"There is no more important work being done in music
than what is being done in Venezuela" - Simon Rattle
In January of 2007, Tina Fedeski and Gary McMillen watched the DVD Tocar y Luchar on the Venezuelan youth orchestra system (known as El Sistema). Afterwards, they knew they somehow had to bring some of that inspiration and passion for music to the youth of Ottawa.
|Shortly after that, Tina had the opportunity to visit with her sister in Caracas, who had just moved to Venezuela with her Canadian diplomat husband. While there, she visited the home of El Sistema and met with several of the teachers. They were extremely welcoming and she ended up giving flute lessons to several of the students!|
|To continue with the element of synchronicity, Gustavo Dudamel (star pupil of El Sistema and conductor of its flagship Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra) made his conducting debut with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. Many of you may have witnessed his performances those evenings as he set the NACO on fire. In recent months, his name seems to constantly be in the news - not least for his appointment as Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.|
And in February 2008, Dr. José Antonio Abreu, the founder of El Sistema, was awarded the Glenn Gould Prize for his untiring efforts to promote music as a tool for human development. All of this publicity has helped to bring the importance of El Sistema to the attention of the world.
Briefly, El Sistema is an incredible network of hundreds of orchestras formed within most of Venezuela’s towns and villages. Initially a modest program designed to expose rural children to the wonders of music, the system has become one of the most important and beautiful social phenomena in modern history. Currently, 250,000 children attend its music schools around the country, 90% of them from poor socio-economic backgrounds.
The principles are simple. Children as young as two are given an instrument as soon as they can hold it. Tuition, outings, music and, where necessary, social support are all furnished free of charge in return for the child's agreement to play in one of the sistema's ensembles. Lessons are in groups. Children who have mastered a scale or two are delegated to teach younger children. Peer support is fundamental. And orchestral playing is part of the program from the beginning. Six days a week, four hours a day, the children play music together in one of 90 music schools, or núcleos, around the country.
For more information on this phenomenom, please visit the El Sistema web site . And for those of you who would like to find out even more, The Leading Note music store is proud to be the Canadian distributor for the Tocar y Luchar DVD. All proceeds from the DVD sales will be donated to The Leading Note Foundation Orkidstra Youth Music Program.