The mission of Josiah Quincy Orchestra Program is to ensure the long-term social and musical success of our students, and to positively impact them, their families, and the community through quality education and performance.


Josiah Quincy Orchestra Program (JQOP) was founded in 2011 by Graciela Briceno and Principal Simon Ho. As someone who did not have the opportunity to learn an instrument as a child, Mr. Ho dreamed of having an orchestra program at his elementary school that was both accessible and affordable for all students. Ms. Briceno, a graduate of the Sistema Fellows Program at New England Conservatory, was excited to help turn this dream into a reality.

In its first year, the orchestra program served 50 students with four hours of orchestral instruction per week. In subsequent years JQOP grew by adding new faculty, serving more children, and increasing the number of hours per week of music instruction. In 2013 JQOP created a Kindergarten Musicianship class, with a focus on general music, paper orchestra, and creating a sense of community from an early age (now called the Mozart Orchestra). In 2014 JQOP added a choir for students with a passion for singing. In 2015, a new partnership began with the Josiah Quincy Upper School to continue serving students who had graduated from the elementary school. This new partnership included the start of the Chamber Music & Leadership class, an afterschool opportunity for sixth graders.

JQOP is inspired by El Sistema, the Venezuelan initiative that uses music education as a vehicle for social change. The El Sistema philosophy of having students help each other through the music-learning process is at the heart of our mission, and as a result, our program creates not only great musicians, but also caring individuals who will grow up to be active members of society. We believe that every child can learn to express music deeply, receive its many benefits, and make different critical life choices as a result of this learning.

The Program

Josiah Quincy Orchestra Program is a youth development program that uses an intensive and unique ensemble-based music curriculum to help children living in poverty develop necessary executive functions, social-emotional skills, and character strengths to succeed at school and in life. Students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade at Josiah Quincy Elementary and Upper Schools attend the program every weekday for 1.5 hours before school. The morning hours of our program ensure that all students begin the school day engaged and energized for academic learning. Students participate in orchestra and choir rehearsals, group lessons, music theory classes, and team-building activities.

Music students are enrolled in one of six ensembles: Mozart Orchestra (kindergarten), Rimsky Orchestra (first-year), Sibelius Orchestra (second-year), Mancini Orchestra (intermediate), Zimmer Orchestra (advanced), or the Children’s Choir. A student’s progress through the orchestra system is based on his/her behavior and musical development. Volunteers from New England Conservatory and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra provide additional support for students.

JQOP has a structured Music Mentorship program that encourages peer teaching at all levels. In addition to having students help each other during rehearsals, students in the intermediate orchestras mentor students in the beginner orchestras. Additionally, middle school students participate in an after-school Chamber Music & Leadership class. Given that chamber music is written for small ensembles and performed without a conductor, it is an excellent opportunity for students to develop leadership and communication skills. Chamber musicians must start and stop together, and rehearsals involve much planning and negotiation.
JQOP offers three concerts per year (December, March, and June), in addition to our Mozart Orchestra Paper Instrument Celebration in October. Students also perform throughout Boston, sometimes combining with students from other Boston-based El Sistema programs. Every year JQOP students participate in Boston Public School Arts Department events, including the televised Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.