Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Opening Kids’ Minds and Lives to Music

Nat Hentoff on "el Sistema" - an innovative approach to teaching music to young people

Reporting on education is as strong a passion of mine as jazz and the Constitution. In the 1950s, I came upon a public elementary school in Brooklyn where most of the kids were from low-income families. Some needed free breakfast at school. The principal was ahead of his time as an educator, in that in addition to the standardized tests he was mandated to give, he had in his office the names and individual records of each student, whose progress or lack of it he followed.

What surprised me was that he also had all the kids in the second grade learning to play violin. He’d gotten a grant to supply the instruments after he was drawn to a new method in Japan that taught the violin engagingly from an early age. “Of course,” he told me, “they have to be taught the basics of reading, math and all. But having the confidence to speak for themselves in music will help them become lifelong learners.”

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published