Seeing as this is my first blog since the beginning of our Finding Harmony year, I thought I’d draw your attention to another story of when music has been an incredible force for social change.
Back in 1975, a Venezuelan economist – José Antonio Abreu – sought a way to deal with the help deal with the disconnected youth of his country, many of whom were turning to crime.
As a brilliant musician himself, he spotted the potential for harnessing the bonding power of playing music in groups. And so El Sistema, and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra were born.
Through a number of grants and donations, El Sistema managed to provide free music tuition and ensemble playing to a vast number of children from poor socio-economic backgrounds. Further to that, many of the children ended up forming what is now one of the world’s most highly respected orchestras, the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, currently conducted by one our our greatest living conductors – Gustavo Dudamel, himself a graduate of the programme.
All these years later El Sistema has over 300,000 children attending it’s music schools, 31 different symphony orchestras, and has inspired multiple similar schemes across the USA.
Here’s a little paragraph about the social effect of the system from an article I found:
“In 2007, the Inter-American Development Bank announced the granting of a $150 million loan for the construction of seven regional centers of El Sistema throughout Venezuela. Many bankers within the IDB originally objected to the loan on the grounds that classical music is for the elite. In fact, the bank has conducted studies on the more than two million young people who have been educated in El Sistema that link participation in the program to improvements in school attendance and declines in juvenile delinquency. Weighing such benefits as a falloff in school drop-out rates and a decline in crime, the bank calculated that every dollar invested in El Sistema was reaping about $1.68 in social dividends.”
Plenty of leg-work goes in to getting projects like this up and running. However, the rewards are clearly phenomenal for communities, societies, cultures, and humankind. There is something so spectacular about this story; it shows that, given the right opportunities, all children can benefit from the joy of creating music, AND society benefits too!
Here’s a TED talk that Abreu gave in 2009:
Here’s a sensational video of a Venezuelan high school orchestra playing Shostakovich’s 10 Symphony in a rehearsal. The musical ability, passion, and drive is overwhelming!
Enjoy, and happy Finding Harmony year!
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