Support System for

Children and Families

Initiative: ECoSistema

ECoSistema: Elkhart County El Sistema Music Initiative

Music Matters

There is almost universal agreement on the value of music and the arts for the healthy social, cognitive, and physical development of children and youth. El Sistema has emerged as a global movement that promotes children and youth engagement in community and school-based music-making experiences. El Sistema is not a replicable program or curriculum, but rather a set of inspiring ideas, and a movement to use ensemble music to enable every child to experience being an asset within her or his community.

Although many accomplished musicians have started their journey in El Sistema-inspired programs, ECoSistema is about creating citizens and building communities through music.

The Challenge

There is a growing “extracurricular gap” between children of different socio-economic groups. Extracurricular activities, and involvement in music-making (learning to play an instrument, taking part in a choir) in particular, have lasting effects on children’s cognitive and socio-emotional skills. Engagement with these types of activities provides a sense of belonging and access to caring adults.

ECoSistema — Elkhart County El Sistema music initiative — is about creating citizens and building communities through music. ECoSistema is proud to be a Harmony Project Affiliate and a member of El Sistema USA.

See the ECoSistema programs in action and hear from educators, parents, and students themselves how increasing access to musical education is transforming young lives.

ECoSistema Network

The ECoSistema network is a network of 17 community leaders, including educators, musicians, local business leaders, and administrators, who are working to expand the number of sites across Elkhart County. These leaders share a vision for social change through access to music-making for all children. Elkhart Community Schools and Goshen Community Schools are the first school districts to pilot El Sistema-inspired programs in their schools. In fall 2014, Elkhart Community Schools’ Roosevelt STEAM Academy was the first school in the county to pursue the goal of enabling every child to play an instrument, with Prairie View Elementary School in Goshen Community Schools starting their own program in fall 2016. Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County, in partnership with Goshen College and Conn-Selmer launched El Sistema-inspired music programs at the Goshen Club in fall 2018 and currently has choral and orchestra groups in after-school programs.

Indicators of Success

Students and parents at Roosevelt STEAM Academy report promising results:


81% of parents said their children were a lot more interested in learning new things because of taking part in ECoSistema.


72% of parent reported that their children enjoyed school a lot more since taking part in ECoSistema.


63% said their child had a lot more confidence, and 31% reported their child has a little more confidence since taking part in ECoSistema.


76% of parents reported that they felt more comfortable engaging in activities at the school, and 70% said they had more opportunities to engage because of ECoSistema.


63% of students reported that it was “A lot true” that learning to play an instrument has helped them to work hard and keep trying.


59% reported it was “A Lot True” and 31% responded “A little true” that learning to play an instrument makes them feel more confident.


69% responded that it was “A lot true” that students in other schools should be able to learn to play an instrument.

Solution and Overarching Goal

Healthy, nurturing community spaces that provide a sense of belonging and community pride, such as those created in El Sistema-inspired programs, may have the power to prevent some of the most significant harmful effects of poverty. El Sistema began in Venezuela in 1974, and El Sistema-inspired programs emerged in the United States in the 1990s. Although many accomplished musicians have started their journey in El Sistema-inspired programs, El Sistema is about creating citizens and building communities through music. In El Sistema-inspired programs, music is both an individual endeavor that allows children to build on their assets and pursue musical mastery and a collective experience that unites people in striving toward excellence. Our goal is to bring El Sistema-inspired programs to all communities in Elkhart County.

An El Sistema performance
ECoSistema Music Initiative

Contact Information

Hillary Harder, ECoSistema Coordinator (316) 617-7972

ECoSistema Music Initiative History with HEA

Over the past four years, members of the El Sistema network and educators and administrators from local schools have taken part in five research trips to the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston to get a firsthand look at a school that incorporates an exemplary music education program. In January 2015, 130 local educators, businesspeople, and citizens took part in a one-day El Sistema workshop hosted at Goshen College to learn more about this innovative model of music for social change from leaders from across the country. Our county has offered the “gift of music” to Elkhart County infants and their parents/caregivers for over five years, with over 500 infants receiving this gift through the Goshen College Music Center’s Music Together Program.

Elkhart County is working toward a goal of “music as a birthright” for our county’s children. Roosevelt STEAM Academy in Elkhart Community Schools was the first school in the county to launch an El Sistema-inspired program with a vision to integrate music into the daily school schedule and provide all students with the opportunity to play an instrument. RSA offers music ensembles for all 3rd – 6th-grade students and an El Sistema-inspired music class for K – 2 that focuses on rhythm, voice, and musicianship.

Prairie View Elementary in Goshen Community Schools pursued a vision for El Sistema in 2016, with students in 4th and 5th-grade playing ukulele, recorder, and percussion instruments. Goshen College held the first El Sistema Honors Festival in September 2017, bringing together 60 4th and 5th-grade students from RSA and Prairie View to make music together. The students performed a concert for family and community members at the end of the festival. In the fall of 2018, we partnered with Boys & Girls Club of Goshen and Goshen College to bring ECoSistema to the children after school, presenting their first concert to staff and parents in November 2018.