Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Kids’ Choir, a community children’s choir in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, formed in 2014 as part of the Kids’ Orchestra organization. The organization, founded in 2011, is El Sistema-inspired—a model developed in 1975 by Venezuelan orchestra conductor, José Abreu. The model’s mission is “to effect social change through music for children with the fewest resources and the greatest need” (Mission Statement, 2017).

El Sistema's focus on social change through musical excellence may hold great promise in the United States where neighborhoods are becoming increasingly diverse. Moreover, the El Sistema philosophy responds directly to issues of segregation still present in the Baton Rouge community, but more research is needed to determine the impact of programs like these on children’s development and the communities they serve. In addition, researchers have not fully investigated the musical lives of children—lives that arguably encompass a multitude of possible musical interactions.

The purpose of this intrinsic case study was to examine Kids’ Orchestra’s philosophy of social development through musical experiences and document the teaching and learning paradigms associated with this philosophy. I explored the impact of Kids’ Choir participation on the choristers from the perspective of teachers, staff, parents, and the children themselves. In addition, I investigated more deeply the relationship between three choristers’ Kids’ Choir experience and their musical lives outside of the organization.

I provided an historical account of the evolution of the Kids’ Orchestra mission and vision statements since the organization’s inception and detailed how the El Sistema philosophy manifests in the organization and the Kids’ Choir ensemble. I presented the Kids’ Choir experience as a counter-narrative to current El Sistema/El Sistema-inspired organization critiques. Findings revealed perceived benefits of increased development in choristers’ resilience through holistic education highlighted by increased confidence, maturity development, and social development. Further, findings illuminated evidence of a cycle of giving involving students, parents, teachers, and community members through access, encouraging acceptance and compassion, and community education and enrichment. Finally, I discussed transforming individuals as a means of transforming communities.



Committee Chair

Stanley, Ann Marie