About Us


Where is YMA’s Nucleo Located

The First Reformed United Church of Christ, at 513 W. Front Street in Burlington, North Carolina is sponsoring and housing the Young Musicians of Alamance “nucleo” as a non-religious program.

When Did the Program Open?

Buoyed by the support of the YMA’s enthusiastic Board members representing a variety of education, music, and community service organizations, the staff and faculty of YMA worked tirelessly to bring a high quality program to life. In the Spring of 2015, eight first graders from Burlington’s Eastlawn Elementary School enrolled in Saturday classes for the rest of the 2014-15 school year. At the end of the semester, the Teaching Artists prepared the children to give a concert for their parents on June 6. The Eastlawn first graders – who were then second graders – returned in July when their school opened again.

At the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, nine first and second graders from Eastlawn joined the program. In January of 2016, after-school classes were begun at Eastlawn and in February, 2016, students from North Graham Elementary were recruited.

YMA’s goal to become an intensive after-school and Saturday music program and expand its enrollment is going forward. Now, new Young Musicians of Alamance are being recruited from Eastlawn and North Graham, and additional school-wide Title I schools –Newlin, and Andrews Elementaries. As of October, 2017, our enrollment is 40 students.

As new school years begin, presently enrolled students receive the next level of instruction.

Why Music? Why El Sistema?

Our program is based on the El Sistema model of youth orchestras, which started in Venezuela and has now spread worldwide.

Jose Antonio Abreu, the founder of El Sistema, explains the foundation for Sistema this way:

“An orchestra is a community where the essential and exclusive feature is that it is the only community that comes together with the fundamental objective of agreeing with itself. Therefore the person who plays in an orchestra begins to live the experience of agreement. And what does the experience of agreement mean? Team practice – the practice of the group that recognizes itself as interdependent, where everyone is responsible for others and the others are responsible for oneself. Agree on what? To create beauty.” 

Further, a large mass of university research studies have repeatedly shown that music training is positively associated with more complex brain development, higher school achievement (e.g., math, reading, SAT scores, graduation rates, etc.) and a host of other gauges of long-term social, economic and emotional well-being. These studies also indicate that the earlier children – especially poor children – are provided with intensive music, the greater the impact or benefit. Our program is based on the El Sistema model of youth orchestras, which started in Venezuela and has now spread worldwide.

El Sistema programs around the world are known for rescuing young people in extremely impoverished circumstances from the environment of drug abuse and crime into which they would likely otherwise be drawn. As “El Sistema”, its goal is to use music for the protection and enhancement of children’s lives.

Furthermore, the opportunity for educational enrichment in a safe and nurturing environment promises greater readiness for school among young children in low-income communities. Music is one way to counter some of the life-long disadvantages that are the result of a lack of economic stability, helping develop a positive sense of self and community, and empowering students. For instance, frequent performances of small ensembles and combined orchestral groups help develop pride and self-confidence in our students.

Gustavo Dudamel had his beginnings in El Sistema and is now a world-renowned conductor. According to Dudamel, “music saved my life and has saved the lives of thousands of at risk children in Venezuela…like food, like health care, like education, music has to be a right for every citizen. In addition to being the present conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Dudamel is dedicated supporter of the El Sistema-model Youth Orchestra of Las Angeles (YOLA) and of The Harmony Project, also an El Sistema-like program in Los Angeles.

Sistema Website Links:




More About YMA

In addition to intensive music instruction, Young Musicians of Alamance as an El Sistema model program will focus on important social values such as respect for self and others, sharing of assistance and resources, mutual support and caring, self-discipline, and hard work. They will become learning and performing members of an exciting and caring community. And the students will receive nutritious snacks and a nutritious meal.

The organization is involved in important community organizations, and in every way plans to become part of the fabric of the Alamance County-Burlington community. In that way the increasing numbers of Young Musicians of Alamance will share in and enjoy all of the academic and social benefits of intensive music instruction in a caring community, and the life-changing benefits being realized in other, similarly-developed and organized programs. And Alamance County will realize the benefits of having children schooled in this program attending their schools and residing in their community.

 El Sistema in North Carolina
Two other El Sistema-model sites in North Carolina are described below.  The website links for each site are included with the description:


Among many flourishing El Sistema-model programs in the United States, KidzNotes, serves both Durham and Raleigh, NC, under the direction of Nick Malinowski.

The KidzNotes program has discovered through independent evaluation that “Kidznotes students are demonstrating positive development across a variety of indicators, including musical proficiency, academic performance and personal/social growth.

In qualifying Kidznotes’ impact on school success when compared to their peers, data indicates the following of students participating in Kidznotes:

  • Attend school more often;
  • Start from behind in terms of school-readiness for the 3rd or 4th grade; however, after 1-2 years of Kidznotes, score at or on-par when compared to state mean scores on end of grade tests for their schools and grades;
  • Are more frequently identified as “A” or “B” students in the classroom;
  • Are more willing to ask for help when they need it;
  • Are more frequently identified as having self-determination and persistence[1]


MusicWorks!: A Program of the Asheville, NC Orchestra

El Sistema – Inspired

Tom and Julie Leever funded Bravo Waterbury, an El Sistema-inspired program that has been operating successfully in Waterbury, Connecticut for three years.

The Leevers moved to Hendersonville and wanted to create a program in this area that closely follows the Leever Foundation mission, which is to create opportunities for children to fulfill their potential and become productive members of society. As such, 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 underserved populations in the city of Asheville.

“Asheville has a great symphony, a vibrant community that supports arts and culture, and a community that really cares about its children.”

-Tom Leever.

The new program would be known as MusicWorks!. It is an intensive artistic and social program that uses music education as a transformative and empowering tool to teach life skills.

A committee of community leaders came together to select a site and search for a Program Director. They selected Hall Fletcher Elementary School in West Asheville, 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. 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.


[1] From the KidzNotes website, at Kidznotes.org

 Back to Top