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Originally from South Africa, Monique Van Willingh is an educator, musician and advocate for social and racial justice with cultural humility and centering student and community voice as her central approach. As the Director of Cultural Equity and Belonging at the New England Conservatory of Music, Monique is committed to creating and sustaining spaces of belonging. 

In her past position as Director of Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Program at Longy School of Music of Bard College, Monique supported the Longy mission of preparing musicians to make a difference in the world. She oversaw Longy’s one-year music education credential program in Los Angeles, that focused on music pedagogy, performance, and social justice. 

Monique serves as the Vice Chair of the El Sistema USA national board. In this capacity, she co-leads the ESUSA Equity-centered Pedagogy Working Group, recently co-led ESUSA’s 5-year strategic planning process and serves on the Racial Diversity and Cultural Understanding Committee. She also serves on the Advisory Board for the Inter-generational Orchestra at Heart of LA (HOLA), an after-school El Sistema-inspired youth program. Monique has completed the Community Counselor Course through the Southern California Counseling center, which uses social justice as the central lens through which to understand and support communities dealing with trauma and has been trained in Restorative Justice Council (Talking circles).

A graduate of the Sistema Fellows Program at the New England Conservatory of Music in 2013, Monique explored the Venezuelan El Sistema music for social change program model. She then completed the Master of Arts in Teaching Degree at Longy School of Music of Bard College situated at the Youth Orchestra LA (YOLA) at Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA). Returning to the HOLA family as Music Director just over a year later. Monique was dedicated to inspiring and activating students to become leaders in their communities and attain their best musically. The HOLA Music Program served over 275 youth and it was Monique’s greatest joy to lead this program as Director for 2.5 years. 

Monique is committed to deepening her impact as an arts education leader through culture building, strategic visioning, developing frameworks for educational and racial transformation, training music teachers and teaching artists to embody Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies, and creating brave and safe spaces where all can bring their full selves to the creative process. She is a “bridge-builder” and is passionate about exploring courageous dialogue that is at the intersection of inclusion, access, belonging, collaboration, socio-cultural awareness, student voice and musical excellence. 

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