El Sistema - Inspired
When Tom and Julie Leever learned about Venezuela’s network of youth orchestras known as El Sistema, they were immediately impressed by the program’s commitment to social change through music. Upon seeing them perform, they were stunned by the joyful music-making, youthful exuberance, and most importantly, its social impact. The couple decided make a similar difference here in the US. Through the Leever Foundation whose mission is "to create opportunities for children in order to fulfill their potential and become productive members of society,” they funded Bravo Waterbury, an El Sistema-inspired program that has been operating successfully in Waterbury, Connecticut for nearly five years.
When the Leevers, avid bikers, moved to Hendersonville, NC they decided to create a similar program. The Asheville Symphony Orchestra was selected to receive a $610,000 gift to fund a three-year after-school pilot program that would serve school-aged children in the underserved community of West Asheville.
“Asheville has a great symphony, a vibrant community that supports arts and culture, and a community that really cares about its children,” said Tom Leever. The new program, MusicWorks!, is an intensive artistic and social program that uses music education as a transformative and empowering tool to teach life skills.
Hall Fletcher Elementary School in West Asheville, was selected not only for its racial, economic, and cultural diversity but for its commitment to a transformative approach to education where students are exposed to math, science, and technology through an intensive year round schedule.
In its first year, MusicWorks! served 40 students, primarily kindergarten and first graders providing healthy snacks, free-play, academic enrichment, and musical instruction. In year two MusicWorks! expanded to serving 60 students. Now in year three, the students number 75. Through the work of students, families, staff, volunteers, and numerous community partners, MusicWorks! set the standard high for what both the Asheville Symphony Society and the Asheville community, can accomplish for its youth.