Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Hispanic Alliance for the Performing Arts?
A non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization that was created to increase access to and support for the performing arts in Austin’s growing Hispanic community. Its focus is to create new opportunities to enjoy the performing arts in neighborhoods where people – especially children – have little or no access to them. Aside from enriching individual lives, the Alliance seeks to increase support for the arts among Austin’s fast-growing Hispanic community –already more than a third of the population— to assure that the arts can thrive here for generations to come.
Who makes up the Alliance?
The 12-member board includes corporate executives, prominent local philanthropists and volunteers from a variety of professions. They share an appreciation for how the performing arts can improve communities and individual lives, and provide skills that will help students will do well in school and go on to college. There are also eight liaisons that help stay connected to performing arts centers in Austin.
What are the Alliance’s projects?
The first initiative was the creation of an orchestral music program, called Austin Soundwaves, based on the proven El Sistema USA’s methodology. The first youth orchestra was launched in October 2011 at East Austin College Prep. Other programs include a youth mentoring program tied to staying in school and education in the performing arts; arranging opportunities for lower income students to attend performances; and organizing performances for areas of our community that have few chances to enjoy the arts.
Why did the Alliance start with the youth orchestra program?
Public school budgetary cutbacks have led to the reduction or elimination of music programs in many schools in Austin, denying children in underserved areas in particular the opportunity to participate in an activity that can help enable them to succeed in school. Music education does more than teach children to play instruments. It can help children do better in school and motivate them to stay in school. This is an important goal in Central Texas. HAPA strives to reduce the Hispanic and minority dropout rate.
- Research has shown that music education can help improve students’ cognitive abilities, especially in the areas of language and literacy.
- Additionally, children who have had musical training get better grades and do better on standardized tests, according to the Children’s Music Workshop.
- You can read more about the educational benefits of early music education here: http://www.childrensmusicworkshop.com/advocacy/12benefits.html)
What is El Sistema?
It’s a groundbreaking music education program that has spread to more than 25 countries including the U.S. with 30 cities having programs. It is the inspiration for the Austin program, which has been tailored to the needs of this community. El Sistema is based on the idea that intensive and fun music education – offered at centers located in neighborhoods – can enrich and improve the lives of children, teaching skills that will help them succeed in school and later in life. Students learn to play instruments and to perform in orchestras. They learn how to think creatively and how to work in teams. And they are challenged to excel. The program has created world-class musical talents, including Gustavo Dudamel, the brilliant and charismatic young music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
You can learn more about the program in this PBS documentary featuring Dudamel and journalist Tavis Smiley: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/tsr/dudamel-conducting-a-life/
How did the Alliance get an El Sistema-trained fellow, or teacher, to come to Austin?
Once the Alliance decided to create an El Sistema-inspired program here, it contacted the New England Conservatory of Music. The conservatory offers the only U.S. program to train and certify professionals to organize and administer El Sistema-inspired programs. Patrick Slevin, one of the 10 students in the conservatory’s Abreu Fellows 2010-2011 program, was interested in Austin and accepted the position. He is the program coordinator and director, overseeing the program and music teachers who have been recruited from the Butler School of Music and from across Central Texas.
How will the Austin music program work?
The inaugural program is housed at the East Austin College Prep charter school. There is no charge to participate, and instruments will be loaned to the students at no cost. The El Sistema approach, does not require that the students be musically talented. The only requirements for participation are interest and commitment from both the students and their parents. The program is part of the regular school curriculum, with classes Monday through Thursday and on Saturdays. The music teachers provide group and individual instrument training. The program also provides for free classes for parents on how to support and encourage their child’s music training.
Any plans to expand Austin Soundwaves to other locations?
The Alliance plans to establish other locations in Central Texas over the next several years. We have met with and are developing plans with many school administrators in the community. Our goal is to have six Austin Soundwaves youth orchestras in underserved communities around Central Texas. We have encountered great enthusiasm from the educational community for our programs and we are actively moving towards its expansion.
Is the program only for Hispanics?
No, not at all. This and all future music programs will be open to all needy children of all backgrounds and color. The Alliance’s focus is on Hispanic and other minority children because of our area’s high minority dropout rate. This is an urgent issue, given that minorities, particularly Hispanics, are a large and fast-growing part of our population. Nationally, Hispanic adults have the lowest participation rate in classical music, opera, and musical theater and the second lowest percentage of the population that play any musical instrument.
How can I support the Alliance?
By giving your time, talent or money! You can click here to help fund our initiative. You can contact email@example.com to find out about volunteer opportunities and how to donate new instruments.