Learning and Performing in the Santa Cruz Nucleo of Venezuela’s “El Sistema” National Youth Orchestra Program

The Nucleo of Santa Cruz in the Andean state of Merida in the west of Venezuela is one of 180 centres of learning, teaching and performance, or nucleos, that form Venezuela’s national youth orchestra system, known internationally as El Sistema (The System).


British music teacher and language student Hannah Bowers gives us an insight into the work, creativity and development of the students at the Santa Cruz Nucleo from her period spent teaching in the nucleo in autumn 2011. The centre brings in children from the surrounding area to learn classical music, as well as the skills of working together, self-discipline, and the pursuit of creative development.

Founded in 1975, El Sistema has resulted in the transformation of classical music teaching and performance in Venezuela, which also acts a social program for the collective and personal development of children across the South American nation. The program currently incorporates more than 350,000 children, 70% of these being from poorer backgrounds.

The free program has received strong state support under the government of Hugo Chavez, and is now 90% publicly funded. The model has proved so successful that similar projects are now being established in more than 25 countries, including the United States, Canada, and Scotland.

Text by Ewan Robertson, Venezuelanalysis.com