This amazing project involves the HUD funded rehabilitation of the Historic Stegman Building and its conversion into the Brownsville Performing Arts Academy. Built in 1912, the building is centrally located in the Buena Vida Neighborhood of Brownsville's Historic Downtown District, one of the most economically disadvantaged inner-urban areas in the nation.
As a registered landmark, architectural plans for its restoration required extensive review by the State of Texas Historical Commission that mandated the use of specialized trades, salvaging and re-purposing of original construction materials, streetscape preservation and an absolutely accurate restoration of its iconic brick façade. Work began in the summer of 2015 and, barring unforseen delays, will be completed by mid-summer of 2017.
To be operated by the the BSPA, the Academy will serve as the "Núcleo", or physical center, to host classical music, voice and ballet instruction per El Sistema methodology, recognized worldwide as the cutting-edge of early childhood classical music education.
As stated in their website: El Sistema is a set of inspiring ideals which form an intensive youth music program that seeks to effect social change through the ambitious pursuit of musical excellence. El Sistema focuses primarily on children with the fewest resources and greatest need.
Classes at the Brownsville Performing Arts Academy will be offered by the very best music and dance educators in the region... at competitive tuition rates to families that can afford it and free of charge to families that cannot.
El Sistema has inspired programs that now exist in at least 55 countries. As of 2015, there were 130 such programs in the USA alone, with five in the State of Texas, in Austin, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. It seems likely that Brownsville will be the sixth.
Please take the time to view the videos below and learn a bit more about El Sistema, the Paper Orchestra, the White Hands Choir and other programs that will soon be implemented in Brownsville. We promise you'll find them inspiring and very entertaining!
El Sistema - The Miracle (2:59)
How Music Saved Venezuela's Children (9:55)
Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra at the BBC Proms (1:41:51)
El Sistema Colorado - Paper Violins (3:49)
El Sistema's White Hands Choir (1:37)
White Hands Choir at the Mozarteum in Salzburg (5:11)
The clip below, aired by KGBT Channel 4 News in April 2016, reported on the construction of the Academy and our plans when completed.
The Brownsville Society for the Performing Arts is truly and sincerely grateful to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), the UTRGV Music Academy and, most especially, the staff and elected officials of the City of Brownsville for granting BSPA the proverbial opportunity of a lifetime. We pledge to undertake this task with due diligence and a firm commitment to excellence.
The effect this project will have on our Historic Downtown District is certain to be valuable but the lifelong benefits it will bring to our most underserved kids will be priceless!
Updated December 2016