West Side students playing at Ravinia Pavillion in Highland Park on May 21. | Provided

Sistema Ravinia, part of Ravinia’s Reach Teach Play: Play Programs, a music education program for students in the third through eighth grades across Chicago and Lake County public schools, has been serving students in Austin for nearly 10 years.

On May 21, West Side students were able to showcase their skills at the famous Ravinia Pavilion in Highland Park.

Students arrived at the site by bus, and parents and family were also welcome to take a program-sponsored bus ride.

Although this recital was only open to family and friends of performing scholars, Alex Rodriguez, the site manager at Sistema Ravinia Austin, said they hope to be able to put on more community performances in the future. Rodriguez said the program also hopes to enroll more students next academic year.

“The instrument and lessons are free of charge to families,” Rodriguez said. “Our goal is to make education accessible and engaging without worrying about cost.”

Currently, the program is available throughout the academic year to students at Catalyst Circle Rock and T.M. Clark Elementary schools in Austin. This year marked the first time since 2019 that students have been in-person for the program.

“It’s been so amazing to be able to teach scholars in person again,” Rodriguez said. “Our virtual programming was amazing but it’s exciting to be able to engage scholars in live music again.”

Last month, scholars showcased what they’d been practicing all year at Ravinia’s Spring Celebration.

“We want to engage scholars more outside of the daily ensemble and the recital,” Rodriguez said. “We hope to do more community performances and we want to have students performing at open-houses to hopefully encourage their peers to join.”

While music education is the goal, Rodriguez said that there have been students enrolled in Sistemia Ravinia who have gone on to pursue music beyond elementary and high school.

“We’ve had scholars who have gone on to become part of the Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative (CMPI), whose goal is to prepare gifted orchestral students for conservatory programs,” he said.

CMPI, like Ravinia, also aims to eliminate the financial barriers for low-income students in order to give them access to music education, creating a pathway for a career in music.

More on the Program:

For those interested in Sistema Ravinia and Ravinia’s other Reach Teach Play: Play Programs, visit: www.ravinia.org/RTP_Play.

CONTACT: samantha@austinweeklynews.com