The Social Action Music Center was ofﬁcially inaugurated by the Venezuelan head of state in celebration of the country’s 64th annual Day of Youth and the 36th anniversary of the founding of the nation’s thriving youth orchestra.
Jose Antonio Abreu, founder of the orchestra and Gustavo Dudamel, internationally acclaimed classical conductor, were both on hand for the ceremony which was marked by a series of brilliantly performed musical pieces by children and adolescents from around the country.
“Thank you, Maestro Abreu”, President Chavez said at the conclusion of the act. “I congratulate you, Gustavo Dudamel, this glorious Venezuelan youth, and the homeland”, he exclaimed.
AN INNOVATIVE SYSTEM
Venezuela’s youth orchestra, known in the country as El Sistema or The System, has been internationally recognized as one of the best music programs in the world.
For nearly four decades, The System has functioned as a space for at-risk youth to learn and practice classical as well as Venezuelan and Latin American folk music, creating alternatives to street life for economically disadvantaged residents.
The program currently provides opportunities to some 250 thousand aspiring young musicians and many of its graduates have gone on to be world class performers and conductors, landing successful careers on the international stage.
Gustavo Dudamel, a product of The System, is just one example of the orchestra’s international reach.
Since 2009, the 30-year old Dudamel has led the Los Angeles Philharmonic, creating a buzz in the classical music world and receiving innumerable accolades from critics and aﬁcionados.
A documentary about the young conductor called “Dudamel: Let the Children Play” recently debuted in the United States and was referred to by Academy Award winning actress Helen Hunt as a movie that “all children and young people in the world must see”.
The 25-minute documentary, directed by Venezuelan ﬁlmmaker Alberto Arevalo is a follow up to the earlier documentary about the youth orchestra called “Tocar y Luchar” or “Play and Struggle”.
During the inauguration of the music center on Saturday, President Chavez was received by a series of musical pieces including the orchestra’s rendition of the Venezuelan National Anthem conducted by Dudamel and a special performance of a traditional joropo ballad by visually impaired children from the state of Lara.
With a capable voice of his own, the Venezuelan President joined the young performers, signing the song “Barquisimeto”.
Over the years, the Chavez government has invested heavily in the growth and maintenance of the nation’s ﬂagship music program, approving nearly $50 million on training programs for the orchestra in 2010 alone.
The recently inaugurated center in Caracas, constructed with state and Inter-American Development Bank funds, is comprised of two different concert halls as well as various chambers for instruction and workshops for instrument construction.
“Maestro Dudamel, Maestro Abreu, look how the building has turned out thanks to your perseverance and struggle”, President Chavez said of the new center on Saturday, urging the participants of the program to continue with their growth and excellence.
“One has to feel the homeland from the inside, just like these young people of the orchestra… You are the most beautiful expression of our youth”, he said.
After the President’s inauguration of the music center, Gustavo Dudamel directed a public concert with the youth orchestra from the back terrace of the new building, facing one of Caracas’ largest parks, Los Caobos. The public park has been recovered in recent years by the Chavez government and now serves as one of the principal green areas in the city where families and residents can come and enjoy the year-round spring-like climate and sunshine of Caracas.
“This is absolutely wonderful, a true achievement of our Revolution”, said one onlooker.