On the first weekend of April, King School hosted its Eighth Annual El Sistema Residency. The event uses music ensembles as a means of communication and connection between communities of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Musicians from the Middle and Upper Schools joined visiting students from various El Sistema USA programs, including Stamford’s Project Music, for intensive music workshops.
This year’s residency included guest artists Armand Hall and Dan Trahey. Hall is the educational director and teaching artist for the Archipelago Project, a non-profit organization based on the Venezuelan El Sistema model. Trahey is the tuba player for the Archipelago Project. He also founded the El Sistema program Tuned In at the Peabody Conservatory.
Though the residency is an annual highlight for King’s Music Program, El Sistema is an ongoing presence on the campus. Stamford’s Project Music, modeled after El Sistema and founded by King’s Director of Performing Arts and Instrumental Music Coordinator Garrett Mendez, brings classical music to the city’s youth by providing free instruments, music instruction, mentorship, and opportunities for students to perform. The music empowers the students to build fundamental life skills and find pathways to realize their full potential.
The nucleus of Stamford’s Project Music is based at King, where 60 students come four days a week for 3 hours a day. The King location offers the program’s intensive site for the most skilled students. Project Music has satellite sites at Toquam Elementary and Cloonan Middle School, where beginner students study.
A bonus to Project Music being at King is the educational benefits that have come along simply by being on campus. For example, Middle School and Project Music students were showing interest in math, which prompted two teachers to start a math club that would be open to Project Music students too.
Founded in Venezuela in 1975, El Sistema is a music education program that provides free instruments and classical music education to impoverished children. Gustavo Dudamel, the celebrated conductor who led the Los Angeles Philharmonic to prominence and who will be the first Hispanic person to serve as conductor for the New York Philharmonic when he takes the role in 2026, credits El Sistema for his success in music.