Boulder MUSE is a free afterschool music program for underserved children and adolescents in Boulder County.
We are a safe and nurturing community of students, teachers, volunteers and parents dedicated to giving young people the optimal environment in which to thrive, one where the study of music is the primary focus. Our program exists to help children and adolescents develop love for music and a love for themselves and each other. There is also our aspiration to improve the often difficult life trajectory of our student population. Comprehensive music education is a vehicle for social change, where, through the rigors and joys of making music in a supportive community, youth become empowered to use their leadership skills for their good and the good of their families and communities.
Music education and its positive effect on brain development is well documented.
Dr. Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern University’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory discovered “tremendous development in the areas of the brain responsible for sound processing and verbal abilities” in her study of students at the Harmony Project, an El Sistema inspired program in Los Angeles (Frontiers in Psychology, December 16, 2014). Children growing up in low socioeconomic circumstances begin kindergarten already behind their more fortunate peers. Being engaged in language from infancy on, being read to and even being around print in the home, all contribute greatly to a child’s facility in developing literacy. Growing up speaking a language other than English may create roadblocks to English literacy and academics in general. Parents of these children may not speak English, and even if they do, they may not have the ability nor the time to help their children with grade level homework.
Building an orchestra is the goal of MUSE’s instrumental music program. Students in the orchestra come to understand that it takes all members working together to create something of beauty and value. Every student learns to play an orchestral instrument in
group lessons. From the very beginning, every student participates in the orchestra, playing parts written to suit his or her current level.
Boulder MUSE takes its inspiration in large part from the El Sistema movement created by Sr. José Antonio Abreu, a Venezuelan conductor and former economist. Sr. Abreu created El Sistema in 1975 in his garage with 11 students and borrowed instruments. He believes that through the combination of personal responsibility and commitment to the community children can learn to create positive social change. El Sistema is now a nationwide program in Venezuela.
El Sistema has inspired schools all over the world. Most of the major cities in the U.S. have at least one such school; Los Angeles has eleven. El Sistema Colorado, based in Denver at two elementary schools and one middle senior high, currently serves 200 youth, ages 8 to 18. Observing and volunteering with them gave us a rich knowledge base which helped us create MUSE in many respects. The awareness that Boulder County did not have and truly needed such a school bred the impetus to start one. Thus Boulder MUSE was born.