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Our profile this month focuses on a program with a track record for excellence!  Thank you to Lucy Coker and Dalogue Smith for sharing with the El Sistema USA community!

When was your program founded? 
The Community Opus Project was founded in 2010

How many sites / current students?
When we began, we provided after-school music to 65 students at 2 schools in the Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD). There was no in-school music offered at CVESD. Today, over 3,500 students at all grade levels are learning music in-school. Six schools now have full-time music teachers. Another 4 schools are to hire music teachers next year and more will be added each year until music is available to all students. 190 students are currently enrolled in SDYS’ afterschool programs which held at 3 campuses, but open to students from all 46 CVESD schools..

What are you most proud of?
We are very proud that our Community Opus Project has been successful at creating systemic change within a school district and that by sharing our experience we have been able to inspire other communities both within and outside our region to develop similar school partnerships. We are also very proud that so many students are now learning and enjoying music.

What is your dream for 5 years from now?  10? 50?
By 2020, CVESD will be half-way toward its goal of providing in-school music instruction to all students by 2025. A culture of music is developing throughout Chula Vista and is spreading throughout the San Diego region. At least 3 more school districts in the County have begun to hire music teachers for their new in-school music education programs. Afterschool music programs are proliferating as a first step toward in-school music.
By 2025, CVESD will have reached its goal of all its students learning music in school and other school districts are not far behind in providing music instruction to all their students. School districts offering less than excellent music education will feel the pressure to step up their game. Music education degrees will become one of the most sought after degrees in Southern California.
By 2065, most of the population in the Southwestern region of the U.S. will hardly recall a time when learning music was not offered by all schools! Other regions are not far behind. Audiences for all genres of music are at an all-time high.
What makes your el sistema inspired program unique?
Our Community Opus Project is unique because we are using the program to advocate for the return of in-school music education. We feel schools are the best equipped to provide high quality music instruction to the most students because they have funding, classrooms, personnel, and daily access to students. It is a continuing challenge to display the value of music education in a way that the district responds by budgeting for the programs on their own. We partnered with the Chula Vista Elementary School District, the largest K-6 district in California with 29,000 students, which had eliminated its music program more than 15 years earlier.
We began by providing free after-school music instruction and loaned instruments to 65 3rd graders at 2 schools. The program was our way of demonstrating the many benefits of learning music to parents, teachers, school administrators and the community. We also aligned our assessment methods with those of the district so that they could view the results and compare them to their own. Before the first year was out, the District was so impressed by the changes in the students and the increased parental engagement in their children’s overall education, they asked SDYS to expand the program to 200 students at 6 schools. They provided financial support to help make the growth possible. Before the 3rd year was over, the District Board was convinced of the value of learning music and made the commitment to reinstate a district-wide standards-based music education program with the goal of all students learning music by 2025.
Another unique aspect of the program has been the collaborative relationship SDYS and the District has forged. The Superintendent and top-level administrators have been very involved which has helped and that we are “outsiders” has permitted change to occur more quickly because we’ve been able to avoid bureaucratic obstacles.  When the District committed to starting a music program of its own, because they did not have music expertise on staff, they asked SDYS to provide professional assistance to get the program up and running.

San Diego Youth Symphony