Butler University will host El Sistema USA’s (ESUSA) National Symposium and Youth Ambassador Program in 2024, a multi-day professional development gathering that supports ESUSA member programs and cultivates the next generation of arts education leaders. The symposium is funded in part by a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

ESUSA supports 140 member organizations, including Butler Community Arts School (BCAS), seeking to effect social change through music for children.

The National Symposium and Youth Ambassador Program is scheduled for June 2024. The conference will be hosted in partnership with local arts organizations to highlight community partnerships, collective impact, and youth voice. ESUSA will prioritize youth leadership through the Youth Ambassador Program, where students and alumni will be paid to plan and execute content for both adults and students at the symposium.

“We are honored to once again collaborate with El Sistema USA, a national leader in social action through music,” Lauren Shelton, Executive Director at the Indianapolis Center for Arts Education and Innovation and Director at BCAS, said. “Butler University and the Center firmly believe in the power of music to drive social change and inspire youth to become future leaders. Through this renewed collaboration with El Sistema USA, we reaffirm our dedication to shaping a future where the transformative influence of music is accessible to all, enabling leaders to create a more vibrant and equitable world.”

Butler also played host to the symposium in March 2023.Dr. Bettina Love delivered a dynamic keynote address titled “Living a Hip Hop and Abolitionist Life: Resistance, Creativity, Hip Hop Civics Ed, Intersectionality, and Black Joy.” Her powerful insights resonated with attendees, encouraging them to embrace a comprehensive approach to music education and social change.

In addition, Dr. Love spent the following day collaborating with the Butler College of Education and administrators from multiple school partners. This productive session facilitated valuable discussions, idea exchanges, and the exploration of innovative strategies for fostering inclusive learning environments. Dr. Love’s commitment to transformative education made a lasting impact on all participants. 

The weekend concluded with a dynamic performance by The Gateways Brass Collective, leaving the audience energized and inspired. Their music resonated with attendees, and they also engaged in a meaningful conversation about representation in the professional music field.

Additionally, The Gateways Brass Collective visited Lawrence North High School and James Russell Lowell School 51, where they generously provided a free performance assembly. This outreach initiative aimed to expose students to the power of music through representation. The collective’s visit left a lasting impression on the students, fostering a greater appreciation for the arts and the potential career opportunities available in the music industry.

“Butler University has a well-earned reputation as a place where people can come for arts education,” Shelton said. “We can use that reputation as a platform for attracting national arts organizations to our campus, with a goal of serving as a catalyst for social action, change, and justice by making the arts more accessible to traditionally underrepresented people.”