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Photo credit: Paul Hayes, Caledonian-Record

EPIC Music is a program of Catamount Arts, in partnership with the Northeast Kingdom Community Orchestra, St. Johnsbury School, and Northeast Kingdom Classical Series. Lessons are taught by Music Director Jason Bergman, lead teacher David Fickes, and Dr. Frank Rudolph, along with guest teaching artists. It is inspired by the global El Sistema program.


In 1975, economist and composer Dr. José Antonio Abreu created a music program in Venezuela that was transformational for children living in poverty. El Sistema (The System) has inspired similar programs throughout the world, each creating remarkable social change and producing extraordinary student musicians. The programs are open to any child with the enthusiasm and commitment to learn. Programs offer free instruments, free intense musical instruction, and significant experience working in ensembles. The two most important aspects of El Sistema-style programs are inclusivity for all students, and joy in making music.

Learn more about El Sistema here:

El Sistema USA is a documentary in process which highlights the El Sistema-inspired program Play on Philly!

This video show an exuberant performance by the original El Sistema youth ensemble, Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, a former El Sistema student:


In this video, Maestro Abreu explains the importance of equitable access to high-quality music education: 

You may read the latest issue of the EPIC Music newsletter here.

EPIC Music at St. Johnsbury School June 2018

EPIC Music Camp

Monday-Friday, June 18-22, 9:00am-noon (For current EPIC Music students and any student who has studied violin, entering grades 2-6)
Monday-Friday, June 25-29, 9:00am-noon (For all students, no violin experience necessary, entering grades 2-6)

St. Johnsbury School
257 Western Ave.
St. Johnsbury, VT

Instructors: Jason Bergman and David Fickes

Catamount Arts’ newest program, EPIC Music, will offer two weeks of music-making at St. Johnsbury School in June this year. Students will learn the fundamentals of reading music and playing violin in an ensemble, led by Music Director Jason Bergman and David Fickes. Students with some string experience as well as students with no musical experience at all are welcome to participate. Inspired by the global El Sistema movement, EPIC Music Camp is free, and all instruction, instruments, and snacks are provided free of charge.

Please register by completing the enrollment form HERE.
Registration deadline: June 8.

If you have questions, please contact Education Director Anne Campbell at or 802-748-2600 ext. 108.

Barnet resident Jason Bergman is a musician and educator. He is director of the St. Johnsbury Academy string program and an adjunct professor at Northern Vermont University conducting the NEK Community Orchestra. His teachers include: Olga Bloom, Sharon Yamada and his four violinist sisters. As a fiddler and vocalist he has performed worldwide and is a member of the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra. He enjoys a thriving teaching studio at his home, assisted by his cat Socrates.

David Fickes of Peacham is a St. Johnsbury Academy graduate and received his BM in Violin Performance at UC Santa Barbara in 2017. While at UCSB, he was principal second and concertmaster in the UCSB chamber orchestra and prerformed professionally with the Santa Maria Philharmonic. He received a Distinguished Performance Award from UCSB’s Ensemble for Contemporary Music. After returning to Vermont, he performed in a masterclass at Carnegie Hall’s Resnick Education Wing and has held leadership roles with multiple local ensembles. He also toured with Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra of the USA. He is a member of the Vermont Philharmonic and concertmaster of the NEK Community Orchestra and teaches privately.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Anne Campbell at 802-748-2600 ext. 108 or



We are looking for violins that are sized for children: 1/8 to 3/4. We can repair instruments. If you have a violin you would like to donate, please contact Anne Campbell at 802-748-2600, ext. 108 or


Volunteers are the heart of EPIC Music! We are looking for volunteers, high school-aged and up, to help at the program once a week and build relationships with our students. We also need occasion help to raise funds and promote EPIC Music. Click on our Volunteer page for more information: Volunteering at Catamount Arts or contact volunteer coordinator Robin Bergman: or 802-633-2871.


In order to provide a free program for all interested students, we need funds to help pay for teachers, renting and repairing instruments, and administrative support. If you are able to make a gift of any size, please write a check to Catamount Arts and make a note that it is for EPIC Music, or make an online donation here: Donating to Catamount Arts

Thank you!