Monday February 19, 2018 5:45 am

FanFaire celebrates GUSTAVO DUDAMEL



How Music Saved Venezuela’s Children

How Music Saved Venezuela’s Children

The remarkable accomplishment of a great humanist, José Antonio Abreu, who dedicated his life to set up the ‘Sistema’ in 1975, an extraordinary music and social project which has been running in Venezuela in an attempt to transform the lives of the nations poorest children.

It has been using classical music to tackle the social problems of a country where 60% of the population live below the poverty line. By offering free instruments and tuition through a network of after-school centres all over the country, the Sistema has kept thousands of children away from the drugs, alcohol and gang-related violence of the streets and has led to the creation of 30 professional orchestras in a country that had only 2 before it started. Currently, 275,000 children attend the Sistemas schools and many of them play in one of the 125 youth orchestras.

At the pinnacle of the system stands the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela under its music director Gustavo Dudamel who is himself a product of the Sistema and is also the musical director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Many Faces of Gustavo Dudamel—From “Dudamel: Let the Children Play”

The Many Faces of Gustavo Dudamel—From “Dudamel: Let the Children Play”

During “Discovery Day: El Sistema” on December 8, Carnegie Hall explores Venezuela’s spectacularly successful El Sistema educational program and its influence on educational thinking in the United States. The afternoon features a keynote lecture by Dr. Leon Botstein, a panel discussion with Dr. José Antonio Abreu, and a screening of the documentary “Dudamel: Let the Children Play.”

Thanks to the producers for permission to show this clip from the Alberto Arvelo’s documentary in which the many expressions of Gustavo Dudamel are at play.

More information about “Discovery Day” El Sistema” is available at

More information about “Voices from Latin America is available at

“Dudamel: Let the Children Play” is a available for purchase at

Gustavo Dudamel on El Sistema

Gustavo Dudamel on El Sistema

“Voices from Latin America Artistic” Advisor Gustavo Dudamel on El Sistema—the spectacularly successful social action program from Venezuela—from which he emerged as a teenager to become the international face of the movement and music director of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela.

More information about “Voices from Latin America” is available at

Gustavo Dudamel and Osvaldo Golijov on the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela

Gustavo Dudamel and Osvaldo Golijov on the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela

“Voices from Latin America” artistic advisors Gustavo Dudamel and Osvaldo Golijov on the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, which Dudamel considers “a family” and which, for Golijov, is completely devoid of “cultural baggage.”

More information about “Voices from Latin America” is available at

3/11 El Sistema – The Promise of Music Dokumentär + Konsert

3/11 El Sistema – The Promise of Music Dokumentär + Konsert

3/11 El Sistema – The Promise of Music Dokumentär + Konsert

The impact that El Sistema has made on Venezuela’s children can best be gleaned from the words of those whose lives it has touched.

Below are some quotes, beginning with words from GUSTAVO DUDAMEL, today’s “hottest” young conductor who has become the icon of El Sistema, and ending with musings of today’s children, age 15 and younger, whose young lives are being joyfully transformed in more ways than one by the magic of music.


“A project that has no results has no reason for being. The system has produced results. I see it, I have lived it, I am a product of the system.

I studied music since I was four. And since then I have become part of a family. And that family has taught me things, not only about music, but about things I have to face in life. And that is where the success of the system lies.”

Explaining the nature of time and the magic of music to the children of El Sistema:
“Time is relative. Stravinsky once said in a conference that time IS. It is in space and when a musician makes music, he takes it from the time he is living in. It is not like I just arrive and say, one, two, three, four. It is something that is there, and we do not know what it is. And that is the magic of music.”

On a then upcoming nationwide concert celebration by El Sistema’s 250,000 children:
A concert created by our present, but above all, our future.

EDICSON RUIZ (A bass player, he became at age 17 the youngest member of the Berlin Philharmonic):

“When I began with the orchestra, I felt I was becoming part of a young family; I would say precious and warm. Today the orchestra means for the world the only way that music can touch human souls and change the individual. To transform all those feelings and our future is possible through music. Which art could be better? That is what the orchestra means to our country – salvation and transformation.”


“The first meeting was in that parking lot in Candelaria… Before that rehearsal began, a man I did not know appeared. He said, “This orchestra is going to reach far, not only in Venezuela but throughout the world. You are the pioneers of this important project and have the responsibility to bring this knowledge to the children of our country.”

The spirit was sowed from the first rehearsal. And that force multiplied – into a way of life, a way of interpretation, a need for expression.”

“This resembles the garden of divided dreams so much. Each of us had a dream at one time to be realized in music, and all these dreams converged in the wonderful dream of Maestro Abreu – a country planted with orchestras beyond all perspective. What has been done is to plant in each of us the conviction of what is possible, and with the motto “To play and to fight” it has been hammered into every single one of our souls – the certainty that what can be done if it is done with love and conviction cannot be stopped, cannot be detained.”

“That is what has characterized the Venezuelan music system since we were in the youth orchestra, which was similar to today’s children’s orchestra. They have the sound that echoes in the souls of the listeners – since the beginning of our Orchestras.”

“Those who had invested their lives since they were children, those had faith in themselves.”

“Above music, humility. And that word, humility, we must pass on those who are coming next. If we are the first generation, and we have learned the lesson well, and if we could pass it on, I would say the sky is the limit.”


Kenneth (violin): “I think that God must be like music, because something so beautiful can only be the work of God.”

Daniel (trumpet, a blind boy): “When I play, I feel a connection between my trumpet and myself. Because there is a saying that how you feel is how the trumpet will sound. If you are mad, the trumpet will sound bad, as if it were mad. If you play from the heart, regardless of what piece you play….

I liked the trumpet because of its sound, its shape, the metal, how it feels.”

Daniel (cello): “Here one can see my cello – I cannot sleep if I am not next to my cello.

The first thing I would do is put an orchestra in every institution where children would be able to experience what music is and learn in a fun way. Even though it also involves discipline, and everything is not just goofing around. It is also about learning techniques as a daily habit.”

Joyce (violin): “I feel like I have discovered a new world. A world where I have fun – I laugh, I cry, I learn from my teachers. I steal their ideas, their techniques – all that. That is where you life goes – there with the instrument. Then you are only aware of the instrument and of school, and you forget everything else, you forget vices.”

Rony (trumpet): “I used to play the cornet. They gave it to me because of my size and age. Then I went to the trumpet seminar, and there I met the trumpeter from the Berlin Philharmonic, Thomas Clamor. He heard me, and said my sound was good… and he brought me this trumpet.”

Lila (violin): “I was told that the motto “TO PLAY AND TO FIGHT” was created when Maestro Abreu started this orchestra system. He had no hope that it would work. Someone came up to him and said ‘You must always fight for what you want, especially if it is about music,’ and told him always to remember he has to PLAY and FIGHT.”

The CD “Mahler: Symphony No. 5″ with Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela was a FanFaire CD Giveaway.

Source of quotes: The award-winning film by Alberto Alvero, Tocar y Luchar (To Play and To Fight), available on DVD, that tells the phenomenal story of EL SISTEMA.

Credit: Images and video clip courtesy of and with permission of Deutsche Grammophon.

Share Button

Leave a comment

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On PinterestVisit Us On YoutubeCheck Our Feed