Part 2: Community Music Therapy and El Sistema: A Multiple Case Design Study Reflecting Music's Empowerment in Marginalized Communities


  • Virginia Eulacio Cierniak Montclaire State University, New Jersey, United States of America



Music is an accessible tool that has been used to foster change within people and societies, even in those places facing socioeconomic marginalization due to poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to resources. Social capital has to do with the resources and networks available within a society, which may help confront issues faced by individuals and communities. Community Music Therapy (CoMT) and the music education movement known as El Sistema* both utilize music—understood as social capital—to address social justice. Part I of this article defines CoMT and examines the purpose and goals of CoMT and El Sistema comparatively, and the ways in which their programs may address the empowerment needs of individuals and communities facing socioeconomic marginalization. Part II reviews the findings of a study that leads toward a suggestion of how these two approaches may be able to work synergistically to achieve their shared goals. Findings reveal many parallels and divergences between El Sistema and CoMT which may be useful in advancing change. This article defines the role of the music, program structure, social justice goals, outcomes, music education practice, areas of intersection, existing scholarly research, and criticisms each has received, in an effort to further advance the understanding and possibilities music’s influence may have on society.






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