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In the fall of 2010, Heart of Los Angeles forged a partnership with the Los Angeles Philharmonic to bring a youth orchestra to the Rampart community. Now in its third year, Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) at HOLA (YOLA at HOLA) is the second site of Gustavo Dudamel’s signature program. YOLA is inspired by El Sistema, the Venezuelan music education system that nurtured the Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director. El Sistema uses music education to help kids from impoverished circumstances achieve their full potential and learn values that favor their growth. At its core, El Sistema is about together­ness, a place where children learn to listen to each other and to respect one another. The founder of El Sistema, Jose Antonio Abreu (pictured above with a YOLA at HOLA student), states it simply:

“Music has to be recognized as an … agent of social development in the highest sense, because it transmits the highest values — solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion. And it has the ability to unite an entire community and to express sublime feelings.”

YOLA at HOLA has taken Maestro Abreu’s philosophy and adapted it to the needs of our community. Building from 80 students the first year, YOLA at HOLA is now 220 strong. When the students join the program they make a serious commitment to the orchestra, dedicating 15 hours per week after school and on weekends to intensive music education and academic tutoring. The music education piece includes classes in solfège, large and small ensembles, choir, conducting and musicianship. As students progress, regardless of their age, they are tasked with mentoring other students. They take pride in their successes and serve as role models for the other students.

The impact of the program can be felt well beyond the orchestra room. In a community with limited resources, YOLA at HOLA has brought classical music into neighborhood centers and the homes of hundreds of families. When asked what they like most about the program, many of the students respond that they enjoy being a part of the orchestra and performing at such world renowned venues as Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. They love performing and many dream one day of becoming professional musicians and one even has his sights on becoming a conductor. But what comes out more often than not is the understanding that there is something much greater than just learning to play music. In the words of one student “[I]t’s not so much about being a great musician, but being an inspiring musician so I can improve my community with my music.”

 
 
 

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HOLA provides underserved youth with exceptional programs in academics, arts and athletics within a nurturing environment, empowering them to develop their potential, pursue their education and strengthen their communities.


 

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