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December 21, 2018:

Just 40 minutes north of Detroit in Pontiac, MI, Accent Pontiac has added a second site, grabbed the attention of the local press, and is a local partner with ESUSA for the 2019 El Sistema USA National Symposium! Read more below. 


About Accent Pontiac:

Mission & Vision: Strengthening Pontiac’s youth and community through equitable access to intensive and consistent music making. All children in Pontiac will achieve their full potential through equal access to quality music learning.

Number of Students Served: 190

Ages of Students Served: Grades 2-5

Number of Sites: 2


Stories from Tina Rowan, Executive Director of Accent Pontiac

When did Accent Pontiac start programming this year? What has been the most exciting part of your program’s start?

We launched programming September 24. This year, we are so excited to be able to launch a 2nd school site this year: Alcott Elementary School. We are now serving the 5th graders at Alcott with during and after-school programming, and offering bucket band and woodwind instruction at this site. We are also growing our programming at Walt Whitman Elementary School to serve 2nd-5th graders with during and after-school programming, offering bucket band and brass instruction.

Any great student or family stories?

This year we were able to hire one of our most consistent parent volunteers as a School Liaison/Program Assistant, Ebony Simms-Peoples. Ebony’s daughter has been in Accent Pontiac since the beginning of the program. As a parent volunteer, Ebony attended all Accent Pontiac field trips and performances, and has gone above and beyond by arranging carpools and helping to make sure all students are able to attend Accent Pontiac programming and performances. Now, as School Liaison/Program Assistant with Accent Pontiac, Ebony is one of the program’s biggest advocates. She not only gets to spend more time with her daughter, De’Onnie, but she is positively impacting all students in Accent Pontiac’s after-school program.

What are you most excited about this year for Accent Pontiac? 

I am looking forward to the programming at our new school site: Alcott Elementary School and serving additional Pontiac students! I am also looking forward to an increased number of Pontiac community performances we are planning for this year. In addition to performing for students’ peers and school community, we love getting them out in the community! Performances at Pontiac’s Trunk or Treat event, Holiday Extravaganza Parade, and Arts and Culture Crawl are already in the works, with more opportunities to come. Accent Pontiac students and families take pride in performing and representing the community at Pontiac events.

What are the biggest challenges you anticipate facing?

Many challenges come with program growth, especially when expanding from 1 site to 2. With almost double the students and staff, we anticipate challenges to keep all staff on the same page and to create consistency between sites. As we expand, we also anticipate challenges on creating a sustainable program for the long-term. We are committed to continuing with our elementary school-aged students through high school, and are working to ensure that we are able to continue to grow and serve them throughout the years.

What are you most excited about in your first year in the PRESTO Cohort?

This year, I’m excited to be connected with so many leaders of El Sistema-inspired programs and to learn from their knowledge and experience. There is so much combined experience between all of the cohort members and mentors, and I’m so excited for the opportunity to share success stories, talk through challenges, and learn from everyone.

A year from now, what do you hope to have learned/gained/accomplished by being a part of PRESTO?

As we grow and serve more students in Pontiac, I’m hoping to learn about how to create a sustainable model, and how to continue to focus on having high-quality, intensive, and in-depth programming for all the students we serve.


Teaching Artist Spotlight: Tia Harvey

About Tia:

Tia Harvey has been teaching at Accent Pontiac since the program started Bucket Band in January of 2017.

Special Note: Tia and her Accent Pontiac students will be presenting at the 2019 El Sistema USA National Symposium in a session entitled, “Drum City: Creative Composition, Bucket Band, and Music for Social Change”!  

“Tia’s focus on the social justice aspect of our music program makes her extremely special. She seamlessly incorporates teaching social skills: teamwork, leadership, respect, and focus into her bucket band and other percussion classes. She utilizes composition as a tool to empower our students by involving them in decision-making processes and encouraging them to use voices. She builds strong relationships with our students, pushing them to be their best while still making them feel loved and cared for. Tia is finishing up her last year at Michigan State University and will graduate with a Doctoral degree in Percussion Performance and Masters degree in Musicology. Despite her busy schedule, she is extremely dedicated to her Accent Pontiac students!” – Tina Rowan, Executive Director, Accent Pontiac


Accent Pontiac in the News!

Read more about what The Oakland Press had to say about Accent Pontiac’s work!

See Accent Pontiac at the Symposium!

Located a short drive from Detroit, you will see lots of Accent Pontiac at the 2019 El Sistema USA National Symposium. Check out the full schedule here! Want to visit their program during your time in Detroit, contact Tina Rowan at


In the Fall of 2018, El Sistema USA 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. You can learn more about PRESTO here.

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