El Sistema Venezuela
El Sistema is the common name for the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela. Founded in 1975 by conductor, economist, politician and visionary, Jose Antonio Abreu, El Sistema is a free youth orchestra program for Venezuela’ youth. Since El Sistema’s founding, two million kids have gone through the program. There are currently more than 400,000 kids playing in some 200 youth orchestras all over the country. 70% of the participants live below the poverty line.
Nevertheless, their top youth orchestra, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, tours the world playing to sold out audiences: La Scala in Milan, Carnegie Hall in New York, the London Proms, Berlin, Los Angeles, Paris, Boston, Gothenburg, Geneva and more. They are a YouTube sensation. The whole time, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra has been led by one of their own: the young conducting phenomenon and product of El Sistema, Gustavo Dudamel. In 2009, Dudamel was named music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at just 26 years of age. However, El Sistema is more than a music program.
Since El Sistema’s founding, over one million kids have gone through the program.”
El Sistema is literally saving young lives in Venezuela. Six days a week, kids attend their neighborhood youth orchestra, where they are developing confidence, self-worth, teamwork, expressivity, and creativity through participation in music classes. The kids are kept off the streets, away from the lure of gangs and drugs. They are busy and focused. They all want to be in the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra. Their pursuit of musical excellence is driving them and ambition is becoming part of their fabric. They are finishing high school. They are going to university and becoming lawyers, doctors and engineers. As adults, they are returning to their program sites to volunteer and of course some, like Gustavo Dudamel, are making a living as great musicians. El Sistema’s youth orchestras are becoming the focus of communities in Venezuela’s coastal towns, mountain villages and shantytowns.
The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that for every $1 the Venezuelan government invests into El Sistema, the Venezuelan economy is reaping $1.68. Gaining worldwide recognition, El Sistema was featured in a series of articles in the New York Times in 2012 and has been featured on 60 Minutes three times.