El Sistema for U.S. Kids Too

From Mark Swed at the Los Angeles Times:

Along with baseball and beauty pageants, classical music is one of the country's greatest passions. In the capital, Caracas, superstar Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel is mobbed wherever he goes. Classical music teeny-boppers run up to him for autographs when he walks off the podium at concerts. The state-run music education program, which is known as El Sistema and from which Dudamel emerged, is the most extensive, admired and increasingly imitated in the world. One of its nearly 300 music schools for children, or núcleos, is deep in the Venezuelan Amazon, reachable only by boat.

Foreign visitors who stream into Caracas to observe El Sistema in action invariably leave Venezuela amazed. I am no exception, having tagged along with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for its recent eight-day Caracas Mahler Project residency. Nor were the L.A. Phil musicians, having performed with and coached impressively aspiring younger Venezuelans.

So pervasive is El Sistema in this society that if you were to ask the average Venezuelan whether he or she thought classical music is dying, you might be questioned about what planet you are on. So strong is the Sistema lockbox that this program is equally supported by rich and poor, the political left and right. President Hugo Chávez allots it $100 million a year and regularly promises more. The opposition party knows better than to oppose music education in the upcoming fall election. For a reality check, imagine President Obama demanding a $1.2-billion music education system under the rubric of social welfare, only to be challenged by Ron Paul insisting that Congress allocate an even greater sum for socialized music.

Read the full article.

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Atlanta Music Project

Modeled after El Systema, The Atlanta Music project is a 5-day-a-week, after-school, youth orchestra and choir program targeting underserved communities in metropolitan Atlanta.

Bassoonist Dantes Rameau is of Haitian and Cameroonian descent. He is a member of the first class of Abreu Fellows at the New England Conservatory. As an Abreu Fellow Dantes spent one year studying El Sistema including two months in Venezuela where he taught, performed and observed. During the Abreu Fellow Program he co-founded the Atlanta Music Project.

It is a total treat to see social change in progress as Dantes leads this remarkable music program. Check it out:


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