An international music program is making its way to Oklahoma City and will open its doors next month. The project gives a group of at-risk students a chance to be a part of a symphony orchestra. .
The program is called El Sistema Oklahoma. It will give 116 elementary school students in Oklahoma City Public Schools a top-notch education in classical music.
"This has obviously had a 35-year history in the world of being a successful program. We're simply taking the concept and making it ours and making it unique for Oklahoma City," said Cathy Busey, Chairperson for El Sistema Oklahoma
The world-renowned El Sistema program comes from Venezuela in 1975. Business owners Cathy and Phil Busey are sponsoring El Sistema Oklahoma, an after-school music program housed on the third floor of Trinity Baptist Church on NW 23rd St.
"We can have teachers just literally walk down the street and we're going to be using interns also, who are students at OCU," Busey said. "By them having three hours a day in learning both music concepts and their instruments and then coming together to perform on Fridays that'll be an exciting day."
The project has been the Busey family's brainchild for a year. And with each stroke of paint in the new classrooms, their dream will be a reality when the school opens in September.
"Way of building community in Oklahoma City. Helping kids who really need help and then expanding, we'd like to grow this from this core group," said Phil Busey, board member for El Sistema Oklahoma and owner of the Delaware Resource Group (DRG). "With this being a part of an orchestra, everyone has a role to contribute and in each ensemble, everyone supports each other, so that it uplifts everyone together."
Third through sixth grade students from six schools nearby the church will make up the orchestra. The elementary schools involved are: Sequoyah, Putnam Heights, Cleveland, Linwood, Gatewood and Kaiser.
"Those schools identified are schools that have the majority of their children on the free and reduced lunch program. So they are children who might not have the opportunity to have music lessons or the opportunity to have an activity afterschool," Cathy Busey said.
El Sistema has many community partners helping to make it possible, including, St. Luke's United Methodist Church, the Wanda L. Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University and the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation.
"I can't tell you how excited we are about launching what we believe will be an initiative that will transform the lives of youth around Oklahoma City," said Jose Luis Hernandez-Estrada, executive director for El Sistema Oklahoma.
"We're using a symphony orchestra as a tool to build better citizens. We're not trying to produce virtuoso musicians here, but rather citizens of virtue."
The program starts the day after Labor Day. Each student will get to select an instrument that they can keep for free. The orchestra plans to have several concerts throughout the school year. They'll play for the first time on Sept 13.