Results tagged “Dudamel” from ARTicles

Okay, now for a little good news. Local though it may be, I figure we can all take heart and maybe other cities can benefit from the experience. It concerns Renaissance Arts Academy in Eagle Rock, which is a stone's throw from downtown Los Angeles. I learned that RenArts (as this music and performing arts public charter school is affectionately called) was recently named the highest scoring middle school and the second highest scoring high school in the LA Unified School District.

That's a monster big deal. There are about 350 middle and high schools in L.A. (including magnets and charters). But the thing about RenArts is it's only five years old. To get in, you don't have to audition. Just take a lottery number and pray.

During the day its student body -- 55% of whom are from economically disadvantaged families, 12% of whom are Special Education students, 54 % of whom are Hispanic/Latino, 29% Caucasian, 12% African American, 3% Asian/Pacific Islander and 2% Native American-- learn the arts from professionals. Arts are completely integrated with academics. 

After school, a vitiminized Conservatory program offers professional arts training to 250 at-risk and underserved students (which is nearly the whole student body). The Conservatory boasts three dance companies! Three orchestras!! Multiple chamber groups and two choirs!!! They are mixed-age. And they have good reputations from people other than the students' kin. I've heard full-throttle praise from unaffiliated arts experts who know the difference between "inept, but promising," and "accomplished."

No wonder RenArts has captured the attention of the LA Philharmonic. Its soon-to-be music director, 27-year old Gustavo Dudamel trained as a violinist, composer and conductor as a youth within El Sistema -- a program not entirely unlike RenArts Conservatory though far more extensive and institionalized. El Sistema spared Dudamel and the many, many other Venezuelan kids who might otherwise have languished in ghettos, joined gangs or suffered from next to no education. Possibly. 

A hundred percent of RenArts students graduate. Every single grad is pursuing further education. The arts have everything to do with it. Read the RenArts' mission statement if you want to weep -- because it's not just words on the screen. This is real.

As real as is this YouTube snippet of Dudamel and the El Sistema-trained Simon Bolivar Orchestra in 2007, rocking the house with Leonard Bernstein's "Mambo." If L.A. school kids can follow this path, watch out!

March 11, 2008 12:23 PM |


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