Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Tulsa kids tune in to life lessons



A child’s first experience practicing a trumpet or a clarinet at home might not be exactly heavenly.

"I call it a joyful noise," said Jose Luis Hernandez, director of Sistema Tulsa, a music program at Tulsa-Boston Avenue UMC for disadvantaged children.

The after-school program is an offshoot of El Sistema, which started with 11 students in Venezuela in 1975 and has since spread around the world.

Boston Avenue’s program, which is less than a year old, got a startup grant from the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation. Senior Pastor David Wiggs said OKC-St. Luke’s also helped get the program going in Tulsa.

There are 40 students so far and eight instructors from Tulsa Public Schools.

Rev. Wiggs said the program "builds a bridge so we can develop a relationship with these children and their families."

The program shows the children that "God is already at work in their lives for good," he said. The most obvious sign is "the parents of students telling us how much of a blessing it’s been … to be part of such a loving and positive environment."

When the program started, each student got to examine the musical instruments and pick three that interested them. The Sistema Tulsa staff then selected one of those to assign to the student. The instruments belong to Boston Avenue Church, and the students are permitted to take them home for practice.

"They have to earn the right (through positive behavior) to borrow the instrument," Hernandez said.

Students from the fourth and fifth grades of three Tulsa schools (Burroughs, Chouteau, and Lee) are eligible to participate.

They arrive by bus five days a week, for a snack, homework time, and music lessons.

The students gave their first concert before Christmas. Another is planned for May 13 at Boston Avenue.

Hernandez said he sees Sistema Tulsa as a way of creating "social change through music." He holds music degrees from Texas Christian University and the University of Texas and has experience as a conductor.

The students seem to enjoy being regarded as musicians, Hernandez said. They are developing "the feeling of being someone."


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Eric Noble instructs two girls on how to properly place their fingers to play a trumpet during a Sistema Tulsa music class at Boston Avenue UMC.

An elementary-age girl who is enrolled in Sistema Tulsa gives great effort when performing with her trumpet.


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