It was easy to forget, during long days of research, pedagogy, panel discussions, box lunches, and cups of coffee, that my time in LA would end with a performance by the National Take a Stand Festival Orchestra. Remember when I mentioned mission moments? Well, the culmination of this symposium was a mission moment extraordinaire.

I sat in the third row of Walt Disney Concert Hall last night, eager to snap a good photo of Marcus on stage. I was so proud to see him walk out in his blue jeans, white t-shirt, and black jacket, and take his seat as first cello. He looked cool, confident, and engaged as he warmed up. Is this young man really only going into ninth grade?

I wasn’t prepared for the performance that followed. The music was powerfully and beautifully played – Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave was a particular highlight – but more affecting was the energy given off by every one of the 101 musicians. I spoke earlier on this blog about the state of flow and the thrill of seeing students enter it while playing. Imagine over 100 musicians, between the ages of 11 and 17, moving and flowing together as they perform music of the highest caliber. There was none of the timidity and reserve of typical teenagers; these kids literally danced like no one was watching. That I was able to watch was a privilege and a testament to the power and the reach of El Sistema.

As I type this post, I’m preparing to board a red-eye back home for North Carolina. I’ll be exhausted by the time I roll into the office in the morning. But I’ll also be energized by what I saw and heard last night, and armed with the contact information of dozens of colleagues who are willing to help however they can to make sure all of our Kidznotes students are striving toward the same goals as Marcus and the incredible Take a Stand Festival Orchestra.