The Symphonic Youth Program (SYP) provides instrumental and vocal music instruction to students in grades 6th to 12th in public schools of Washington Heights, Harlem, Staten Island and the South Bronx. The main goals of the SYP are to promote music & academic proficiency, social skills and social justice awareness. The main objectives of the SYP focuses on developing the passion for music through guided session in aesthetic experiences, increase performance skills for admissions in specialized music programs, and to promote social skills and better academic achievement through group reflection and historical research.

The instruction takes place Mondays through Fridays at various times during the day and the after school schedule for 32 weeks per year, plus 4 weeks during the summer (the minimum hours per week is 6 in order to guarantee skill development, performance excellence and cultural & aesthetic understanding). The SYP can be structured as a full orchestra, a concert band, a jazz ensemble, a Latin band, a wind ensemble, a percussion ensemble, or a vocal ensemble. The program is structured by levels of achievement: basic, competent, proficient, and distinguished.

Each level represents one year of study. During each level the students will learn a selection of musical genres from each region of the world: North America, South America, Europe, Africa (sub-Sahara), the Middle East and the Oriental Regions of Northeast and Southeast Asia. This program of instruction is focused on the teaching of multicultural music instruction.

Basic level

This section will study simple arrangements of different musical styles. Performance techniques, history, theory, aesthetic awareness, use of available materials and activities in different types of music.

Competent level

Includes arrangements within a 2nd grade of difficulty. Performance techniques, history, theory, aesthetic awareness, improvisation, use of available materials and activities in different types of music.

Proficient level

Includes arrangements within a 3rd grade of difficulty. Performance techniques, history, aesthetic awareness, improvisation, arranging/composing, community involvement, use of available materials and activities in different types of music.

Distinguished level

Includes arrangements within a 4th & 5th grade of difficulty. Performance techniques, history, aesthetic awareness, improvisation, arranging/ composing, community involvement, use of available materials, activities and career opportunities in different types of music.
The grades of difficulty are based on the classifications presented by the New York State School Music Association’s Manual and the classification of levels presented by several music publishers. All program structures (orch., band, vocal, etc.) follow the curriculum levels and the repertoire classification.

The SYP also bridges the professional component of the MMG (the MME) with the students’ instruction by involving them every year in research with scholars and a professional composer who depicts a major historical event of his/her culture through the use of instrumental/vocal music. By engaging students in the study of historic events of different cultures, MMG seeks to instill respect for cultural difference and thereby promote global understanding and cultural awareness not only through research but also by experiencing the composer’s sensitivity by studying and performing his/her intention depicting the historical event through music.

The collaboration between the SYP and the MME not only promotes performance improvement by motivating our students to perform at the MMG Orchestra final concert but also promotes technology involvement by enhancing the show with the students’ research material which is converted into an impressive audio-visual presentation.

For the past 17 years, the MMG has commissioned music inspired on historical events from different parts of the world within the symphonic setting. These events and the music depicting those incidents are utilized in the SYP as the central curricular aspect in order to study and research history, perform the commissioned music and reflect on the participants’ aesthetic experiences. In addition, our faculty has been trained and receives continuous training for the teaching of this comprehensive teaching concept.

Schools’ Selection and Ensemble Structures

Each program at every school is planned with at least a year in advanced. The schools are required to create an steering committee (usually composed by administrators, teachers, parents and students) which is in charge of selecting the structure of the partnership (teacher-training for existing music programs, teacher training for classroom teachers, direct instruction for schools without music programs, integrating the history/music/reflection into the classroom or multicultural workshops on specific topics – all structures include our basic concept of history/performance/reflection). The steering committee also is in charge of fundraising, selecting participant teachers, students and themes to be studied. Depending on the selected structure, SYP participants receive instruction in theory, instrument techniques, the histories that inform cultural works, styles and genres, and opportunities and/or strategies for aesthetic reflection. They will receive further music exposure through in- and out-of-school performance opportunities such as student exchange performances among partnering SYP and neighborhood schools and trips to civic performances, cultural institutions and artist residencies. SYP participants are encourage to join the MMG Youth Ensemble or the MMG Orchestra, our professional ensemble, for proficient students. The participation in our ensembles is designed to retain, motivate and give practical experience in the Teaching History concept. This also aspect helps our advanced high school students with their community service requirement. This component has the support from Bronx Lebanon Hospital as a venue for regular performances in patient wards and ambulatory clinics.

Sample Schedule of Key Activities

July to August – Summer program (all new and current students received instrumental music instruction for four weeks from July through August), field trip to Broadway performances.

August – Meetings with new and current school partners in order to select participant classes, fix musical instruments, purchase new ones and prepare rehearsal facilities at each participant school.

September – Professional Development, SYP Participant Outreach and Recruitment:

Day #1 – Introduction to SYP and Curriculum Development

Classroom management: classroom/student supervision techniques
Curriculum review and lesson planning on cooperative, peer to peer learning and modeling
Student Motivation techniques: Community performances, stipends, scholarships, festivals/trips

Day #2 – Integration

Academic Integration: presentation of history and reflection into music training

Day #3 – Assessment

Assessment Techniques and Tools: self evaluation and student improvement and performance assessments. Instead of incorporating the New York State After-School Network Assessment Tools with current evaluation procedures, MMG decided to implement the assessment tools specially designed for the SYP by CAER which focused on students’ self assessment, teachers’ assessment and parents and administrators’ input. Moreover, the assessment process presented by CAER, demonstrated the impact of music instruction in the students’ academic achievement and the students’ social skills’ development

Day #4 – Music Rudiments

Music theory
Music ensemble organization and teaching
Organizing and teaching instrumental sectionals (woodwinds, strings, percussion, reeds, rhythm section)
Piano teaching techniques
October – All SYP programs begin, MMG Youth Ensemble Rehearsals Begin

The direct student instruction starts in October and continues until the end of June.

November – Center for Arts Education Research begins collecting program measurement data (pre-assessment), field trip to Lincoln Center.

December – Winter performances: SYP students and professional artists perform for the different school communities.

January – In-service professional development begins

In-service professional development starts on February 2013 and continues until April.

This PD segment focuses on History/Research and Affective Reflection. These sessions takes place during the MMG schedule and ran from January to April.

The History/Research aspect of the training is conducted by social studies and history specialists from the UFT Teacher Center. In this component, the trainers present events of major historical import that have been excluded from the mainstream curriculum. Some topics may include the United States Civil Rights Movement, the Ponce and Parsley Massacres, the Tiananmen Square Crisis, the Rwanda Genocide and many others. The topics are choose as historical events that represented the student population in the SYP and because of the importance and lack of exposure of these topics; an aspect that opened the intrigue and curiosity among the students and gave them the drive to research the events and their causes. Moreover, these topics kindled within students a sense of curiosity about history and interest in conducting research that they would likely not have had otherwise.

SYP participants are from predominantly low-income families living in underserved communities in the South Bronx, East Harlem and Washington Heights. Many of these young people have experienced hardships and traumas that are difficult for them to verbalize or otherwise express. For this reason, MMG also has the support of the Community Word Project, a non-profit organization that offers staff development to youth programs in order to help teaching artists in emotional literacy development. Community Word Project facilitators, known for their expertise in helping youth program staff focus on innovative ways to strengthen creative expression and literacy skills by way of poetry, visual arts, drama and music, presented a variety of techniques in which teaching artists could foster emotional literacy within SYP youth.

February – MMG Youth Ensemble; rehearsals and performances at Bronx Lebanon begin

March – Field trips to college performances (City College, Lehman College, Hostos Community College, Fordham University)

April – Spring Concerts (SYP students and professional artists)

May – NYSSMA Evaluations at New York University

June – MME final panel and concert presentation with SYP students. Graduation presentations, Center for Arts Education Research collecting program measurement data (post-assessment testing) and analysis procedures

July – Evaluation findings complete and preparation of report.


The SYP has achieved major positive outcomes. Over 2,500 students have been admitted into specialized music programs and 75% of our alumni have continued higher education studies. During the past 17 years, the program has achieved its goals of promoting instrumental music with a multicultural focus through the use of history and aesthetic reflection. Moreover, the school teachers at the participating schools have joined forces with our instructors in order to learn how to include our teaching concept into their classes.

One gratifying example is to see our strategies implemented in different classrooms at the participant schools: ex. – the application of lyrics to the blues’ structure in order to depict such topics as the civil right movement, the Sudan genocide or the Wounded Knee incident in the Native American culture. The continuous support of all these educators and their application of our comprehensive teaching concept give us strength to continue this multicultural journey.

Our students have performed with major artists such as Grammy Award Winners Mr. Eddie Palmieri and Mr. Ray Santos, and Jazz Legends Mr. Wynton Marsalis and Mr. Jimmy Heath. In addition to these accomplishments, the SYP has been awarded with the Union Square Award in 2008 and with the Gold Medal Performance at the NYSSMA Festival in New York University and the Performance Arts Center at Great Adventure for the past five years. Furthermore, the SYP was selected by the William T. Grant and the Center for Arts Education Research (CAER) at Teachers College, Columbia University in 2011/12 to study the effect of history and music reflection on music students in urban settings. This evaluation component is expected to continue this year. Moreover, the MMG and the Bronx Lebanon Hospital created in 2012 a collaborative project in which SYP advanced students at the high school level performs at their in-patient wards and ambulatory clinics in after school sessions. This collaboration provides a modest stipend for the students as a motivational aspect to continue their musical studies and the opportunity to fulfill their community service graduation requirement.


As mentioned above, the MMG collaborates with the Center for Arts education Research at Teachers College, Columbia University, the SYP assess its program implementation utilizing an experimental study with pre and post testing. The experimental study uses five control and five experimental groups (two in each school). The selection of students (stratified sample selection) will consists of two students per academic level: Level I/ Does Meet the Standards, Level II/ Developing Skills to Meet the Standards, Level III/Meets the Standards, Level IV/ Meets the Standards with Distinction / 8 students in each group, 2 groups per school (control and experimental). The testing includes the following components: observations, interviews, surveys, analysis of students’ journals and teacher’s logs. The collected data is tabulated and analyzed after each testing procedure (pre & post) and final report of the program outcomes is expected by the end of July 2013.

The research component in the SYP provides valuable data not only for the improvement of the students’ music skills but also for the impact of our curricular structure in the students’ academic achievement and their social skill development. From a total of eight participating schools in the SYP for 2011/12 the study focused on eight groups (four control and four experimental groups) of six students per group in four schools. The CAER evaluation provided correlations among the music components, the academic disciplines and the areas focused for the students’ social skill development. The most noticeable aspect of the evaluation was the outstanding improvement of students’ music skills and social skill development.

The jurors’ comments for the music aspect and the parents and teachers interviews validated the recorded statistical data in those areas. Other findings validated the correlation among social studies- music history- repertoire-ethical-diversity-interpersonal, all aspects dealing with human behavior and how human actions can affect the individual, their families and communities. The exercises, sight reading and repertoire also correlated to the affective aspects of inter/intra personal, ethics and aesthetics which are technical areas in music that promotes personal interpretation by developing performance skills which consequently will allow the students to articulate emotions musically. Furthermore, the aspects dealing with the scientific method are evident in the scores presented by the science component and the research process presented in the music history and the orchestra repertoire. The math and reading scores represented a decreased or no increase which is a reflection on the need to emphasize the research and reporting process in these curricular aspects.

On the other hand, the affective component reflected the highest scores and the need to express emotions and the eagerness of students to have a better understanding of this aspect in their lives. These findings were clearly evident in the interviews and observations with outstanding demonstrations of group cohesion, exceptional display of trust and an amazing understanding for external concerns. In addition to the CAER evaluation, the SYP brings participants students to the NYSSMA evaluation, the New York State agency for music education which provides group and individual assessment.

Population to be Served

Students with musical interest and commitment to the program are selected by their homeroom teachers and/or school administrators. Special education classes are encouraged to apply. An average of 50 to 100 students (according to the ensemble structure) are selected to participate in the school music program. The parents of these students are required to fill out a commitment form, in which they will state their support to the program and their consent for the music instruction.The parents and family members are encouraged to participate in the arts awareness activities (field trips to concerts, artistic venues, plays, etc.) and the public presentations at the school.

The geographic location of the SYP is in the South Bronx, Harlem and Upper Manhattan. With the recent addition of Staten Island schools, the ethnic distribution is roughly: 1% Asian; 22% African American/Black; 62% Hispanic/Latino; and 15% White.

Key Staff

Andrea Profili, Andrea serves as the Lead Music Instructor for SYP, has been working with MMG since 2010. Ms Profili is an Abreu Fellow at the New England Conservatory.

Rolando Briceno, Senior Lead Music Instructor, has been with MMG for 15 years. Rolando is one of the earliest products of Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu and the outstanding Venezuelan educational program “El Sistema”. He studied at the Eastman School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music, from which he earned Bachelor of Music and Master’s Degrees. He has taught music at Boys & Girls Harbor Conservatory, he has recorded and performed as a soloist with Venezuelan Symphonic Orchestra and with Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Mario Bauza and many others. His teaching experience includes Bronx Community College, East Harlem Music School, City College and New York University.

Juan Ubieras, Lead Instructor and master drummer and percussionist, received a Master’s in the Arts from Lehman college, and has 15 years of teaching experience with elementary, middle and high school students. He is skilled in a range of music genres, in a range of music genres, performing in Broadway theater, with classical orchestras, and with many celebrated Latin musicians.

Alberto Toro, Lead Instructor and professional flutist, saxophonist, vocalist, composer, and arranger. He obtained a Bachelor of Music in Woodwind Performance from Berklee College of Music in Boston and a Master Degree from the Aaron Copland School of Music. For the past twelve years he has been a music educator and band director for the New York City Department of Education. Alberto coordinates a large music program in a New York City Intermediate School conducting various ensembles, including a 110-piece Concert Band and a Jazz Band.

Lead music instructor’s requirements for the program include: bachelor’s degree, one year of teaching experience (as a teaching artist or classroom teacher), extensive knowledge of orchestral instruments and/or vocal techniques, familiarity with general history curriculum themes and ability to relate music and history in a referential aesthetic experience (a demonstration lesson is expected during the hiring process).

Assistants Instructors provide support to the Lead Music Instructor with the general lesson. They are required to have at least 60 credits in music, pedagogy and/or history. Essays ahead of time to get a feel for how long youll have to write and what you.