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I had the opportunity last week to speak at the 2014 Take a Stand* Symposium. This is the third year of this international gathering of people interested and/connected to the El Sistema movement. I served on a panel in a series of workshops aimed at helping people who are interested in starting their own El Sistema inspired program. Heart of Los Angeles is now in the fourth year of our partnership with the LA Phil and our YOLA at HOLA youth orchestra program has over 225 young musicians enrolled. We have learned a lot during these past four years and it was a privilege to share with the group my insights on what it takes to forge a strong and lasting partnership. Heart of Los Angeles is celebrating our 25th anniversary this year and we have deep roots in our community. To maximize our resources and reach as many kids as possible, we have built partnerships with a number of organizations, both public and private. It is the experiences we have had with these partners that has guided our partnership with the LA Phil.

There were a number of things we thought about when we first began talking to the Phil about starting a youth orchestra at HOLA. The most important question needed to be answered was did they have the contextual competence to succeed. Did the Phil understand HOLA, our community and the families we serve? Were we coming to the table with the same goals and was the Phil able to communicate in a way that would be compatible with HOLA’s open lines of communication? I spent some time “vetting” the Phil and the answers to all the questions were “yes!” HOLA is a relatively small organization and I needed to get comfortable that it would be a true partnership. Now, four years later, I can truly say that the we have a strong and thriving partnership. But it hasn’t always been easy. Like any relationship, issues come up that need to be addressed. Things we hadn’t thought about caused some hiccups and after year two, we took a course correction and made some adjustments to our joint venture agreement that were essential to the program’s success. As we look toward the future, it is the strength of our partnership and our ability to communicate in an open and honest fashion that serves as the foundation for the expansion and sustainability of YOLA at HOLA.

*Take a Stand – a partnership of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Longy School of Music of Bard College, and Bard College – is an innovative initiative that supports social change through music.


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