Music is immensely important in the awakening of sensibility, in the forging of values and in the training of youngsters to teach others.
— Jose Antonio Abreu, founder, El Sistema
This is the most rewarding musical project in my life; I imagine that ONE Strings will have potent long-term ramifications for those students’ lives.
— Soovin Kim, Festival Artistic Director

The Integrated Arts Academy (IAA) at the H.O. Wheeler School is an arts magnet school, one of six public elementary schools in Burlington. The school has 300 K-5 students from 23 countries, speaking 30 languages. ONE (Old North End) Strings provides in-schools strings instruction and related activities for students at the school, seeking to eliminate traditional barriers to instrument instruction. The program is inspired by El Sistema, a worldwide educational movement that has been called "the future of music.”

During the 2016-17 academic year, the fourth year of our program, all 4th and 5th graders at IAA have group violin lessons twice a week for 20 weeks with violin teacher Kathleen Kono. In addition, there is a 6-week introduction to violin for the 3rd graders in the Spring. This program is made possible thanks to a series of grant from the Vermont Community Foundation, the support of private donors, and of the school’s PTO. Soovin Kim, the Festival’s Artistic Director, visited students a number of times during the school year, as did our Resident Ensemble.

What is El-Sistema?

El Sistema is a new model for social change, with music at its heart. In a parking garage in Caracas 33 years ago, Dr. José Antonio Abreu gathered together 11 children to play music. El Sistema was born. It now teaches music to 500,000 of Venezuela’s poorest children, demonstrating the power of ensemble music to dramatically change the life trajectory of hundreds of thousands of a nation’s youth while transforming the communities around them. Drawing on the work done by many El Sistema-inspired, we are building a program that is uniquely suited to the Integrated Arts Academy and to the school’s diverse community in the Old North End of Burlington.

What Next?

We are currently working on assessment tools, increased curriculum integration, and professional development and training for school staff in order to build a project that is sustainable. We are renting instruments currently, but plan to begin building a library of student instruments at the school.  

The Role of the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival

The staff and board of the Festival are deeply committed to ONE Strings as a key part of our mission to inspire a passion for chamber music by encouraging and providing educational programs for schoolchildren.


Many thanks to the Vermont Community Foundation, the Landmann Family Fund at the Vermont Community Foundation, Valerie and Bill Graham, Jody Kebabian, the school’s PTO, and our generous donors for helping to make this project possible.  Thanks to Kathy Reilly and Vermont Violins for instrument rentals and to the PTO at IAA for a grant to pay for the rentals.

Commissioners’ Corner

On March 6, 2014, representatives from the collaborating organziations discussed ONE Strings on the Commissioners’ Corner program. Participants included Rosina Cannizzaro, ED of the VYOA, Kathleen Kono, ONE Strings violin teacher, Joe Cleary, parent of two IAA students, Bobby Riley, Principal, and Victor Prussak, Coordinator of Magnet Schools for the Burlington School District.