El Sistema: How Music Saved Venezuela’s Children
The San Diego Youth Symphony & Conservatory recently hosted a series of events focused on the transformative nature of El Sistema.
The remarkable accomplishment of a great humanist, José Antonio Abreu, who dedicated his life to set up the ‘Sistema’ in 1975, an extraordinary music and social project which has been running in Venezuela in an attempt to transform the lives of the nations poorest children.
It has been using classical music to tackle the social problems of a country where 60% of the population live below the poverty line. By offering free instruments and tuition through a network of after-school centres all over the country, the Sistema has kept thousands of children away from the drugs, alcohol and gang-related violence of the streets and has led to the creation of 30 professional orchestras in a country that had only 2 before it started. Currently, 275,000 children attend the Sistemas schools and many of them play in one of the 125 youth orchestras.
At the pinnacle of the system stands the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela under its music director Gustavo Dudamel who is himself a product of the Sistema and is also the musical director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
Edward Abeyta, Ph.D.
UC San Diego