What We Do
Tocando is an after-school program that provides music learning, musical instruments and performing opportunities to elementary and middle school students in El Segundo Barrio and Tornillo, Texas at no cost to their families. The program is funded entirely by community and foundation support.
Music education is used as a vehicle for Tocando students to acquire valuable tools of teamwork, self-confidence, leadership, and academic success. Having fun, making friends and sharing life changing experiences are bonuses!
Tocando offers intensive music learning on string instruments through orchestra rehearsals, sectionals, rhythm, piano, choir, and music fundamentals classes. Participating students also receive a daily nutritious snack, field trips to cultural events and concerts, and opportunities to perform for their peers and in the community.
Tocando is modeled after the Venezuelan music program, El Sistema. El Sistema was founded in 1975 by Dr. José Antonio Abreu, an economist and composer, with the vision of creating a network of Venezuelan orchestras utilizing music as a vehicle for social change. This network provides Venezuelan youth with access to free instruments, intense musical instruction, and significant ensemble experience.
Inspired by the April 10, 2008 60 Minutes report by Bob Simon the vision for Tocando began. It became reality in September 2013.
Today, El Sistema is recognized around the globe as the leading innovation in providing equal opportunity for all children to receive the benefit of a thorough, intense musical education, positively altering the life trajectories of countless numbers of its students. The program serves over 300,000 people each year. More Venezuelan children participate in music programs than sports!
The success of Venezuela’s El Sistema has generated an overwhelming surge of Sistema-inspired programs in the United States and around the world.
Watch and listen to El Sistema founder, Dr. José Antonio Abreu, explain the importance of equitable access to high-quality music education.
Tocando has reached students with the magic of creating music and learning instruments for 11 years. Students throughout the program's history have had the honor of visiting and performing in venues such as the El Paso Museum of Art, Plaza Theater, Chavez Theater, Cafe Mayapan, Botanical Gardens, Armijo Library, the El Paso Zoo, Sara Farms, Tomatoville, at El Segundo Barrio Day and in the Dia de Los Muertos Parade. Students have also gotten to enjoy week-long overnight camps at such places as Arrowbear Summer Music Camp in Running Springs, California; Colorado Mesa University’s Middle School Music Camp in Grand Junction, Colorado; and most recently at Hummingbird Music Camp in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.
In January 2020 Tocando expanded to Tornillo, Texas, beginning programming at both the elementary and intermediate schools. When lockdowns due to the pandemic moved learning to online formats, Tocando followed suit and continued to teach students from both the Tornillo and Downtown locations through online Zoom classes and in outdoor socially distanced classes. The program survived the pandemic and classes continue at both site locations with students often combining for performances and social gatherings.
Tocando began a “Bucket Band” class for 2nd grade students who learn rhythms, note reading, instrument care, performance skills, and music making with other musicians. The Bucket Band meets twice a week after school until 5:15. Their introduction to the program creates a foundation for their 3rd grade entrance into the full Tocando program.
UTEP Career Days
Tocando, in collaboration with the University of Texas at El Paso, began UTEP Career Days for its students. Each year on President’s Day, students are transported in field-trip style to the UTEP campus where they enjoy a day of activities and visit an array of museums, performance halls, and college departments such as Engineering, Education, 3D Printing Lab, and Music. Students attend college orchestra and choir rehearsals and audit orchestra and band classes. UTEP Career Days are breaking down barriers and making attending college a part of Tocando students’ future plans.
The two-sites continued when efforts were consolidated to concentrate on schools in the feeder pattern of Bowie High School. Expanding to include Guillen Middle School, Tocando began the Feeder School Initiative (FSI) to direct the benefits of music education into a single high school, Bowie. Since that time, the FSI has established all of its classes to the annex at Guillen Middle School and has gained students from Aoy Elementary School, an elementary school in the feeder pattern.
Tocando Program Begins
Tocando began with 30 students from 1st – 3rd grade enjoying programming at Hart Elementary. In its second year, the program doubled in size to 60 students from 2nd – 4th grade.