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El Sistema USA Invests $1 Million in Music Education Programming

El Sistema USA, a national membership association dedicated to supporting programs to effect social change through music, launched a 3-year, $1 million-dollar investment into 13 organizations in 11 states across the country to bring free music education to underserved youth.

The Program for Rising El Sistema Organizations (PRESTO) is a significant financial investment to support organizational growth and capacity development, and also provides professional development and mentorship resources investing in organizational leadership.

“Our goal is to support innovation and growth in the El Sistema movement across the United States. The PRESTO program is our way of providing that support through resources and training for young organizations exhibiting great potential,” said El Sistema USA’s Executive Director, Katie Wyatt. “It is thanks to the vision of the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation and their belief in our work that El Sistema USA is able to make this $1 million-dollar investment into El Sistema-inspired organizations that have shown early initiative and displayed exemplary work.”

The one-million-dollar grant will support the development and sustainability of the El Sistema movement in the United States. In partnership with Duke University’s Center for Nonprofit Management, PRESTO grantees will receive a Certificate in high-level professional development training in management and leadership. They will also each be assigned a mentor from within the field of El Sistema USA, supporting their El Sistema-inspired learning.

“The Paul M. Angell Family Foundation is pleased to support El Sistema USA’s PRESTO, with the confidence that it will help serve many students and communities through music education and exciting ensemble performances. We offer our congratulations and best wishes to the awardee organizations,” said Charles T. Angell, President of the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation.

All applicants were a part of a national competitive application and review process. The following 13 organizations have been accepted into the PRESTO program and awarded funding:

Concurrent with the launch of PRESTO, at the July 2018 meeting of the Board of Directors of El Sistema USA, Christine Taylor Conda, Director of the Reach Teach Play education programs at Ravinia, North America’s oldest and most musically diverse music festival, has been named Chair of the El Sistema USA board of directors for a one-year term. She has been a member of El Sistema USA’s board for two years.

“The children in all of our programs nationwide deserve the highest levels of artistic and social support.  I’m honored to serve on the board with my colleagues who share this view and are passionate about supporting the 20,000 kids now benefitting from El Sistema initiatives,” Taylor Conda said. “As board members, we are stewards of ESUSA and have a tremendous responsibility to the el Sistema-inspired community. At Ravinia, I have witnessed how truly great boards operate to advance the missions of the organization. In fact, I am forever grateful to Ravinia’s Women’s Board for initiating our education programs. I hope to bring those experiences to bare during my tenure as ESUSA board chair.”

Taylor Conda has been director of education at Ravinia for 16 years. With counsel and major funding from the all-volunteer Women’s Board, which created Ravinia’s education initiatives in the 1960s, she has grown these programs to serve more than 85,000 people annually throughout Chicagoland. Armed with that board’s long-range plan identifying El Sistema as an important opportunity, Christine developed Sistema Ravinia, starting student orchestras in budget-strapped schools without music programs of their own, by providing all the instruments and the El Sistema instructors.

“Through Christine’s work with our Women’s Board, we have all seen worlds open for the children who have picked up instruments for the first time. We see their joy turn to passion and then pride,” said Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman. “We at Ravinia couldn’t be prouder that Christine is sharing her own passion and profound experience with orchestra leaders around the country.”

She had previously served as Program Director of the Forum Network at Boston’s Pubic Broadcasting Service, WGBH, and as Executive Director of the Boston Music Educations Collaborative. She earned her B.A. in sociology with a focus on urban education from Harvard University and Master of Music in Vocal Performance and a Music in Education certification from the New England Conservatory of Music.

Media Inquiries Please Contact:
Katie Wyatt, Executive Director of El Sistema USA

919-451-0077 or

About El Sistema USA (ESUSA)

The mission of El Sistema USA is to support and grow a nationwide movement of programs inspired by El Sistema to effect social change through music for children with the fewest resources and the greatest need. El Sistema USA’s diverse membership across the United States represents programs that serve some of the most vulnerable communities and children in the country. We aim to provide connections to knowledge and innovation, advocacy, and leadership development for program directors, teaching artists, students, and volunteers. Members collaborate to share resources, values, aspirations, and advocacy efforts. El Sistema USA serves three major purposes: strengthening existing nucléos through capacity development and research, encouraging the formation of new nucléos through providing resources, connections and training, and building awareness of the El Sistema movement at large throughout the United States.  Learn more at


About the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation

The Paul M. Angell Family Foundation makes grants in three priority areas: Conservation, Performing Arts and Social Causes. Learn more at

About Christine Taylor Conda

Christine Taylor Conda is the 2018-19 Chairwoman of the Board of Director of El Sistema USA, and Director of REACH*TEACH*PLAY Education Programs for the Ravinia Festival (2002 – Present). Under her leadership, Ravinia provides a myriad of music education programs throughout Chicago and Lake County, serving over twenty thousand students per year. Prior to working at Ravinia, Ms. Taylor was the executive director of the Boston Music Education Collaborative(1993-2001), a partnership of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, New England Conservatory, WGBH and the Boston Public Schools. In both posts she has been responsible for developing and expanding exemplary music programs, implementing those programs in public school systems and providing professional development to educators and artists. Her oversight of these programs includes strategic and curriculum planning, managing a roster of teaching artists, board management and fundraising.

An accomplished lyric soprano, Ms. Taylor received her M.M. in Vocal Performance with a Music in Education certification from the New England Conservatory. She received a B.A. in Sociology with a concentration in Urban Education from Harvard University.



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