Music Education as a Path to Positive Youth Development: An El Sistema-Inspired Program


  • Michelle Marie Hospital Florida International University
  • Staci Leon Morris Florida International University
  • Eric F. Wagner Florida International University
  • Eva Wales Florida International University



music education, positive youth development, social emotional learning, evaluation


The El Sistema music education philosophy links positive individual and social development through musical education. This study is a longitudinal examination of the impact of participation in an El Sistema-inspired program, the Miami Music Project, on positive youth development. We hypothesized that over the course of a school year, participation in ensemble-based after-school music programming would significantly enhance factors associated with positive youth development. Specifically, we evaluated social emotional constructs aligned with the Five Cs of Positive Youth Development: Competence, Confidence, Caring, Character, and Connection. Results revealed that participants showed significant increases across all five Cs over the course of the year. Additionally, findings showed that Miami Music Project students showed greater enhancements over time in Character, Competence and Caring when compared to a group of youth who did not participate in music education. This study presents empirical documentation of the numerous meaningful social and emotional enhancements that participation in an El Sistema-inspired program is engendering among youth. In this type of rigorous orchestral model of musical instruction, youth seem to acquire not only cognitive benefits but also a host of social and emotional enhancements, ostensibly from learning in an environment that requires disciplined social cohesion. These findings provide insight into the holistic approach foundational to the El Sistema philosophy and adds to our overall understanding of musical instruction in important ways.

Author Biographies

Michelle Marie Hospital, Florida International University

Associate Director, FIU-BRIDGEResearch Associate Professor, School of Integrated Science and Humanity

Staci Leon Morris, Florida International University

Research Assistant Professor, FIU-BRIDGE 

Eric F. Wagner, Florida International University

Professor, Department of Social Work

Eva Wales, Florida International University

Community Research Coordinator, FIU-BRIDGE


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