Saturday, October 08, 2011

Copying the Chavistas

What do the sardine-packed, poverty-riven barrios of Caracas and the classical music elites of Los Angeles, Cambridge, Massachusetts and New York have in common? Very little, you might think.

But this week a new project has been launched seeking to emulate Venezuela's revolutionary music programme and replicate it across America. Take a Stand has as its inspiration the celebrated El Sistema, the artistic experiment based on the principle that music can be a force of social good that has transformed the lives of more than 400,000 poor Venezuelan children.

El Sistema already exists in the US in the form of the charismatic conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who was himself a product of the scheme known officially as the National System of Youth and Children's Orchestras of Venezuela. Born into a poor family, Dudamel was exposed to classical music as a young boy and, now aged 30, has risen to be principal conductor at one of the world's great orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic.


A key adviser to the new project will be José Antonio Abreu, who founded El Sistema in 1975. Both a conductor and social scientist, Abreu conceived El Sistema as an experiment to see whether music could make a difference in the otherwise impoverished and unstimulated lives of poor kids.

His brainchild proved to have explosive potential, leading to a mushrooming of local orchestras in Venezuela whose young members came almost exclusively from poor communities.

The American version will be launched in January at the same time as the LA Phil and the Venezualan Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra combine to perform all Mahler's symphonies – first in LA and later in Caracas.

  UK Guardian

The irrepressible Gustavo Dudamel…

The awesome kids (ages 16-24) of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra don’t just play classical, either…

El Sistema is one part of a series of Misiónes instigated by that “tyrant” Hugo Chávez to bring Venezuela’s dirt poor masses education and opportunities that they were formerly denied. Under Misión Música, the government provided tuition and musical instruments for the program. It’s kind of amazing what children can accomplish, and what the poor have to offer, when given the opportunity, don’t you think?

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

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