El Sistema in Sweden started in May 2009 with the recently appointed Head Conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, who travelled to Angered in Gothenburg to give two performances of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in the sports hall of Hammarkull School for local children and young people. The concert was a full success and the orchestra received a standing ovation in the end and cheers from the children. Many of them never experienced a concert or even heard classical music before. Dudamel explained the importance of classical music and its role in the development of pop, hard rock, hip hop and performance arts. When the Head of Angered Cultural School, then Camilla Sarner, thanked Dudamel and the Orchestra for their performances, the idea that music could change the day to day lives of families living in deprived areas was born.
The Angered Cultural School hosted the first El Sistema program in fall 2010. The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra stood as a guarantor when funds were applied for to start the organization and took an active role in the establishment of El Sistema in Sweden. For many years, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra also organized seminars and national conventions concerning the El Sistema concept. It was a key player in the establishment of the Side by Side camp in Gothenburg, which is an international Orchestra and Choir Camp for children and young people.
In 2011, El Sistema was established in Malmö, with Södertälje following a year later. Since then, every year new El Sistema organizations are popping up in Sweden. Currently, El Sistema is in 40 locations in Sweden, as well as in big cities and rural areas, engaging around 10,000 children and 40,000 members of their extended families.
The various orchestras that are affiliated to the educational programmes are mainly financed by the regions, county councils and university colleges that receive state funding. The only exception to this is the El Sistema Foundation, which is financed through sponsorships, projects, grants and donations.