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The recordings from our summer Seminario are ready!

Please join us on October 1, for a Live Album Drop Party on YouTube. If you’re not able to make it, we’ll send you a recording!

October 1st, 7 pm ET
Live on El Sistema USA’s YouTube

“When I started these classes at the beginning of the week, I thought I was not a good trumpet player. But now I understand that I am.” – Jaden, Seminario Student

The August 10-14 week-long experience hosted by El Sistema USA and the Collective Conservatory was a virtual seminario experience for young musicians from 8 programs from the Northeastern region of ESUSA’s North American movement. Seminarios are a practice of El Sistema in which young musicians from various organizations and locales come together for an intensive music-making period – with the goal of boosting their performance on their instruments, learning new skills, and making new friends. Seminarios are how many young musicians begin to get a picture of the larger El Sistema movement and gain an understanding of how they fit into the broader musical world. In response to the pandemic, El Sistema USA is hosting virtual regional seminarios in order to build community locally amongst ESUSA member organizations. The eight participating organizations are from among the 40 El Sistema-inspired programs in the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada, from a movement of approximately 130 El Sistema-inspired programs in the United States and Canada.

The 2020 ESUSA Northeastern Seminario students spent the week with the Teaching Artists of the Collective Conservatory learning about the origins of the 12-bar blues through Omar Thomas’ Sharp Nine. Born to Guyanese parents in Brooklyn, New York in 1984, Omar moved to Boston in 2006 to pursue a Master of Music in Jazz Composition at the New England Conservatory of Music after studying Music Education at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He is the protégé of lauded composers and educators Ken Schaphorst and Frank Carlberg, and has studied under multiple Grammy-winning composer and bandleader Maria Schneider.

From Omar Thomas’ website: Sharp Nine is a grooving, stomping 12-bar blues in Bb, written in a straight-eighths New Orleans ragtime-style march, which pays homage to jazz cornetist and early jazz pioneer Charles Joseph “Buddy” Bolden. It is a first and significant step in my writing towards bridging the gap between the worlds of traditional wind ensemble and improvisation in a jazz context. Sharp Nine serves a vehicle to introduce young musicians to the rich sounds of natural and altered tensions on dominant chords, and to give them the opportunity to take choruses of improvisation using the blues scale. I’ve included a blues improvisation beginner’s guide so that anyone and everyone can give it a shot!

From Omar Thomas’ website: The only known photograph of Charles “Buddy” Bolden (1877-1931), a Black American cornetist who was quintessential in the development of New Orleans-style ragtime, which later developed into jazz. He is standing next to the string bass.
Courtesy of the William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University.

“Being part of something larger than yourself is what playing in an orchestra is all about. It’s what the El Sistema movement is founded upon, that the orchestra serves as a metaphor for society. Through partnering with the Collective Conservatory to bring young musicians together online, we’re continuing to foster that sense of identity as being part of the larger global citizenry.” Katie Wyatt, President and CEO, El Sistema USA.

The Collective Conservatory’s residency with the 2020 El Sistema USA Northeastern Seminario is made possible by generous funding from Rodman for Kids Foundation and Alan and Lisa Dynner.

Participating programs:

  • Paterson Music Project (NJ)
  • Sistema Toronto (CAN)
  • D’Addario Foundation – Ascente Chamber Orchestra (NY)
  • Boston Music Project (MA)
  • Kids 4 Harmony (MA)
  • Project Music (CT)

Collective Conservatory Personnel:

  • Daniel Trahey (El Sistema USA Board Member), Co-Founder
  • Pete Tashijan, Co-Founder
  • Natalie Frakes, Founding Curator
  • Garrett Mendez, Founding Curator
  • Armand Hall (El Sistema USA Board Member), Founding Curator
  • Chris Baker, musical contributor
  • Ashleigh Summers Baker, musical contributor
  • Amy Owens- Founding Curator, Director of External Affairs


  • Charles Williams
  • Tyree Huddleson
  • Keyona Carrington
  • Jelil Missouri
  • Lewis Williams

Guest Artists:

  • Colin Walters
  • Carlton Washington
  • Thornetta Davis
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