Brief History

In operation since 2009, incorporated in February 2010, and operating as a certified 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, Soundscapes has developed its model program at Carver Elementary in Newport News, VA. Carver is a Title I school with a poverty and minority demographic above 80%. Soundscapes’ after school program began in 2009 with 40 first graders; in 2016-2017 it serves 400 students in grades 1-9 with participants from Carver Elementary and Newport News Public Schools’ summer SPARK program. In a new partnership, our Middle School students join the Peninsula Youth Orchestra for the school year.

Hampton native Anne Henry learned about the El Sistema movement on a segment of 60 Minutes and co-founded Soundscapes with music educator Reynaldo Ramirez in the summer of 2009. El Sistema is a well-proven Venezuelan free public health and youth development organization that uses intensive ensemble music study and performance to strengthen individual competencies that promote socially positive, anti-aggressive, and civic-minded behaviors, while building social capital in the communities where it operates. Founded in 1975, it has transformed the lives of millions of needy children and is now being developed on every continent except Antarctica. The U.S. movement began in 2007 and by July 2016 included more than 125 organizations. Soundscapes' Program Director, Rey Ramirez, has served as Treasurer of the National Alliance of El Sistema-Inspired Programs (El Sistema USA). Program and Media Manager, Joseph Hamm, is currently a member of the El Sistema USA Alliance Board of Directors.

Soundscapes is managed by a volunteer board of thirteen community leaders and has a staff of twenty employees and contractors. The first El Sistema-inspired program in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Soundscapes’ 2016 strategic plan recommends replication of the program after stabilization of the model in Newport News.

Because its mission is to positively transform the lives of disadvantaged youth, Soundscapes provides its services free of charge and gives instruments to its students, usually at age 7. The range of instruments is drawn from classical orchestra repertory, and much of the music was written by the world's greatest composers. Because most performances take place in the distressed neighborhoods where the students live, many people in the surrounding community are exposed to the classical masters for the first time.