Venezuela’s “El Sistema” Youth Orchestra System Expands to Public Institutions

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro inaugurated a new children’s music centre in the headquarters of the electricity ministry on Thursday as part of plans to greatly increase the number of children receiving free classical music education in the country.

By Ewan Robertson

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Nicolas Maduro was present at the inauguration of the new centre (agencies)
Nicolas Maduro was present at the inauguration of the new centre (agencies)
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Mérida, 16th May 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro inaugurated a new children’s music centre in the headquarters of the electricity ministry on Thursday as part of plans to greatly increase the number of children receiving free classical music education in the country.

Initially, 93 children of employees with the National Electricity Corporation (Corpoelec) will form a new youth orchestra in the centre, with the aim being to enroll up to a thousand children more.

“We should develop talent, knowledge, intelligence, capacity and work starting with love for the nation. This is the way…music is a great instrument of love and human sensitivity,” said Maduro upon the inauguration.

The introduction of the youth orchestra system, known around the world as “El Sistema”, into public institutions marks a new phase for the program founded by Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu in 1975.

In a nation of 30 million inhabitants, El Sistema now contains 685 infant, child and youth orchestras and brings over 400,000 children and youths to the study of classical music, 75% of them from poorer backgrounds. Its methodology is considered beneficial to child development. The model has been replicated around the globe, with El Sistema orchestras now established in 35 countries.

As part of policies to promote cultural and human development, and to tackle the social problems behind crime, the government of Nicolas Maduro is currently aiming to increase the number of children and youths involved in the program to one million.

Introducing El Sistema into public institutions is seen as one way of doing this, and Maestro Abreu, who was present at Thursday’s inauguration, encouraged other public bodies to follow Corpoelec’s example.

“[This is] so that there isn’t a single state institution in which the workers’ children don’t have access to El Sistema. This would be a world example without precedent…to sow Venezuela with young musicians,” he said.

Another mechanism to increase El Sistema’s enrollment is to integrate the program with the public education system. Through policies such as this, Abreu felt that the number of children and youths studying classical music in Venezuela could be greatly increased.

“By organising the entrance process well, it’s perfectly viable. This is an example,” Abreu explained.

El Sistema is run by the Simon Bolivar Musical Foundation, which in turn is overseen by the Office of the Venezuelan Presidency. As such, the youth orchestra system receives a large amount of support and funding from the Bolivarian government.