El Sistema Venezuela (english)

The success story El Sistema Venezuela 1 begins in the mid-70s when maestro José Antonio Abreu organized a music rehearsal in a backyard in the Venezuelan capital Caracas. The idea was the creation of a Venezuelan Orchestra, which should consist of Venezuelan musicians and be a counterpart to the then established classical music scene.

Maestro José Antonio Abreu

However, only eleven musicians attended for this first music rehearsal. Fortunately, all people involved were not discouraged by this rather small number; on the contrary, this only motivated them to continue their commitment. This should pay off in the end.

A month later, 75 young musicians attended at Abreu’s rehearsals, which ultimately led to the formation of the first ensemble. Already four months after its foundation, the ensemble played its first concerts and, thanks to its enthusiasm for music, not only received constant ovations, but also the support of the Venezuelan Government that supported the program financially from then on.

A characteristic of this early period was that the young musicians had very different musical background and knowledge; but they were all united through their passion for music. Abreu used this connecting passion and developed a concept that would develop its strength precisely at the different skills:

The young musicians learn from and with each other through making music together, thus exchanging experiences between all levels take place and the community of musicians is strengthened overall.

For Abreu, however, an orchestra was more than just a community of musicians; rather, it is a reflection for a functioning society: A goal can only be achieved if everyone works together. However, what remains crucial is the role of everyone individually.

Conservatory of El Sistema in Caracas, Venezuela

The unifying element of music was then used to create a social program that brings together young people from all backgrounds, conveys and teach values and, through enthusiasm for music, contributes to the enhancement of society overall. In order to implement this, numerous Núcleos and Módulos (comparable to larger and smaller music schools) opened in all states of Venezuela, which allow all young people to participate in El Sistema.

Young people – the youngest are only 2 or 3 years old – are able to attend the music lessons six days a week for three to four hours each. In addition, there is the possibility to participate in workshops with up to 10 hours practice per day; those are held especially in holiday season. It should be emphasized, that participation is free of charge and therefore no social barriers exist. Another feature of El Sistema offers the opportunity to be trained as a teacher at an early age, in order to allow a continuous exchange between the young and older musicians.

Main hall of the Social Action Center for Music,
Caracas, Venezuela

Nearly 45 years after the first rehearsal In Caracas, it turns out that the implementation of Abreus Vision has impressively succeeded:

  • Today, more than 1 million young people make music in more than 400 Núcleos and 1,700 Módulos Across Venezuela.
  • This resulted in more than 1,700 passionate orchestras, which inspiring performances at home and abroad; from the regular ones to the flagships such as the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra.
  • El Sistema Venezuela has been pioneering in the careers of blessed Musicians such as Gustavo Dudamel, Pedro Eustache, Natalia Luis-Bassa or Edicson Ruiz.
  • The influence of El Sistema has inspired over 300 active initiatives and music programs in over 70 countries, making sure Abreu’s vision is distributed
  • across borders.

The history of El Sistema Venezuela shows impressively that a change is possible with a vision, motivation and commitment.

The term El Sistema Venezuela system will be used throughout this blog since this name, in our view, is the best-known in Europe. However, we want to point out that the official name is since 2011 The official name Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation (FMSB) Is. Before that, the official name Foundation of the State for the national system of the youth and children’s orchestras of Venezuela (FESNOJIV) has been used. In particular, the abbreviation FESNOJIV is also still in use today.

For more information, please visit:
http://fundamusical.org.ve/ (Spanish)
http://www.hiltifoundation.org/en/El-Sistema-Venezuela (English)
Perdomo Echenique E. (2018): Contribution of musical education on Sustainability:
the study case of „El Sistema“ musical education for underprivileged children in
Venezuela, available at http://unipub.uni-graz.at/download/pdf/2945840 (English)