El Sistema USA and Duke: Advancing the Power of Music for Human Development (2017-2018)

An emerging field in education and human development, El Sistema is the evidence-based system of classical music for social change founded in Venezuela in 1975 by economist and conductor Jose Antonio Abreu. El Sistema-inspired programs are intensive youth music programs that seek to affect social change by empowering children with the fewest resources and greatest need through the ambitious pursuit of musical excellence.

With 120 nonprofit members and affiliates, El Sistema USA (ESUSA) was founded in 2014 and is led by Katie Wyatt, an adjunct faculty member of public policy and music at Duke. Since 2016, Duke’s Social Science Research Institute and ESUSA have engaged in research funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to study the structural organization, community support and alignment of ESUSA members to the guiding principles of El Sistema.

In 2017-18, this team, which included members from SSRI and the Music and Public Policy departments at Duke, developed an improved census tool to support the national ESUSA census and develop shared measures for ESUSA member outcomes by charting elements of highest interest and impact.

The project team also organized a national symposium at Duke to share the Duke-NEA findings and other major university research in El Sistema in Spring 2018.


Fall 2017 – Spring 2018

Team Outcomes

Manuscript submitted to Music and Arts in Action

“Essentials of Organizational Success in El Sistema USA Programs” manuscript submitted to Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly

Thomas Nechyba, Lorrie Schmid, Menna Mburi, Katie Wyatt. 2017. Elements of Organizational Success: Understanding Differences in Structure and Values in El Sistema USA Programs. Working paper. Durham, NC: Duke Social Science Research Institute.

Social Change through Music: Amplifying and Empowering Youth Voice (talk by Andie Carroll and Olivia Neely); Bass Connections Showcase, April 18, 2018, and EHDx, April 19, 2018

El Sistema USA and Duke: Advancing the Power of Music for Human Development (poster by Adam Beskind, Andie Carroll, Jasmine Leahy, Olivia Neely); presented at Bass Connections Showcase, April 18, 2018, and EHDx, April 19, 2018; Audience Choice Runner-up, Bass Connections Showcase

Symposium for El Sistema USA affiliate organizations, January 19-20, 2018

Deborah Rutter: Arts in Education and Human Development Talk, April 6, 2018

Project team website


30 Days to Duke (2018): Bass Connections

This Team in the News

A Research Journey through the Power of Music

Watch Highlights from the 2018 Bass Connections Showcase

Bass Connections Showcase Presents Research Highlights from Durham to Malaysia

Training the Next Generation of Arts Leaders

Taking Note: Spring Round-Up of Research Grant Products

Join Us for Two Bass Connections Special Events on April 18 and 19

Making an Impact through Music Education

A Duke Student’s First Foray into Research

Fostering a Community through Classical Music: Meet Katie Wyatt

This project team was originally part of the Education & Human Development theme of Bass Connections, which ended in 2022. See related team, Music for Social Change: Research in Practice with Kidznotes and El Sistema USA (2018-2019).

El Sistema symposium.

Team Leaders

  • Lorrie Schmid, Social Science Research Institute
  • Kathryn Wyatt, Arts & Sciences-Music

/graduate Team Members

  • Tiffany Johnson Lapuebla, Masters of Public Policy
  • Chelsea Probus, Religious Studies-AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Adam Beskind, Music (AB)
  • Anderson Carroll, Economics (BS)
  • Carmela Guaglianone, Int Comparative Studies (AB)
  • Jasmine Leahy, Interdepartmental Major
  • Olivia Neely, Program II (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Scott Lindroth, Arts & Sciences-Music
  • Matthew Nash, Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Kenneth Rogerson, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Jessica Sperling Smokoski, Social Science Research Institute

/zcommunity Team Members

  • El Sistema USA