This amazing project involves the rehabilitation of the Historic Stegman Building and its conversion into the Brownsville Performing Arts Academy. Built in 1912, the building is centrally located in the Buena Vida Neighborhood within Brownsville's Historic Downtown District, one of the most economically disadvantaged inner-urban areas in the nation.
As a registered landmark, architectural plans for its restoration required extensive review by the State of Texas Historical Commission that mandated the use of specialized trades, salvaging and re-purposing of original construction materials, streetscape preservation and an accurate restoration of its iconic brick façade. Work began in the summer of 2015 and, barring unforseen delays, is scheduled for completion by late July of 2017!
The Academy will serve as the "Núcleo", or physical center, to host classical music and dance instruction inspired by El Sistema methodology, recognized worldwide as the cutting-edge of early childhood classical music education. As stated in their website: El Sistema is a set of inspiring ideals which form an intensive youth music program that seeks to effect social change through the ambitious pursuit of musical excellence. El Sistema focuses primarily on children with the fewest resources and greatest need.
Fully operated by the BSPA, classes at the Brownsville Performing Arts Academy will be offered by the very best music and dance educators in the region... at competitive tuition rates to families that can afford it and virtually free of charge to families in the immediate neighborhood that cannot.
El Sistema has inspired programs that now operate in at least 55 countries. As of 2015, there were 130 such programs in the USA alone, with five in the State of Texas, in Austin, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. It seems likely that Brownsville will be the sixth.
Please take the time to view the videos below and learn a bit more about El Sistema, the Paper Orchestra, the White Hands Choir and other programs that will soon be implemented in Brownsville. We promise you'll find them inspiring and very entertaining!
El Sistema - The Miracle (2:59)
How Music Saved Venezuela's Children (9:55)
Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra at the BBC Proms (1:41:51)
El Sistema Colorado - Paper Violins (3:49)
El Sistema's White Hands Choir (1:37)
White Hands Choir at the Mozarteum in Salzburg (5:11)
The clip below, aired by KGBT Channel 4 News in April 2016, reported on the construction of the Academy and our plans when completed.
The Brownsville Society for the Performing Arts is grateful to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), the UTRGV School of Music, Allegro Ballet and, most especially, the staff and elected officials of the City of Brownsville for granting us the proverbial opportunity of a lifetime. We pledge to undertake this task with due diligence and a firm commitment to artistic excellence.
The effect this project will have on our Historic Downtown District is certain to be valuable but the lifelong benefits it will bring to our most underserved kids will be priceless!
Updated October 2018