The El Sistema program at the School City of East Chicago (SCEC) has transformed East Chicago youth by offering students the opportunity to explore orchestral music, which isn’t available through any other program in the city.


El Sistema, a program under the East Chicago Arts Initiative, is open to all 4th-6th grade students at all five East Chicago elementary schools. The program is held at Washington Elementary, but the school city buses students from other schools to and from practice every day. The program lasts from September through April and provides students with the opportunity to practice together after school four days a week.


Most importantly, El Sistema is free to all SCEC students, meaning that parents’ ability to pay will not affect whether a child gets to experience an orchestra and music education.


However, the benefits of El Sistema go far beyond the musical aspect. Being an after-school program, El Sistema also helps keep East Chicago kids off the streets and in a safe, supervised environment. Students also receive an after-school meal while at El Sistema, something that many of them do not get at home.


Additionally, El Sistema USA is a national program. The East Chicago branch is just one nucleon that is connected to all others across the country. This network provides students with connections and future opportunities that they would not have access to outside the program.


Finally, El Sistema brings families together. The East Chicago program offers regular ‘parent nights’ at which students perform what they have been learning for their parents, grandparents, and siblings. Each family also has access to a DVD of the performance to take home and watch together again and again. This keeps the family involved in what the child is doing and promotes encouragement and togetherness.


Historically, the program has been funded through grants from the Foundations of East Chicago (FEC). Although they are not currently being funded, the East Chicago El Sistema program will be able to apply for FEC funding again in December.


To learn more about El Sistema in East Chicago, visit



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