Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nature or Nurture: Venezuela & Resurrection

In 1975, Venezuelan economist and musician José Antonio Abreu founded Social Action for Music and became its director. Abreu has navigated the program for the past 35 years through ten different administrations, flourishing under both the presidents of the 1980s and the leftist administration of Hugo Chávez. Combining political shrewdness with religious devotion, Abreu has dedicated himself to a utopian dream in which an orchestra represents the ideal society, and the sooner a child is nurtured in that environment, the better for all.

On 6 June 2007, the Inter-American Development Bank announced the granting of a US$150 million loan for the construction of seven regional centers of El Sistema throughout Venezuela. Many bankers within the IDB originally objected to the loan on the grounds that classical music is for the elite. In fact, the bank has conducted studies on the more than two million young people who have been educated in El Sistema which link participation in the program to improvements in school attendance and declines in juvenile delinquency. Weighing such benefits as a falloff in school drop-out rates and a decline in crime, the bank calculated that every dollar invested in El Sistema was reaping about $1.68 in social dividends. Supported by the government, El Sistema has started to introduce its music program into the public-school curriculum, aiming to be in every school and to support 500,000 children by 2015.  
Why Classical:
In the midst of that poverty, the system uses classical music to instil in the kids self-esteem and confidence. Popular music, Rafael says, wouldn't work.

"What they have on at home is popular music all the time. Their father, who drinks every day, he gets drunk with that music," he told Simon. "So you have to give them something different. When they sit in one of these chairs in the orchestra, they think they're in another country, in another planet. And they start changing."    

                                                                                                                El Sistema

We were so lucky to be at the BBC Proms concert on Friday, 5th August - amazing performance of Mahler's Second Symphony ( Resurrection) by the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. We went to queue at 6:15 am and had a day long chat with some very interesting music lovers. The 74 year old was No.4 and C.C. was No. 8! One went to Bayreuth in 1963!!! One is a budding conductor!!!

Royal Albert Hall certainly broke all rules and brought a chair and even tea for No. 4.

The whole performance was electrifying!!!

The concert is available on iPlayer until 12 August, broadcast on BBC4 on 28 August at 7.30p

And behold, it is no judgment;
there are no sinners, no just….
There is no punishment and no reward.
An overwhelming love illuminates our being.
We know and we are.


Jobbing Doctor said...

It was pretty good, even on Iplayer. To be there would be amazing.

Cockroach Catcher said...

The NYC was wonderful too so were the Swedish singers. But the orchestra and conductor!!! Wow!!! To think that these were people from the worst slum in South America!!!

Even when you leave all the history aside, the music making was wonderful. It was worth spending twelve plus hours waiting.

Julie said...

It's so annoying to read about the wonderful Venezulean system to stop kids dropping out of society. Here in Glasgow, we had four or five music schools like that dotted round and all of them were shut save one and then they wonder why kids are getting into trouble. Here's hoping that it will lead to the return of these schools.

Cockroach Catcher said...

It is quite an unbelievable situation. My daughter (she was there at the Proms too) told me there were a couple of bank robbers in the orchestra!!!

They were good! Very good indeed.

Thanks Julie.

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