This year ECoSistema saw tremendous growth in our team of staff. With the launch of new program sites and the expansion of existing programs, ECoSistema was delighted to welcome new interns and Teaching Artists to the team.

Strings program – Boys & Girls Club of Goshen

Sofia Sanchez

The string orchestra program at the Boys & Girls Club of Goshen has continued to grow and thrive over the past five years. In fall 2023 ECoSistema started the year with a record-breaking 63 string players. In order to keep serving string players with weekly private lessons, a new Strings Teaching Artist joined the team. Sofia Sanchez is a Goshen College senior pursuing a music major with an emphasis in Music for Social Change. An Elkhart native and graduate of Elkhart Community Schools, Sofia began playing the violin at age 10. Since then, her dedication and commitment to music have only grown stronger. Throughout her college journey, Sofia has performed with the Goshen College Symphony Orchestra, Voices of the Earth, and the Elkhart County Symphony Orchestra, where she showcased her passionate violin skills and contributed to creating mesmerizing musical experiences. Under the instruction of Professor of Violin Dr. Solomia Soroka, Sofia continues to refine her musical talents and expand her artistic horizons. Driven by her desire to use music as a catalyst for social change, Sofia’s studies also focus on harnessing the power of music to address pertinent social issues. Beyond her musical pursuits, Sofia finds joy in expressing her creativity through painting and immersing herself in enriching concert experiences. In her downtime, she cherishes spending quality moments with her family, exploring the beauty of nature parks, which further fuels her artistic inspiration.

New choral programs

Erica and David Gary

In 2023 two new choral initiatives were also launched in partnership with ECoSistema, bringing new staff members to the team. In April the Tolson Youth Choir began meeting weekly on Thursdays in Elkhart. The Tolson Youth Choir will find its home at the Tolson Center for Community Excellence, a community center at the heart of south-central Elkhart. The Tolson Youth Choir is for students ages 8-18 and seeks to celebrate the musical traditions of south-central Elkhart, build bridges across Elkhart County, empower youth through singing and community-building activities, and promote a college-going mindset among Elkhart youth. The TYC is directed by David and Erica Gary, longtime choir directors and music ministers from Elkhart. The TYC gave its debut performance on the Sauder Concert Hall stage at the ECoSistema Seminario, a regional summer music camp for El Sistema-inspired programs in northern Indiana.

Katy Thornthwaite

At the Boys & Girls Club of Goshen, a new class called ECo Sings began in September. ECo Sings meets weekly on Mondays and provides an opportunity for students in grades 3-6 to receive vocal training and sing in a youth choir. ECo Sings has provided an excellent access point for students who love music but may not necessarily want to play an instrument. This fall ECo Sings has participated in the two Celebration Saturdays held at the Club, and will perform at the ECoSistema winter concert on Thursday, December 14. ECo Sings is directed by Katy Thornthwaite, a Goshen College graduate who now teaches music at Muessel Elementary School in South Bend. During her time at GC Katy completed an internship with ECoSistema, and has now returned as a member of the staff!

High school internship

Now in its second year, the ECoSistema high school internship has continued to grow. Five string interns work anywhere from one to six hours a week, assisting with the string orchestras as well as Rhythm Kids and Song Circle for 1st and 2nd grades. For the first time, three high school string interns are also teaching private lessons on viola and cello. This fall the internship program grew to include two choral interns who work weekly with ECo Sings and Song Circle. Interns are a crucial part of our staff team at the Boys & Girls Club of Goshen!

ECoSistema staff and interns at the Boys & Girls Club of Goshen