El Sistema Somerville, an after-school youth orchestra program that originated in Venezuela and seeks to promote social change through music, got a new home this year when the East Somerville Community School opened its doors. And thanks to the generosity of two local musicians, the program has a new fiddle too.
Jessica Noggle Taylor and Ryan Taylor, a husband and wife who live in Somerville, were El Sistema’s first guest artists in the fall of 2012. They were so touched by the program and the work of its director, Diane Cline, that when they got married shortly thereafter, they decided that instead of getting gifts, they wanted to give an instrument.
“We have two of everything, we don’t need stuff. We played in their Harvest Concert and it inspired us. We love sharing music,” Jessica said. That experience combined with a trip to the animal shelter where a six-year-old was having a birthday party with gifts for the animals instead of the child inspired her and Ryan to give back. “That really struck a chord,” Jessica said.
So Jessica and Ryan launched a micro-giving campaign where their wedding guests could donate money that would go toward the purchase of what has become known as the Taylor Fiddle. They raised all of the necessary funds and went shopping with Cline at Rutman’s Violins in Boston.
“We went shopping and had a ton of fun,” said Cline, who has connected with the Taylors over their shared love of music. “Rutman’s was at a different level. We were in heaven playing in there.”
After trying out various instruments, the Taylors and Cline settled on the perfect one for El Sistema Somerville. Rutman’s owner was so touched by the Taylors’ generosity that the store donated a second instrument to the program.
The Taylor Fiddle was officially presented to El Sistema at the recent Valentine Soiree concert during which kids in the program played to a packed house. The instrument, which is full size and of very high quality, will be “loaned” out to a child in El Sistema who is ready to move to the next level.
“Having experience playing a nicer instrument made a huge difference for me growing up,” said Jessica, who comes from a long line of musicians. “It can help inspire someone to keep playing.”
Ryan added, “It’s a really critical piece. They will really benefit from it.”
Ryan and Jessica, who met in Atlanta, have lived in Somerville for a few years and it’s clear from talking to them that the community they’ve found here and their love of music runs deep. They play together with two other musicians in the Ryan Taylor Band and have a new album coming out, Where the Rust Meets the Rise, that they will tour behind this spring. The band’s CD release show is on March 27 at Club Passim in Cambridge.
“Since we’ve started playing together, I’ve gotten three new instruments, so I’ve had the experience of this recently myself,” Jessica said. “Hopefully it will plant a seed in some of these kids’ minds.”
In addition to the Taylor Fiddle donation, being in the new East Somerville Community School has allowed El Sistema to flourish this year. Cline sees that continuing long into the future with the possibility of expanding the program beyond elementary school into the higher grades and to include a variety of art forms.
“Being in the new school has allowed us to grow. It makes me feel so proud of Somerville. I’m impressed and amazed,” Cline said. She added that El Sistema ensures that kids who normally might not have the chance to participate in a music program “have every opportunity to be successful no matter what. There’s no stopping these kids, not at all.”