Music for Social Change: Research in Practice with Kidznotes and El Sistema USA (2018-2019)

El Sistema is an evidence-based system of music education for social change. Founded in Venezuela in 1975, El Sistema and its worldwide replications create an environment of opportunity through the collective practice of ensemble-based instruction as a model for personal, social, academic and musical development. Through eliminating barriers for students who experience them at the highest levels, these programs work alongside students, families and community partners to provide access to the benefits of high-quality music education. 

This movement is present in the U.S. and locally within the Research Triangle of North Carolina. El Sistema USA (ESUSA), the national alliance of programs inspired by El Sistema, has over 110 member organizations in 34 states. Kidznotes, an El Sistema-inspired program launched in 2010 in East Durham, serves 500 students annually in grades K-10 throughout Durham and Southeast Raleigh.

This Bass Connections project focused on facilitating research capacities and building research among ESUSA programs, including deepened engagement with local programs.

Team members implemented data collection processes for assessing the impact of Kidznotes programming for parents as well as parent reporting on their children’s Kidznotes-based outcomes. Effect on parents is an essential but understudied aspect of El Sistema programming, given the community and family perspective of El Sistema and the embeddedness of youth within families. 

ESUSA led the team in building the capacity of ESUSA member programs in research and evaluation, with a focus on impact for parents and families. The team made parent data collection instruments used at Kidznotes available to selected El Sistema program sites, and started work to develop mechanisms for sharing research and building research capacity for ESUSA programs across the country.


Summer 2018 – Spring 2019

Team Outputs

Music for Social Change: Research in Practice with Kidznotes and El Sistema USA (poster by Paula Ajumobi, Dayna Price, Jacob Rubin, presented at EHDx, Duke University, April 9, 2019, and at Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 17, 2019)

Youth, Music and Social Change (talk by Jacob Rubin, EHDx, Duke University, April 9, 2019)

This Team in the News

Fostering Epic Parents

Team Seeks to Serve Music Education Activists Where They Live

Making Music Matter

Rappeling for a Reason

This project team was originally part of the Education & Human Development theme of Bass Connections, which ended in 2022. See related teams, Youth, Music and Social Change: Building the Evidence Base with Kidznotes and El Sistema USA (2019-2020) and El Sistema USA and Duke: Advancing the Power of Music for Human Development (2017-2018).

The team in class

Team Leaders

  • Megan Gray, Social Science Research Institute
  • Jessica Sperling Smokoski, Social Science Research Institute
  • Kathryn Wyatt, Arts & Sciences-Music

/graduate Team Members

  • Jee Young Kim, Psychology-PHD, Psychology-AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Paula Ajumobi, Int Comparative Studies (AB)
  • Catherine Cho, Political Science (AB)
  • Dayna Price, Psychology (AB)
  • Jacob Rubin, Computer Science (BS)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Victoria Lee, Social Science Research Institute
  • Scott Lindroth, Arts & Sciences-Music
  • Menna Mburi, Social Science Research Institute
  • Lorrie Schmid, Social Science Research Institute
  • Josh deVries, El Sistema USA

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Mariah Cowell, Graduate Student, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Nick Malinowski, Kidznotes