How did we grow from 35 students in a little known orchestra program to over 140 students who have performed with the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and the Civic Orchestra? This is the story of a true partnership with Scott Ahlman, principal of Hibbard Elementary, in Albany Park.
Ten years ago, Deborah dos Santos, a North Park University student from Brazil, walked into Scott’s office. She had come through the El Sistema program in Brazil and wanted to do something similar in Chicago. Scott knew what a difference it would make to his kids at Hibbard but it was also the first time anyone wanted to do something like this at the school: “We were building a plane while flying it. There were some bumps along the way, but the spirit was always in the right place.”
As it turned out, Scott was already a parent in The People’s Music School’s program at Uptown Academy. He and his wife had searched for a place for their children to learn music. They instantly loved the philosophy of the school- its inclusiveness and its mandate to be accessible to all children. Scott also forged a connection with Rita Simo, our founder, and got her involved in a program at Hibbard. With the passion of people like Milan Milakovich, the Albany Park orchestra’s first conductor, the program grew and flourished.
Scott has witnessed the value of music for his extended family: his students at Hibbard Elementary. “El Sistema is a very unique philosophy that we’ve embraced at this school and the way we approach our teaching. We want to be inclusive and empower our students to make sure they have a voice and to think about the community, not just focus on themselves. With TPMS we have a great partnership to achieve these goals.” He adds that “because parents are brought in as volunteers and are given significant and meaningful jobs, families really step up to make the investment and make the program a success.”
What motivates Scott to continue to be an advocate for TPMS? “I want to provide the best opportunities for my kids at Hibbard…we now have students in college with full rides and at prestigious colleges. TPMS has opened up so many opportunities for my kids that they never would have had…travelling to perform, connections to musicians, all this has opened up the world and given them the idea that they can accomplish anything.”