Boston String Academy (BSA) is a non-profit organization providing rigorous string instrument instruction to children in under-served communities. The program is based on the Venezuelan El Sistema philosophy that utilizes music as a vehicle for social change. BSA aims to provide instruction of the highest quality, laying a musical foundation that could take a child to college or conservatory. Instruction of this caliber is something traditionally available  only to higher income students whose parents have the means to purchase private instruction. The BSA program makes mastery of a string instrument reachable by eliminating obstacles that stand in an inner city family’s way. Tuition is subsidized, programs are offered in/near the children’s schools, and private lessons and instrument rentals are included in the orchestral training.

BSA was founded in 2012 by Boston Conservatory graduates Marielisa and Mariesther Alvarez, and Taide Prieto, accomplished violinists and cellist who are also graduates of Venezuela’s “El Sistema,” and Peru’s homologue program. The three of them lived both the social and musical mission of El Sistema — they felt the need to create a program in Boston that models their El Sistema experience, a program that nurtures both the individual person and the musician at the same time. 

BSA currently offers three programs in the Chinatown and Allston neighborhoods, serving more than 120 students.

In 2019, BSA received the 2019 Commonwealth Awards, which honor exceptional achievement in the arts, humanities, and sciences in the state of Massachusetts, granted by the Massachusetts Cultural Cpuncil.

In addition, BSA students have been accepted into prestigious music performance programs such as Boston University Tanglewood Institute, LA Phil’s YOLA National Festival, Greenwood Music Camp, Kinhaven Music School, Point Counterpoint, Sphinx Performance Academy, New England Conservatory’s Summer Orchestra Institute, among others. During the past 6 years a large number of our students have been invited to participate in Longy School of Music’s Sistema Side by Side Orchestra. In the Fall of 2019, three BSA students were selected to be part of the Boston BEAM, the new Boston Bridge to Equity and Achievement in Music Initiative at New England Conservatory. We also take pride in the fact that 100% of our students were accepted into exam schools over the past four years. 

As part of the efforts to expose the students to the highest level of musical expression, BSA provides them with opportunities to perform and work with internationally acclaimed artists including Rictor Noren, Lynn Chang, David Ying, Martin Chalifour, Edicson Ruiz, Arturo Marquez, Midori Goto, and world renowned conductors Gustavo Dudamel and Sir Simon Rattle.

In partnership with Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and Longy School of Music of Bard College, BSA counts with the support of graduate student teaching assistants from these institutions.

In order to expand our student’s opportunities, BSA collaborates and partners with these Art organizations: Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Conservatory, Boston University, New England Conservatory, Celebrity Series of Boston, Harvard University, Sphinx Virtuosi, Princeton University.

BSA’s current funders include Massachusetts Cultural Council, Harvard Allston Partnership Fund, Boston Cultural Council, D´Addario Foundation, Johnson String Project, and Boston Philharmonic.

As our programs grow into full fruition, and our early students advance through their educational careers, we are cultivating a community to support our young musicians’ academic success, self-confidence, creativity and social-emotional development.


Marielisa Alvarez

Director, Violin Faculty

Venezuelan violinist, Marielisa Alvarez is a graduate of “El Sistema”, the National System of Youth and Children Orchestras of Venezuela. During her time in Venezuela she performed in several orchestras, including the Barquisimeto Youth Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and the Lara Symphony Orchestra. In addition she was

Mariesther Alvarez

Director, Violin Faculty

Violinist Mariesther Alvarez is a founder and co-director of the Boston String Academy, an El Sistema- inspired program which hosts an outstanding children’s string orchestra curriculum. She holds a Master of Music Degree and a Graduate Performance Diploma from The Boston Conservatory, where she was a student of Professor Rictor