Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra

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The Orchestra during a performance in 2013 at the Julio Prestes Cultural Complex, São Paulo, Brazil

The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela (Spanish: Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar de Venezuela) is a Venezuelan orchestra. Named after the Venezuelan national hero Simón Bolívar, it is the apex of the nation's system of youth orchestras,[1] although by 2011, it was no longer officially a youth orchestra because the average age of the players had risen too high.[2] It was replaced as the national youth orchestra by the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra.[3]

The economist José Antonio Abreu established the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar on 12 February 1978. Gustavo Dudamel has been the orchestra's artistic director since 1999. The orchestra has worked with many famous conductors including Claudio Abbado and Simon Rattle.

Social action through music[edit]

Venezuela's youth orchestras are run under the auspices of the Fundación Musical Simón Bolívar (FMSB), formerly known as the Fundacion del Estado para el Sistema Nacional de las Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela, known colloquially as El Sistema.

Based in Caracas, the orchestra moved its home in 2007 from the Teresa Carreño Cultural Complex to a new Center for Social Action Through Music nearby.[4] The name of the center reflects the fact that El Sistema sees itself as a social agency:[5] most of its music students come from poor socio-economic backgrounds.[6]

Reception in the UK[edit]

In August 2007, the orchestra made its debut at the BBC Proms, to critical acclaim and an enthusiastic reception from the audience.[7] The concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and deferred live on BBC Four TV.

A BBC TV documentary programme in the Imagine arts series, first shown on 18 November 2008, examined the history and ethos of the orchestra and its role in tackling the social problems of Venezuela and its success in transforming the lives of some of the nation's poorest children, including interviews with Dudamel, key members of the orchestra, and current and former students. Hosted by Alan Yentob, the film took a detailed look at the unique music education system of Venezuela, of which the orchestra is an integral part, and described a recent attempt to imitate its success in Raploch, a deprived district of the city of Stirling, Scotland.[8]

The cellist Julian 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[9] and which planned a three-year project in three impoverished areas of England. It began in 2009.

Reception in the US[edit]

In 2007, the orchestra and Dudamel appeared at Carnegie Hall.[10] In 2012 the music critic of the London Times stated his opinion that the high international profile of the Venezuelan orchestra under Dudamel was a factor in the creation of a national youth orchestra in the United States.[11]


The orchestra and Dudamel have made four recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, one of Beethoven; one of Mahler one of Tchaikovsky; and a collection of Latin American music.

The orchestra previously released other recordings, including several ballet pieces, in the early 1990s on the Dorian Recordings label.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Charlotte Higgins (24 November 2006). "Land of hope and glory". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2007.
  2. ^ Guy Dammann (6 August 2011), Prom 29: Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra – review, The Guardian
  3. ^ Ed Vulliamy (3 October 2010), Simon Rattle: Abreu deserves the Nobel peace prize, The Observer
  4. ^ Ed Vulliamy (29 July 2007). "Orchestral manoeuvres". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2007.
  5. ^ Hewett, Ivan. "El Sistema and Gustavo Dudamel". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  6. ^ "Strings from the slums". The Strad. Archived from the original on 26 September 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
  7. ^ Stephen Pritchard (26 August 2007). "Caracas about them". The Observer. Retrieved 1 September 2007.
  8. ^ "How an Orchestra saved Venezuela's Children". BBC. 18 November 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2008.
  9. ^ In Harmony – Sistema England website Retrieved 25 February 2012
  10. ^ Justin Davidson (18 November 2007),"¡Qué Fantástico!: Gustavo Dudamel makes an enormously charismatic New York debut" on Retrieved 25 June 2012
  11. ^ . Richard Morrison. (March 2012), Why has America taken so long to launch its own National Youth Orchestra?, BBC Music Magazine
  12. ^ "Emusic listings". Retrieved 6 October 2007.

External links[edit]