The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Viewpoint-Venezuelan music creating miracles

By Steve Knight/managing editor

What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the South American nation of Venezuela?

President Hugo Chavez thumbing his nose at the United States every chance he gets?

Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano breaking his bat in two when he strikes out?

Oil? Classical music?

Although the first three things may come into mind, classical music is starting to attract international accolades for this country of 28.1 million people.

Fundación del Estado para el Sistema Nacional de Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela, or El Sistema (The System) for short, is a government-funded network of youth orchestras stretching across the country founded by José Antonio Abreu in 1975.

Around 300,000 children attend the 190 nucleos that make up the music education network, performing in one of the 150 youth orchestras and 70 children’s orchestras, according to the organization’s Web site.

Children come from the slums of Caracas, the Llanos and everywhere in between to make up what has become known as “the Venezuelan music miracle.”

This unique music education program, in which students study after school and on Saturdays, keeps thousands of kids away from the drug, alcohol and gang-filled streets of Venezuela’s cities.

The 20 countries starting youth orchestra programs modeled after El Sistema include Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and the United States.

The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, made up of the finest players in the country, makes regular tours to Europe, Asia, North and South America, appearing in major music festivals such as the BBC Proms in London.

The orchestra’s conductor, Gustavo Dadamel, chosen to take over as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic later this year, is also a product of El Sistema.

“With an orchestra, you are building citizens, better citizens for the community,” said Dadamel in a Nov. 17 Washington Post interview.

“It is for me very exciting to have the chance to play in this orchestra. The orchestra is my life,” said 17-year-old violinist Lila Vivas, on Dadamel’s Web site.

A clip from the BBC Proms concert, posted on YouTube, demonstrates how masterful these students play and, most importantly, have fun.

While there are many who do not like Chavez’ policies or socialist programs of any kind, El Sistema works well and benefits hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan children.

What could be wrong with that?

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