The National Take a Stand Festival (NTASF) is a seven-day orchestra festival which brings together young musicians from El Sistema-inspired programs nationwide, providing them with world-class music instruction and mentorship. The program, including travel and lodging, is free for all participants.

This program offers a model for excellence among El Sistema-inspired programs in the United States, while creating a community of citizen musicians from populations which are historically underrepresented in professional orchestras. Since its inception in 2015, the NTASF has welcomed young musicians into classical music’s finest learning institutions and performance venues, including Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, Bard College’s Fisher Center, and Aspen Music Festival’s Benedict Music Tent. The Festival was designed by a consortium of partners, including the LA Phil, Longy School of Music of Bard College, Aspen Music Festival and School, Bard College, and Fundación Musical Simón Bolívar and with the cooperation of El Sistema USA.

Any student may apply who is between the ages of 12-18 and in at least his or her second year of a music program that is either directly inspired by El Sistema – or clearly demonstrates a dedication to social change and youth development through instrumental music education. While each El Sistema-inspired or -aligned program looks different from the next, there are basic tenets associated with such programs which this Festival aims to support. Applicants must be currently enrolled in, or recently graduated from, a program that meets at least 5 of the following 8 criteria outlined here.


Take a Stand – a partnership of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Bard College, and the Longy School of Music of Bard College – is an innovative initiative that supports social change through music. Inspired by El Sistema, Venezuela’s revolutionary music education program, Take a Stand supports the field through national conferences and a Master of Arts in Teaching in Music degree program.