After seeing Maestro Abreu receive the TED Prize at TED 2009, I decided to help make his wish come true. On December 4, 2009, Sistema Fellow Stanford Thompson made a special presentation at the inaugural TEDxPeachtree conference in Atlanta. The subject of Stanford’s talk was "What if El Sistema Was To Come To Atlanta?" Now led by Sistema Fellow Dantes Rameau and founded in 2010, the Atlanta Music Project provides intense music education for underserved youth right in their neighborhood. Inspired by Venezuela’s El Sistema, our after-school, youth orchestra and choir programs take place 3-5 days a week for 2 hours each day. The Atlanta Music Project is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and has now grown to serve nearly nearly 150 children across 4 sites in some of Metro Atlanta's most at-risk neighborhoods. AMP believes the pursuit of musical excellence leads to the development of confidence, creativity and ambition, thus sparking positive social change in the individuals and the communities it serves. Through the generosity of individuals, major foundations and the City of Atlanta, the program has raised more than $750,000 in three years! From an "idea worth spreading" to a sustainable community program helping our youth attain their dreams, whatever they may be!
Describe a "good failure" in your process.
It is important to adapt to changing circumstances. Through a meticulous selection process, the organization was able to filter out options that would have ultimately had an adverse impact on the launch of the program. It is critical to be clear in your strategy and be able to communicate that strategy effectively to the community.
What are the three key lessons you learned?
Many lessons were learned in starting this organization, which Sistema Fellows Dantes Rameau and Aisha Bowden have excelled in bringing to life. What are the lessons learned? 1) You need a champion who has a well articulated vision. 2) Building a donor base takes time and much hard work. Use all available resources, including social media and crowd-sourcing. 3) Build a strong coalition of stakeholders, so that you can create sustainability and build a powerful force for social change.
What was the biggest challenge or biggest surprise?
The biggest surprise was how quickly the city embraced the program. Being able to gain the financial support of both the mayor's office as a major corporate foundation before proving a successful outcome was testament to the charisma and passion of the Executive Director and Co-Founder, Dantes Rameau! In addition, I would add that the program is humbled by being able to implement two (2) successful crowd-sourced fundraising programs which allowed not only the first program site to launch, but also launch its most recent expansion, an El-Sistema inspired choral program!
How would you describe your project to a small child?
One instrument, one child, one life. The Atlanta Music Project gives you the tools to maximize your life potential, through the learning of music.