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The music school

A tool for urban social cohesion through the development of the arts
L'Hospitalet / Spain
Size of city: 
254 804 inhabitants


Núria Sempere Comas
Director of the EMCA
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Running for twelve years now, the Music School and Arts Centre (EMCA) from L’Hospitalet (ES) focuses on using the arts as an instrument for cohesion, social mix and increasing the academic achievement. Its activities focus on the economically deprived areas of the city with high levels of unemployment and urban poverty. The centre has been successfully fighting urban segregation and exclusion by creating a symphonic orchestra, big bands, pop-rock, or jazz groups that offer spaces to get together and facilitate cultural exchanges. By providing education for all ages, EMCA also improves the skills and abilities of the students, providing positive effects on their academic achievements. More than 1 775 students have been involved in the orchestra of the Center that performed, only in the 2015 -2016 academic year, more than 330 concerts for a total audience of nearly 34 000 persons.

The solutions offered by the good practice

L’Hospitalet is a city neighbouring Barcelona, with 262 798 inhabitants. It is Catalonia’s second city, with 28% of its population born abroad and with some of the city’s neighbourhoods where the non-EU population exceeds 40%.
The local authority service “Music School - Arts Centre” is one of the solutions devised for intervening in those neighbourhoods. It uses a new 21st-century educational-facility model, combining music, theatre and dance education for all citizens. It acts in eight schools in the more disadvantaged areas, to enhance learning within the school day from the age of four, providing positive effects on academic achievement, integrating pupils with a migratory background and giving them opportunities thanks to education that puts group before individual practices.
They have no economic barriers at EMCA. The symphonic orchestra, the big band, the pop-rock or jazz groups underpin the real cohesion between citizens from all cultural and economic backgrounds. Infrastructure is also important, and the site of the EMCA itself is located in an area that was subject to intervention within the framework of the ERDF’s Urban Projects Initiative along with the eight schools, creating a major network of cultural infrastructure capable of revitalising their environment.

Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

Projects such as the Music School - Arts Centre (EMCA) allow culture to be placed at the centre of cities’ social change, to bolster links between their citizens, boosting cohesion and tackling issues of getting along and urban segregation.
UNESCO also includes culture in the Sustainable Development Goal 11 by measures that aim to recognise and promote cultural diversity for cities, to integrate culture to counter urban violence, and to ensure investment to enhance culture, cultural heritage and creativity in urban planning.
Our good practice also approaches issues included in the European Urban Agenda such as inclusion of migrants and refugees (non-EU). This responds to various priorities of the ERDF, such as promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and all discrimination (9), or investing in education, training and vocational training for skills and lifelong learning by developing education and training infrastructure (10).
Regarding cross-cutting basic objectives, the most important aim is to promote equal opportunities founded on two principles: equal treatment and equality between men and women. Of the EMCA’s pupils as a whole, 46.46% are women and 53.55% are men. The principle of equal treatment is applied to the group from childhood to adolescence, in relation to academic underachievement and possible isolation in the job market.

Based on a participatory approach

The EMCA schools project manages to involve a significant share of citizens from throughout the city. In the 2015-2016 academic year, 339 concerts were performed to average audiences of 100, and a total audience of 33 900 people. This is very important for citizens.
In total, around 1, 775 pupils have passed through the orchestra, band, dance and theatre programme at the school, of whom 135 have continued their musical studies beyond primary.
The main players involved in the process are the eight primary schools where the project is developed, and where the educational community of parents and teachers work together. The project has managed to promote the creation of parents’ associations in the eight schools where it is developed, while, at first, there were only two. At an institutional level, also participating as project partners alongside with the L’Hospitalet Local Authority are the Government of Catalonia, the Barcelona Council and the Fondation Daniel et Nina Carasso.

What difference has it made?

Between 2005 and 2015, 50,000 persons took part in school activities (pupils and participants in community projects). 4,750 pupils have participated in the school’s educational programme, of whom 2,026 were in music, 1,052 in theatre and 1,052 in dance.
The EMCA staff involves 56 professionals. 43% of pupils receive assistance, 64% hires instruments. 7 manouche jazz combos, 18 pop-rock combos, 6 big bands, 3 theatre groups, 1 traditional music group, 5 classical percussion groups, 2 wind groups, 3 string groups, 1 symphonic orchestra, 1 minstrel orchestra and 1 gospel choir were created.
In the 2015-2016 academic year, the schools taking part in the programmes have academic success 10 points higher than the remainder of the city’s other schools with similar characteristics, and two points above the total average of all schools in Catalonia. Various studies (McBrien, 2011) reveal that musical education in schools boosts pupils’ autonomy and responsibility, a sense of being a group, and helps improve basic skills, particularly mathematics:
• Academic success in social high-complexity schools taking part in the programme: 81%;
• Academic success of social high-complexity schools not taking part in the programme: 71%;
• Academic success of all educational schools in Catalonia: 78%.

Why should other European cities use it?

The local authority arts education centres are a suitable instrument for tackling poverty and social exclusion. The group as a core concept of professional projects is the basis for practising music, dance or theatre in a professional environment: the orchestra, the band, the dance company or the theatre company make people working together for the sake of building up arts projects that require the joint effort of individual talents. Far too often, arts-education centres overlook this group component and device education centred on the individual. Other cities can achieve similar results by encouraging their arts education centres to venture beyond the school walls and into primary schools where risks of social exclusion are concentrated. If citizens are
able to play together, dance together or act together, they will be able to break down barriers and live alongside with each other.
Moreover, in L’Hospitalet, we have located the site of the EMCA in a socially deprived neighbourhood. The systematic arrival of citizens from all walks of life has worked toward improving the area's image, has increased its sense of self-worth and has changed its outlook, increasing local people's confidence and their possibilities for development.