Hillary Harder • The Good of Goshen

Hillary Harder

Program Director, ECoSistema

Published Jan. 2021

I didn’t know that I wanted to be a teacher until I learned about El Sistema and that approach to music education. I was in my last semester of college and I was a music performance major. It wasn’t part of the plan, but when I learned about this approach to teaching – where it’s all about building relationships and empowerment and just connecting with the students – that changed the course of my life. That was what led me to teaching.

ECoSistema is kind of a play on that; It’s like the Elkhart County version of El Sistema. It speaks to the power of ensembles to really develop the whole child. It’s all about developing kids in terms of their social/emotional growth and their musical growth. Music is kind of that vehicle to bring kids together and to help them feel like a part of something, and to empower them through music.

ECoSistema is a community music and youth development program. The mission is to help provide access to quality music education for all students in Elkhart County, but kind of specifically those who might face access barriers otherwise to music education.

I felt very called to this. I’ve always felt like music in my life is about connecting with people. For me, this is what I totally consider my vocation – just teaching as a way to build relationships, and work for social justice, too.

In total, ECoSistema has normally served about 420 students every year. This year, due to the pandemic, that number is reduced. But we’re really fortunate that we are still able to serve the students at the Boys & Girls Club, where the program is thriving. That’s about 50 students.

I love this work. It’s really who I am. I think even if I was employed doing something else, I would always come back to, ‘How can I connect with people through music?’ The fact that I get to do this for my job is such a blessing, and it’s something for which I’m really grateful.

Writing and editing by Scott Weisser and Neil King

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