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After-School Music Program Helps Students Learn English

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Students playing music in the El Sistema Colorado program (credit: CBS)

Students playing music in the El Sistema Colorado program (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – It’s 4 p.m. on a bitter cold day outside Garden Place Elementary in North Denver. School’s out, but inside there’s the sound of music coming from children thrilled with the chance to stay after school through a program called El Sistema Colorado. It’s transforming the lives of children through music.

“This is really exciting to give them the chance to do something they wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience,” said Jan Brennan, El Sistema Executive Director.

El Sistema Colorado is just two years old and has already touched 600 Denver students through three schools in low-income neighborhoods. It’s well documented strong music education impacts overall learning in many ways.

“(There’s a) big difference. My son got more confidence in his self and his abilities,” parent Corrina Valdez said. “I’ve noticed his math skills really come up which is an area he struggled in greatly.”

Corrina’s fifth grader Aries is getting acquainted with three instruments and calls El Sistema a highlight of his day.

“The best part is we always get to play. And that’s usually the best part for me is practicing my instrument,” Aries said.

That practice is helping many of the children learn something even more pressing than music — speaking English.

“Most of the kids who start here at Garden Place and our other programs are not proficient in English. And the relationship from music to language acquisition is a really strong one,” Brennan said.

It’s also remarkable to see the El Sistema children go through their regular school schedule.

“I’ve seen tremendous growth in the way that kids are watching their behavior when they’re walking in the hallways,” teaching artist William Hinkie said. “And just knowing what to do when they get into the classrooms, that self-discipline, self-control.”

There are certainly remarkable results as El Sistema hits all the right notes.

LINK: El Sistema Colorado

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