The idea of bringing El Sistema to North Carolina was born in the minds of three women, at nearly the same time. Lucia Powe, Kidznotes co-founder and North Carolina philanthropist was inspired by a 2008 “60 Minutes” special on the phenomenon of El Sistema in Venezuela, and its early adaptation in the United States. Lucia quickly told friend and child advocate Kathie Morrison about the special, and discovered in her a love of Latin America and children.

kidznotes_Powe063_0063Founding Kidznotes Executive Director Katie Wyatt was first inspired by El Sistema in 2005 as a violist under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel, the most famous graduate of the orchestras of El Sistema Venezuela. Katie was driven to pursue the impact orchestras can have in their communities, and became the Director of Education for the North Carolina Symphony from 2007-2009.

When Maestro Abreu, the creator of El Sistema won the TED prize and created the Abreu Fellows program in 2009, Katie leapt at the chance. Before leaving N.C. to start her training in El Sistema, Katie met Lucia and Founding Board Chair, Kathie Morrison, for coffee. They discovered their shared passion, and agreed to build El Sistema in North Carolina, starting from the ground up in Durham.

Kidznotes began its first orchestra in September 2010 with 60 students at 3 Title-1 Schools. In the fall of 2012, Kidznotes entered its third year and a new stage of organizational and programmatic growth.

Y.E. Smith and Eastway Elementary Schools were selected in our first year (2010-11) as sites within the “zone” of the East Durham Children’s Initiative, the most high-need and underserved schools in Durham Public Schools. A partnership with Durham Public Schools has made it possible for Kidznotes to bring after-school music programs to schools where our students are already enrolled.

Through competitive selection and vetting, E.K. Powe, Club Boulevard Humanities Magnet, and Maureen Joy Charter School were added in our second year (2011-12) to build on the Kidznotes’ model of public school partnership with music teachers and principals united in their passion for El Sistema.

Now in its fourth year, the program serves over 200 students in 5 Durham elementary school. The Raleigh pilot program began in the fall of the 2013-14 school year at East Garner and Walnut Creek elementary, welcoming 40 Raleigh students to the Kidznotes family. Looking forward, Kidznotes hopes to have a full 100-person orchestra in both Raleigh and Durham by 2020 and 500 students enrolled in each nucleo.

Find out more about Kidznotes schools and instruction on our “Program” page.