Sistema Aotearoa Logo

Welcome to Sistema Aotearoa

Who we are

Walk through Otara Town Mall any afternoon and you’ll see smiling children of all ages, carrying violins, flutes and trumpets or balancing cellos on their backs! These eager learners are heading to Otara Music Arts Centre the home of one of New Zealand’s most unique and effective music and social development programmes – Sistema Aotearoa.

Sistema Aotearoa works to bring about social change, community empowerment and personal growth for children from vulnerable communities. Focussing on children with the fewest resources and greatest need the programme fosters confidence, teamwork, pride and aspiration in the children and their wider community through orchestral music making.

Sistema Aotearoa has been an integral aspect of family and community life in Otara. Since its inception in 2011, over 2500 children have been impacted by the programme. In 2016 more than 1000 Māori and Pasifika children students, aged 2 to 14 years, participated in diverse activities including lively community pre-school music sessions, concert performances, in school musicianship lessons, and instrumental tuition afterschool and in school holidays.

Based on El Sistema, a worldwide initiative, Sistema Aotearoa is a social development program that builds a sense of community, self-respect, and mutual support in children. Our free, intensive, ensemble-based music lessons inspire children to realize their full potential as students and citizens through orchestral music-making and the pursuit of musical excellence.

Today, El Sistema is not only producing transformational social change, it is producing among the best musicians in the world.

How it works

Sistema Aotearoa is an independent charitable trust with a close partnership with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. Sistema Aotearoa’s approach considers all aspects of a child’s development and works to integrate these creating benefits that go beyond the development of musical ability. This wider, pastoral care is a critical success factor in engaging the children and impacting on their well-being. The benefits of the programme include the development of intangible skills and qualities that are vital for positive personal development.

Students receive high quality, intensive tuition through a carefully structured curriculum. Participation is open access, with no audition process. It is also free for all students and instruments are supplied.

Children begin age 6 years when they are in Year 2 of primary school and carry on until the end of secondary education. With the programme entering its 6th year some partner schools have up to a third of their students attending Sistema Aotearoa making it a vibrant and integrated part of the school activities.

In 2016 384 students were enrolled in the afterschool programme with a further 204 children participating in the Puoro Pōtiki In-school courses. 433 children/whānau attended Pūoru Pīrere preschool sessions at local ECE centres and at community ‘drop-in’ locations.

Emphasis is placed on developing a supportive community. Teachers, whanau and students alike are invested in both personal and community success, creating a place where children feel safe and challenged, loved and respected and are empowered to achieve in every aspect of their lives.

Evaluation Results

An independent evaluation report (released 2016) on the educational and social outcomes of Sistema Aotearoa concluded that the programme was contributing positively to a range of outcomes. Most noticeable was that the students scored more highly in reading and mathematics than children not participating. Other key child outcomes included increased confidence, perseverance and self-discipline and found that the programme also supported the student’s sense of belonging, vision for the future and contribution to their own culture. Important whānau outcomes included a greater involvement with their child’s schooling, and improved family relationships and parenting skills.

Sistema programmes are now established elsewhere in New Zealand and Sistema Aotearoa, as the centre for excellence and training, is sharing its knowledge and experience through Sistema NZ.

Partner Schools

Rongomai School
Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate
Bairds Mainfreight Primary School
East Tamaki School
Piripono Kura
Wymondley Road Primary School
St John the Evangelist School






Sistema Aotearoa
PO Box 61-171, Otara, Manukau, 2159
Phone: 021 618 922