Fantastic Experience in Venezuela with El Sistema
To our friends,
After more than a week visiting Venezuela, we’re now home!
Our visit to Caracas to see El Sistema in action was absolutely thrilling! It was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before and was everything that we could have imagined (and more) …and most importantly, an honour to be invited to attend. We’d like to take this time to tell you all about the exciting things that are happening right now in music education through the efforts of El Sistema.
More than one million children have now come through El Sistema. Broadly translated, it is a social action through music and is known as CASPM (Casa de la Acción Social por la Música) locally with 360,000 children in the program right now. Dr. José Antonio Abreu started this incredible project 35 years ago to help local children get through material poverty and crime, built on the basis of the human right to be educated. It has survived, thrived and has been supported by all eight national governments during that time span.
Our time there was spent mostly at the Casa, “the [main] house” of El Sistema. The program is growing very fast and, as we learned, they are having quite a time keeping up with demands. There are already plans for expanding the Casa along with an additional six locations in development throughout Venezuela.
The Canadian Brass played to an exuberant and excited audience in a 2,000 seat hall on the final night along with graduates from El Sistema – The Venezuela Brass Ensemble and the Metales Quintet, which involved plenty of rehearsal and lots of music making. We also did workshops, had impromptu performances, made a video with more than 200 kids (which is currently in post production) and along the way were presented with amazing performances by different brass groups which have formed and are touring as representatives of El Sistema.
Somehow there was even time to attend a performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor, BWV 232, by the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar (Venezuela Youth Symphony) led by the internationally acclaimed Bach scholar and conductor Helmuth Rilling. The performance was simply a revelation.
One of the more exciting and eye opening experiences was our tour of one of the El Sistema schools, Nucleo La Rinconada, in the downtown part of Caracas. As we were taken from classroom to classroom we were able to hear children sing and play at every level ranging from ages as young as 2 up to 14. The final group was a full orchestra made up of the most gifted children (ages 7-14) performing beautiful arrangements of well-known classical repertoire all with unbelievable expertise, intonation, precision, and above all passion. It was really quite an overwhelming and inspiring experience. We had tears in our eyes!
We want to thank Dr. Abreu, Rodrigo Guerrero and the staff and musicians of El Sistema for a week we shall never forget. Along with our ongoing commitment to music education, we embrace the ideals of El Sistema and wish them continued success.
Our best to you all,