

El Sistema was first introduced to Elkhart County as part of the new Roosevelt STEAM Academy, which was launched in the fall of 2014 by Elkhart Community Schools. All 3rd graders at Roosevelt are learning to play musical instruments using the El Sistema method, and more grades will be added in the future. The Music for Social Change Workshop was organized to support the Roosevelt program and to generate more awareness among local community leaders and educators.

Longy President Zorn, who is a 1984 graduate of Goshen College, will be joined by Longy professors Elsje Kibler-Vermaas and Juan Felipe Molano to lead workshop sessions. Additionally, a panel of local music educators will examine the current status of music education in the U.S. in a session designed especially for music educators.

All participants in the workshop will have the opportunity to experience El Sistema in action, with tracks designed for both community leaders and music educators taking time to make music together. Participants in the after-school track beginning at 4:00 PM are invited to bring a musical instrument to use in the experiential segment of the workshop.

The workshop will help participants understand the philosophy behind El Sistema, which website lists as “a set of inspiring ideals which inform an intensive youth music program that seeks to effect social change through the ambitious pursuit of musical excellence. El Sistema focuses primarily on children with the fewest resources and greatest need.”

Brian Wiebe, executive director of Horizon Education Alliance, says that he expects that “participants will come away inspired, educated and informed about El Sistema, and with a new awareness of the way music can bring neighbors together to build a better community and give children hope for the future.”

More information can be found at

ABOUT HEA: Formed by local business and educators leaders in 2012, Horizon Education Alliance (HEA) is a non-profit organization working to improve educational success in Elkhart County. HEA is supporting the entire community in coming together to launch and scale-up innovative, evidence-based programming across the lifespan — from birth to adulthood. HEA believes this “innovation through collaboration” can transform our county into a world-class place to live, learn, work and play.