The YOURS Project (Chicago, IL)
“The orchestra and choir are much more than artistic studies. They are examples and schools of social life. To sing and to play together, means to intimately coexist”
For those who are wondering what El Sistema is, it is just that translated as "The System". Jose Antonio Abreu (Wikipedia), an economist and musician, founded El Sistema in 1975 to help poor Venezuelan kids learn to play a musical instrument and be part of an orchestra. 30 years on, El Sistema has seeded 102 youth orchestras -- and many happy lives.
One amazing product from El Sistema is the current Musical Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (LAPO) Gustavo Dudamel. Ever since 2009 when the young Venezuelan conductor broke into the classical music scene at 29, he gave music and the arts a LIFELINE in the United States. Slowly yet unfortunately the audience for classical music was shrinking becoming smaller by the year in the United States. The arts in America are under siege with traditional and core subjects trumping the arts in the form of budget cuts. But Gustavo has brought back the fire to classical music in the United States along with the power of El Sistema. I never saw the famous conductor Leonard Bernstein conduct in my lifetime but I could imagine it was like seeing a rock star on stage. Gustavo brings that essential stage presence but most importantly humility as well. Humility is lacking at times in music and society itself (due to politics and egos). But Gustavo, the poster child for El Sistema, is spreading the message around the US and the world to enact social change through the power of music. This is not just a musical movement but a movement for social change for youth of the world!
Dudamel grew up in his native Venezuela where he himself as a youth was raised in the El Sistema Program. He said El Sistema "kept him off the streets and out of trouble." His parents were both musicians but as we all know parents in an adolescent's life don't have as much impact on their children as their social circles and community. He is living proof that one who is living in poverty or an impoverished area can lead a successful and better life through the music! He is an amazing violinist, conductor but most importantly a human being. If you watch him, he connects with children and people of all ages. He is truly a global citizen and ambassador of music to the world. And I want to join him in this musical movement for social change in the US and worldwide...
Elmo & Gustavo make a STUPENDOUS team! As you know I've decided to make the plunge into grad school but I still have a burning passion to teach of course. So after having a conversation via phone with a friend he told me about the "El sistema symposium" he attended which had a panel of the founder, Jose Abreu, conductor, Gustavo Dudamel and a slew of others. From the symposium in LA, he told me that the New England Conservatory had partnered up to create the El Sistema Fellowship in which every year 18 musicians would be selected to study the El Sistema model in Boston and travel to Venezuela for 6 weeks. I WANT TO DO THIS!!!! I took spanish for 7 years and my dad is fluent (he was born in Argentina, raised in Chile) so I am picking up the language again. I am excited to see the culture of South America. Additionally, I am looking to start an El Sistema inspired music program in DC. There is no such program of it's kind at the moment in Washington and even if there is one started, the more programs the greater the social movement! There currently is a program in Baltimore called "OrchKids" which was spearheaded by Marin Alsop, conductor of the Baltimore Symphony.
“If anybody asked me where is there something really important going on for the future of classical music I would simply have to say here, in Venezuela... I say I have seen the future of music in Venezuela and that is a resurrection”
I am calling on classical musicians that I know and others to band together to start this El Sistema NPO in Washington, D.C.
Coming December 2012 to the Kennedy Center, Gustavo Dudamel will be conducting the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra bringing the magic (or as Gustavo says MaYeek) and fire of classical music to the nation's capital!!!
The video below is another youth orchestra known as the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra! The top orchestra in Venezuela is the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela (SBYOV) who Dudamel is touring with to show the power of El Sistema. Enjoy the video!
All the best,
The Chatty Cellist :)