Jose Antonio Abreu: El Sistema

Caragas, Venezula is currently the largest departure point for cocaine in the world, and has been ranked the most dangerous capital. Yet in the midst of this city’s turmoil there is a beacon of light– Jose Antonio Abreu.

Jose Antonio Abreu is an: economist, musician, reformer, and founder of El Sistema. In 1975 he created El Sistema (“the system”), as a way to help Venezuelan kids take part in classical music. Now, El Sistema is a nationwide organization of 102 youth orchestras, 55 children’s orchestras, and 270 music centers — and close to 250,000 young musicians.

This training system creates a medium for children to train and realize their potential. El Sistema is heavily supported by the Venezuelan government, so during the earlier stages of their development students are given an instrument, and undergo serious training.

By using the arts as a vehicle to provide opportunities to vulnerable children and youth, El Sistema increased the likelihood that its beneficiaries would live a long and healthier life; have access to knowledge and a decent standard of living; and fully participate in their communities. These students are not trained only as musicians, but as citizens.

It is impressive to see the arts being used to inspire change for these youth in such a large way. El Sistema understands that the children are the future, and if you can shape and change their lives then the entire country can feel the affects. El Sistema does exist in the US, but for each region the system operates differently. Here in the program does not come by funding so easily– which is saddening. It’s idealistic, but I wish the US could see the influence of the arts, and loosen their pursestrings accordingly.

Check out Maestro Abreu’s TED Talk: Jose Abreu on Kids Transformed by Music