This amazing project involves the rehabilitation of the Stegman Building, currently under way, and its conversion into the Brownsville Performing Arts Academy to be operated by the Brownsville Society for the Performing Arts (BSPA).
Built in 1912, the Stegman is located in Brownsville's Historic Downtown District in the optimistically named "Buena Vida Neighborhood", one of the most economically disadvantaged inner-urban areas in the nation.
As a historic landmark, a significant portion of its rehabilitation required approval by the Texas Historical Commission, the use of specialized trades, re-purposing of original construction materials and replicating its finishes, especially on the façade. Work began in the summer of 2015 and, barring unforseen delays, it's on schedule for completion by spring of 2017.
Once restored and equipped, the Academy will offer high-quality classical music, voice and ballet instruction per world-class El Sistema methodology, at competitive rates to children of families that can afford the tuition and free of charge to Buena Vida Neighborhood families that cannot.
El Sistema is widely recognized by music educators as the very best youth music program in the world today. Developed in Venezuela more than 40 years ago, El Sistema inspired programs now exist in 55 countries worldwide with more than 130 in the USA alone. Currently there are 5 in Texas: Austin, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. It seems likely that Brownsville will be the sixth.
As stated in the El Sistema USA 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.
Please view the videos below if you wish to learn more about El Sistema, the Paper Orchestra, the White Hands Choir and other programs soon to 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 grateful to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and the staff and elected officials of the City of Brownsville for granting us the proverbial opportunity of a lifetime. It's taken dozens of individuals from all sectors to get us this far and, by the time it's all done, it will have taken hundreds more. 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 benefits it will bring the kids throughout all of Brownsville will be priceless.
Updated October 2016