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Update: El Sistema continues its success in Venezuela and abroad

By Michael Hurtig
Monday, February 27th, 2012
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Last year at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning Conference, we covered a panel that was held on the topic of El Sistema – a highly admired and emulated program developed in Venezuela to improve the lives of children through classical music. El Sistema began 33 years ago, and as evidenced by last year’s panel, the program has gone on to inspire a great number of teachers and musicians both here in the United States and elsewhere across the world.

In Venezuela, the program continues to thrive and currently provides 310,000 children free access to musical instruments and instruction, according to a recent New York Times report. By 2015 the program’s founder José Antonio Abreu hopes to increase this number to 500,000. The success has been enough to earn it government support to the measure of approximately $64 million annually, in addition to a large base of financial support from private donors and foundations.

Here in the United States, the example of El Sistema has inspired organizations such as El Sistema USA to attempt to recreate the success of the program among American children. Across borders, the core philosophy of El Sistema remains the same: using music to foster cooperation, dedication, and feelings of community among children. The program’s goal: to raise children above some of the poverty and adversity they may face, brightening their future.