Since opening its doors in September 1999, Conservatory Lab Charter School has always believed in the power of music to transform children’s lives. From its inception, Conservatory Lab Charter School has aspired to serve as a national model of music-infused elementary education. Music at this school is like a heart that pumps and beats to infuse vitality into all the aspects of the school community. El Sistema was incorporated into the school day in September 2010 and has since greatly strengthened the artistic and communal core of the school.
The mission of El Sistema at Conservatory Lab embraces much of the philosophy of El Sistema founder Dr. Antonio Abreu, and many of the programmatic choices were inspired by Venezuela; however, the program itself serves the needs of the school and responds to the interests and skills of its teachers. While El Sistema in Venezuela is primarily after school, El Sistema at Conservatory Lab is completely immersed in the school day, with classes scattered throughout the morning and afternoon. These classes include seven orchestras, three wind ensembles and a percussion ensemble, music literacy, and instrumental technique classes with Resident Artists, professional musicians who are both accomplished performers and passionate teachers. In K1 and K2, students are immersed in a pre-orchestral early childhood program, culminating in the construction of a paper-mâché orchestra at the end of their K2 year. In 1st grade, all students begin with a stringed instrument. Flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, and percussion are offered as students progress to grades 4 and up. As in Venezuela, students use their newfound knowledge to contribute to their community by performing frequently for their peers and throughout the local and regional community, and teaching each other.
Every one of our students receives 60 minutes of music instruction every single day. This instruction consists of full orchestra rehearsals, sectional rehearsals, one-on-one lessons with resident artists or peers, and small group instruction. Students are challenged with level-appropriate music that aims to build confidence in their abilities, a fond appreciation and respect for music, and a sense of pride, accomplishment, and joy with every performance. [For example, our Dudamel Orchestra, consisting of students in grades 6-8, performed “Egmont Overture” by Beethoven at the Massachusetts State House for their 2016 winter performance.] They’re also given a multitude of opportunities to perform throughout the year, from classroom concerts for their fellow schoolmates and teachers to full orchestral performances for the public from the Strand Theatre in Dorchester to Boston’s Historic DCR Hatch Memorial Shell. These opportunities teach our students how to be good performers in real performance environments, and motivate them to hone their musicianship skills.
Our students are well-known for their poise and the sense of fun with which they perform, which is why they’ve been invited to perform at the Massachusetts State House for the last three years in the row, and why they’re invited to perform in public gathering spaces like the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade, Sanders Theatre, the Longy School of Music, the Boston Public Library and the Kroc Center.