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|Industry||Promotion of Music in the Venezuelan Youth|
|Products||Youth and Children Orchestras|
|Website||FESNOJIV official site|
El Sistema is a publicly financed voluntary sector music education program in Venezuela, founded in 1975 by economist and musician José Antonio Abreu under the name of Social Action for Music. For many years its official name was Fundación del Estado para el Sistema Nacional de las Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela, (FESNOJIV), which is sometimes translated into English as "National Network of Youth and Children's Orchestras of Venezuela".
It has recently changed to Fundación Musical Simón Bolívar (FMSB) but it is still widely known by the FESNOJIV acronym.
El Sistema is a state foundation which watches over Venezuela's 125 youth orchestras and the instrumental training programmes which make them possible. The organization has 31 symphony orchestras, and between 310,000 to 370,000 children attend its music schools around the country. 70 to 90 percent of the students come from poor socio-economic backgrounds.
Abreu's vision 
- "Music has to be recognized as an agent of social development, in the highest sense because it transmits the highest values - solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion. And it has the ability to unite an entire community, and to express sublime feelings"
Abreu has navigated the program for the past 35 years through ten different administrations, flourishing "with the backing and material support of seven consecutive Venezuelan governments, ranging across the political spectrum from center-right to the current leftist presidency of Hugo Chávez"..(although).."he is careful to keep the Sistema separate from partisan politics". Combining political shrewdness with religious devotion, Abreu has dedicated himself to an utopian dream in which an orchestra represents the ideal society, and the sooner a child is nurtured in that environment, the better for all.
The structure of the El Sistema organization 
Venezuelan government involvement 
The program is known for rescuing young people in extremely impoverished circumstances from the environment of drug abuse and crime into which they would likely otherwise be drawn.
The Venezuelan government began fully financing Abreu's orchestra after it succeeded brilliantly at an international competition in 1977 in Aberdeen, Scotland. From the beginning, El Sistema fell under the dominion of social-services ministries, not the ministry of culture, which has strategically helped it to survive. The current Chavez administration has been the most generous patron of El Sistema so far, footing almost its entire annual operating budget as well as additional capital projects. Abreu received the National Music Prize for his work in 1979 and he became Minister of Culture in 1983. Abreu was appointed as Special Ambassador for the development of a Global Network of Youth and Children orchestras and choirs by UNESCO in 1995, also as special representative for the development of network of orchestras within the framework of UNESCO's "World Movement of Youth and Children Orchestras and Choirs".
At the time, its network of 102 youth and 55 children's orchestras (numbering approximately 100,000 youngsters) came under the supervision of the Ministry of Family, Health and Sports. As "El Sistema", its goal is to use music for the protection of childhood through training, rehabilitation and prevention of criminal behaviour.
In September 2007, with Abreu present on the television program, President Hugo Chávez announced a new government program, Misión Música, designed to provide tuition and music instruments to Venezuelan children. It has been noted that "various ministries oversaw El Sistema until two years ago, when the president’s office took direct control. El Sistema’s mission runs parallel to Mr. Chávez’s program to provide subsidies and services to the poor." However, there has been objections to Chavez's involvement from those who oppose the policies of the present government.
Spread of regional centres in Venezuela 
On 6 June 2007, the Inter-American Development Bank announced the granting of a US$150 million loan for the construction of seven regional centers of El Sistema throughout Venezuela. Many bankers within the IDB originally objected to the loan on the grounds that classical music is for the elite. In fact, the bank has conducted studies on the more than two million young people who have been educated in El Sistema which link participation in the program to improvements in school attendance and declines in juvenile delinquency. Weighing such benefits as a falloff in school drop-out rates and a decline in crime, the bank calculated that every dollar invested in El Sistema was reaping about $1.68 in social dividends. Supported by the government, El Sistema has started to introduce its music program into the public-school curriculum, aiming to be in every school and to support 500,000 children by 2015.
The project has been extended to the penal system. On 25 May 2008, Leidys Asuaje wrote for Venezuelan daily El Nacional: "The plan to humanize jails through music began eleven months ago under the tutelage of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice and FESNOJIV...."
Simon Bolivar Orchestra 
An important product of El Sistema is the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra. In the mid-1990s, Abreu formed the National Children's Youth Orchestra, and many young musicians graduated from it to the Simón Bolívar which grew condiderably in size. However, this "became an opportunity to re-create the ensemble as two separate performing entities. The first generation of members was designated the Simón Bolívar A; the younger, newer members, who had recently been brought in from the new National Children's Orchestra, now constituted the Simón Bolívar B" The Simón Bolívar B is now the touring orchestra and, 2007, it made its debut at the BBC Proms in London's Royal Albert Hall and later at Carnegie Hall under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel, receiving enthusiastic reviews. 2009 saw the orchestra touring in the US, but also in Europe as well.
However, in Spring 2010, with a tour to the Lucerne Easter Festival, comments from reviewers such as Tom Service of London's The Guardian that "the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra is youthful no longer" struck home, and Abreu "decided that the time is once again ripe for new, younger national orchestras" and so he set about creating new ensembles. The Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra, named after the Venezuelan pianist, started international touring in the fall of 2010 with appearances at the Beethoven Fest in Bonn and then went on to Vienna, Berlin, Amsterdam, Madrid, and London. Other new youth orchestras include the Caracas Symphony Youth Orchestra and a newly constituted National Children's Orchestra consisting of 358 musicians.
El Sistema in other countries 
The United States: El Sistema USA 
"El Sistema USA" is an organization which promotes the "system" throughout the US. Its philosophy is expressed on its website:
- "A visionary global movement that transforms the lives of children through music. A new model for social change."
It has been estimated that in early 2009 there were five or six El Sistema-based programs in the US, but "by mid-2011, there were at least 50 such programs - and list is increasing by the week..." In addition, many of the original Abreu Fellows who came together at the New England Conservatory as a result of Abreu's TED Prize, have gone into their local communities to start new programs or to expand upon or within existing ones. These cover a wide geographical area ranging from KidZNotes in North Carolina, JAMM (Juno Alaska Music Matters) in that state, and ICAN (Incredible Children's Art Network) in Santa Barbara, California.
Some locations of programs around the US 
Abreu appeared in a public symposium on El Sistema which took place on 7 November 2007 in Boston, Massachusetts where he gave the keynote speech; it is available as a video of the public symposium on "El Sistema" on the WGBH Forum Network. A significant panel of speakers was present.
- Harmony Program, New York City
One of the first El Sistema-inspired programs in the U.S., the Harmony Program began as a pilot program in the New York City Mayor’s Office in 2003. After being incorporated as an independent non-profit, the Harmony Program was re-launched under its current model in 2008 through a partnership with the City University of New York. The Harmony Program was founded by Anne Fitzgibbon, who studied El Sistema in Venezuela on a year-long Fulbright Fellowship.
The Harmony Program operates programs through partnerships with public schools and community-based organizations, including the YMCA, ASPIRA NY, and the United Palace of Cultural Arts. They currently have sites in Brooklyn, Upper Manhattan, and the Bronx. Harmony students receive free instruments, daily after school music instruction, and ensemble training. They also gain access to concerts and cultural events throughout the city.
Instructors for the Harmony Program are undergraduates, graduate students, and recent alumni of music education and music performance programs. They receive ongoing professional development training from the Harmony Program as well as up to 300 hours of teaching experience annually.
- Conservatory Lab Charter School, Boston, Massachusetts
At the symposium Abreau "expressed his delight at the prospect of joining with Conservatory Lab Charter School and other musical institutions in the United States to create a Pan-American movement. "The New World", he said, "is nothing less than all three Americas. And so what we are in the process of creating is really an expression of a new, transcontinental social and musical culture"
The Conservatory Lab school is associated with the New England Conservatory of Music, and it became the first El Sistema-infused charter school in Massachusetts. The Lab's elementary school students receive free orchestral instruction for three hours each day, integrated into their academic program.
- OrchKids at the Luckerman Bundy Elementary School, Baltimore, Maryland
This after-school program, which brings "intensive music education to very young children is a distinctive feature of the OrchKids program (and) one of the many ways it emulates the Venezuelan Sistema" concentrates on both the musical and the social: "(the children) learn that being an OrchKid means behaving in a certain way" says Nick Skinner, assistant to OrchKids Director, Dan Trahey. Trahey came out of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's involvement in the OrchKids program under its conductor, Marin Alsop, who is a firm believer in its importance and who conducts concerts with the young group.
- YOLA (Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles), Los Angeles, California
YOLA at EXPO is a partnership between the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Harmony Project, and EXPO Center, a City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks facility. Harmony Project is a non profit that provides musical instruments and instruction to underserved communities throughout Los Angeles. YOLA receives artistic direction from the Los Angeles Philharmonic via conductor Bruce Kiesling and LA Phil Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, who has led the orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.
- YOSA (Youth Orchestra of San Antonio) at the Music Learning Center, West San Antonio, Texas
Located in the "Good Sam" Community Services Center and run by an expatriate Briton, Steven Payne, YOSA has five orchestras and 450 students. It also has the financial support of a local businessman, Al Silva, a man of Mexican heritage who grew up the area.
- Soundscapes, Newport News, Virginia
Founded in the Fall of 2009, Soundscapes opened its first nucleo at Carver Elementary. Soundscapes is a non-profit, El Sistema-inspired, educational development organization teaching transformational life-skills to socio-economically disadvantaged youth in Virginia, using music study and ensemble performance. In 2012 the program opened its second nucleo at Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center.
- Union City Music Project (UCMP), Union City, New Jersey
The Union City Music Project, located in Union City, New Jersey, launched operations in March 2012 through a Paper Orchestra. In this program, 50 children ages 3–6 receive 4 hours of instruction per week. During one full month in the summer, they receive daily instruction totalling 15 hours per week. The program will continue in September when the initial 50 children will transition to real instruments, and 30 other children will begin through another Paper Orchestra session.
- Atlanta Music Project, Atlanta, Georgia
A new program has been created in Atlanta, which is sponsored by major companies and foundations of the city. It is managed by two Sistema Fellows, graduates of the 2010 and 2012 Program at the New England Conservatory of Music. The Atlanta Music Project offers both an orchestral and a choral music program. Atlanta's sister town of Toulouse in France is planning to create a similar project.
- MYCincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio
MYCincinnati is a free youth orchestra program in Price Hill, Cincinnati. It was founded in October 2011 by a graduate of the second class of Sistema Fellows at New England Conservatory. The program now has a full string orchestra of over 40 students who meet for two hours a day, five days a week.
- Other locations
These include the YOURS children's orchestra in Chicago (where the program grew from 35 to 150 children within a year; First Notes in Vail Valley, Colorado; CityMusic in Cleveland, Ohio; Club O in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Kid Ovation program in Des Moines, Iowa; and Orchestrating Diversity in Saint Louis, Missouri
United Kingdom 
On 22 November 2007, Julian Lloyd Webber noted the following in regard to the UK government's announcement of an infusion of £332 million dedicated to music education:
- We also have an impoverished South American nation to thank. Last August, in the midst of school holidays, when an uncomfortable number of British children seemed even more disaffected than usual, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra arrived from Venezuela to deliver performances at the Edinburgh Festival and the London Proms that were, quite simply, miraculous"
Lloyd Webber was appointed chairman of the steering group of In Harmony, a British government-led music education and community development project which is based on El Sistema and which planned a three-year project that will focus on three impoverished areas of England. It began in 2009 and reports demonstrate its success. Lloyd Webber visited Venezuela in late 2009 and reported on what he saw there.
There are six In Harmony projects that currently receive funding from the Department for Education and Arts Council England. They are:
- In Harmony Lambeth, led by Lambeth Council's Children and Young People's Service.
- In Harmony Leeds, led by Opera North.
- In Harmony Liverpool, led by the Royal Livepool Philharmonic Orchestra.
- In Harmony Newcastle Gateshead, led by The Sage Gateshead.
- In Harmony Nottingham, led by Nottingham City Council.
- In Harmony Telford and Stoke-on-Trent, led by Telford and Wrekin Music
It was established with a grant from the Scottish Arts Council, as a result of an initiative by its chairman Richard Holloway, for the purpose of breaking the cycle of poverty in the economically depressed area of Raploch, in Stirling, where male life expectancy is less than 63 years. According to Peter Stevenson of Sistema Scotland, the £1m mentioned here is part of the £332 million that the Glennie-Galway-Lloyd Webber-Kamen music education consortium helped generate.
- Orquestra Geração (Generation Orchestra)
This name used to describe the 16 centres currently using it to reference activities throughout the country. It was started in 2005 in a small way in Amadora on the northern outskirts of Lisbon. It is now a solid project ready to expand and to influence Portuguese social inclusion methodology and government policy. Some 850 young people are now involved, in 16 schools in 11 towns: Loures, Oeiras, Sintra, Amadora, Sesimbra, Vila Franca de Xira, Lisboa, Coimbra, Mirandela, Amarante and Murça.
International recognition of El Sistema 
The Glenn Gould Prize was awarded to El Sistema founder José Antonio Abreu on 14 February 2008. Brian Levine, Managing Director of the Glenn Gould Foundation, in an account of his 2008 visit to Caracas wrote: "El Sistema has demonstrated conclusively that music education is the gateway to lifelong learning and a better future."
The National Performing Arts Convention 2008, held in Denver, Colorado, featured Abreu as a guest speaker on 13 June 2008.
The TED Prize was awarded to José Antonio Abreu on 5 February 2009 for his work on El Sistema. A pre-recorded speech was played at the ceremony in which he explained his philosophy. The prize allowed for the creation of the Abreu Fellows.
The Polar Music Prize from Sweden was awarded to El Sistema and Maestro Abreu in 2009.
El Sistema in the media 
- Tocar y Luchar (Play and Fight), a documentary film produced in 2004 on the subject of El Sistema. The film has won several awards, including "Best Documentary" at both the 2007 Cine Las Americas International Film Festival and also the CineMás Albuquerque Latino Film Festival.
- El Sistema, a 2008 documentary made by Paul Smaczny and Maria Stodtmeier about the system. The film won the "Best Documentary Feature Award" at the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival in 2010 and "Best Documentary" at the Orlando Hispanic Film Festival in 2009.
- Dudamel: Conducting a Life is an hour-long PBS program hosted by Tavis Smiley on the subject of music education in the United States, with a focus on Gustavo Dudamel and his achievements with the L.A. Philharmonic The report includes a look at how the Boston Conservatory Lab Charter School works with children.
- El Sistema: a report on CBS's 60 Minutes from 13 April 2008 which explores the "System" and includes interviews with some of the Venezuelan children who are members of an orchestra.
- Tunstall (2012), p. 35
- Tunstall (2012), p. 36. Different numbers have been reported. See Daniel Wakin, New Tork Times 4 March 2012, who quotes: "El Sistema has 280 centers around Venezuela and 310,000 students. It counts roughly 500 orchestras and other ensembles."
- Abreau, as quoted in Tunstall, p. 273
- Tunstall (2012), p. 84
- Arthur Lubow, "Conductor of the People", New York Times, 28 October 2007
- Abreu on "Youth Orchestras of America" website at yoa.org Retrieved 26 February 2012
- Charlotte Higgins (24 November 2006). "Land of hope and glory". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2007.
- Ed Vulliamy (29 July 2007). "Orchestral manoeuvres". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2007.
- Rory Carroll (4 September 2007). "Chávez pours millions more into pioneering music scheme". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 8 September 2007.
- Wakin, Daniel J. "Music Meets Chávez Politics, and Critics Frown", The New York Times, 17 February 2012 on www.nytimes.com. Retrieved 4 March 2012
- "IDB approves US $150 million to support youth orchestras in Venezuela": Program to benefit thousands of children from country’s poorest strata", on www.iadb.org, 6 June 2007. Retrieved 25 February 2012
- José Bergher (trans.), "El Sistema in penitentiaries", 27 May 2008 on The Power of Music - tipom.wordpress.com Retrieved 25 February 2012
- Tunstall (2012), pp. 118 - 125
- Justin Davidson, "¡Qué Fantástico!: Gustavo Dudamel makes an enormously charismatic New York debut" on nymag.com/arts, 18 November 2007. Retrieved 25 February 2012
- Anthony Tommasini, "Berlin and Caracas Show New York a Thing or Two About Music Outreach", New York Times 22 November 2007. Retrieved 25 February 2012
- Quoted in Tunstall (2012), p. 125
- Tunstall (2012), p. 126
- Tunstall (2012), p. 127
- El Sistema USA's website
- Tunstall, p. 239
- See also the Interactive map on the website of El Sistema USA
- Speakers included: Mark Slavkin, V.P., Education, LA Music Center; Leni Boorstin, Director, Community Affairs, LA Philharmonic; Sebastian Ruth, Founder, Director, Community MusicWorks; Steve Seidel, Director, Project Zero; George Simpson, Director, Roland Hayes School of Music; John Tobin, Chair, Arts Committee, Boston City Council; Polly Kahn, V.P., League of American Orchestras; Mark Churchill, Dean, Preparatory & Continuing Ed., NEC.
- Tunstall, pp. 232-238
- Abreau quoted in Tunstall (2012), p. 143
- Conservatory Lab Charter School
- Tunstall, p. 222
- Quoted in Tunstall, p. 225
- Tunstall, pp. 213 - 221
- Union City Music Project. About Us
- Atlanta Music Project website
- The Toulouse-Atlanta website
- Tunstall, pp. 238-245
- Julian Lloyd Webber,"Julian Lloyd Webber: We're heading down Venezuela way, at last", The Telegraph (London), 22 November 2007 on telegraph.co.uk Retrieved 25 February 2012
- In Harmony - Sistema England website Retrieved 25 February 2012
- Tom Service, "Why the In Harmony project rings true: I saw the government's In Harmony music education scheme in action last week in Liverpool – and what an astonishing, inspiring experience it was"] The Telegraph, 3 September 2009. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- Julian Lloyd Webber, "El Sistema: when music cuts crime and saves lives: Julian Lloyd Webber visits Venezuela to witness the spectacular success of an orchestral project that he is determined to replicate here", The Telegraph (London), 22 December 2009
- Higgins, Charlotte (14 January 2009). "Now for a samba: A Venezuelan music scheme has changed the lives of thousands of kids from the barrios. Can it work in Scotland?". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 1 May 2010.
- "Venezuela in Scotland launches today" on scottisharts.org.uk, 17 August 2007. Retrieved 25 February 2012
- "Venezuelan conductor, educator Jose Abreu wins Glenn Gould Prize" on cbc.ca, 15 February 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2012
- Details of the 2008 winner and protege, Gustavo Dudamel on the Glenn Gould Foundations's website Retrieved 26 February 2012.
- Prince of Asturias Foundation website
- "Radical Ideas From Beyond the Border" session, 13 June 2008, on performingartsconvention.org Retrieved 26 February 2012
- "Jose Abreu on kids transformed by music" Abreu's speech in accepting the award on video. Retrieved 25 February 2012
- Tocar y Luchar website with trailer Retrieved 25 February 2012]
- Award Winners at the 2007 CineMás Albuquerque Latino Film Festival Retrieved 5 March 2012
- The film, El Sistema 's website, with trailer Retrieved 25 February 2012]
- On pbs.org, Retrieved 25 February 2012
- Cited sources
- Tunstall, Tricia, Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformative Power of Music, New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 2012 ISBN 978-0-393-07896-1
- Wakin, Daniel J., "Venerated High Priest and Humble Servant of Music Education", The New York Times, 4 March 2012 on www.nytimes.com (article on José Antonio Abreu and El Sistema). Retrieved 4 March 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: El Sistema|
- Articles about El Sistema
Drew McManus, The Future of Classical Music is in Venezuela on partialobserver.com.
- "Part 1 of a trip to Caracas which led to a world of discovery", 4 July 2005
- "Part 2: Learning about where this remarkable Venezuelan program of classical music comes from and where it's going", 18 July 2005
- "Part 3: The process behind the Venezuelan program seems sound, but what about the artistic accomplishments?" 1 August 2005
- "Part 4: The FESNOJIV program has achieved sound accomplishments but could the program work outside of Venezuela?" 15 August 2005