Paterson, NJ -- In the wintry northeast, we don’t think of March as a month for music festivals. But on March 10th, hundreds of children and their families from all corners of New Jersey will be in Paterson to participate in the Fiddlefest & FaLaLa Festival, a new tradition of statewide children’s orchestra and choir festivities that has been steadily growing in New Jersey for four years.
Fiddlefest & FaLaLa is sponsored by the El Sistema New Jersey Alliance (ESNJA), a unique network of programs across the Garden State that use music education as a vehicle for youth development and social change. These programs are inspired by the El Sistema movement in music education that began decades ago in Latin America and has spread in recent years around the world, reaching almost a million children in 65 countries, with 130 programs in the United States.
The seven ESNJA member programs are Paterson Music Project, NJSO CHAMPS (Newark), Union City Music Project, Trenton Music Makers, Sonic Explorations (Orange), Sister Cities Girlchoir (Camden), and Keys 2 Success (Newark). Students in these programs experience immersive ensemble music learning several days a week. All children are welcome; there are no auditions, and instruments are provided free of charge. The learning model prioritizes mutual support, cooperative hard work, inclusion, and joy.
The Fiddlefest & FaLaLa Festival takes place this year at Paterson School 15 from 10 AM to 3 PM on March 10th. Children ages 8 to 15 will rehearse in small and large groups, join drum circles, and have lunch together, while their family members learn songs and play rhythm games. The event culminates in a massive performance by the young musicians for their families and the public.
Fiddlefest & FaLaLa is one of several yearly opportunities created by the Alliance for students of its member programs to learn and share with peers from across the state. Other opportunities include a three-day summer camp and Martin Luther King Day concerts.
The Alliance and its member programs aspire to change long-term educational and life outcomes for New Jersey’s most underserved children. Research shows that immersive music learning can lead to multiple benefits for children—improving their early cognitive development, enhancing academic achievement across the curriculum, keeping them engaged in school, raising graduation rates, and helping them develop self-esteem and social skills.
Founded four years ago, the El Sistema New Jersey Alliance also provides opportunities for teachers in member programs to share resources and to do collaborative training and professional development. Its long-term goal is to continue to enlarge the statewide musical community of young people who are creating new and vibrant futures for themselves and their families.