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Venezuela: Youth Orchestra Transforms Lives

In 1975, José Antonio Abreu started working on his dream of creating an orchestra in Venezuela. Abreu and other 8 students, started the Old Music School José Ángel Lamas, which created a program based on new ways of learning and adapting different teaching methodologies that fit with the country's reality. The new system brought together young musicians from around the country, especially from the cities of Maracay and Barquisimeto (two cities widely known for its great music.). The orchestra took the stage for the first time on April 30, 1975. Thirty-three years later, hundreds of children, especially from very poor neighborhoods, have taken part in the orchestra.

As a true example of Venezuela's social, intercultural and musical talent, Fesnojiv (Sistema Nacional de Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela) or “The System” is a real pride for Venezuelans, since it demonstrates how people from mixed origins (some of them come from very poor and violent areas of the country) can be able to understand and perform wonderfully the works of authors from faraway lands. These young musicians add something to the Venezuelan soul, always looking for something to call its own, and to add to their own identity. The performances are breathtaking, the stories are touching, and the mixtures and styles are impressive.

Domingo says:

Los integrantes que conforman hoy día esta orquesta comenzaron con orquestas de barrio, a lo que le siguen orquestas departamentales y regionales, algunos de sus integrantes llevan consigo historias de delincuencia juvenil, problemas de drogas, robos, vida en la calle, y para todos ellos “El sistema” ha significado la transformación de sus vidas en plena adolescencia y juventud. Los integrantes más jóvenes pueden tener dos años de edad y el promedio no supera los 22 años. El Sistema ha sobrevivido a todos los eventos políticos, sociales y económicos que han ocurrido en Venezuela durante los últimos 30 años, recibiendo siempre el apoyo de los Gobiernos de turno.

The members that currently make up the orchestra started with orchestras in their neighborhoods, which were followed by departmental and regional orchestras, and some of the members have pasts of juvenile delinquency, drug problems, robberies, life on the streets, and for all, “The System” means a transformation of their lives during their adolescence and youth. The youngest musicians can be as young as two years old, and the average age is no more than 22 years old. The System has survived all kinds of social, economical, and political problems that have taken place in Venezuela during the past 30 years, and it has always received support from every government.

Nicodemo celebrates the 2008 Principe de Asturias Arts Prize awarded to the orchestra.

El fundador de las Orquestas Juveniles de Venezuela, Jose Antonio Abreu, fue designado recientemente miembro honorario de la “Royal Philharmonic Society” del Reino Unido, y uno de sus ex alumnos, Gustavo Dudamel, recibió el premio al mejor artista joven del año.Son premios a la esperanza, al papel restaurador de humanidad que puede tener el arte.

The founder, Jose Antonio Abreu, was recently designated as a honorary member of the Royal Philharmonic Society in Great Britain and one of his ex pupils, Gustavo Dudamel received the prize of best young artist of the year.

The documentary Tocar y luchar (To Play and to Fight) tells the story of the system and part of his members.

1 comment

  • david hicks

    Inspiring: a wonderful joy filled expression of humanity at its best on this day of Obama’s victory in the USA. May the future bring an end to the present American/ Israeeli mind set: hatred and greed, violence, occupation & suffering for many, decade after decade after decade. Good on you Venezuala! Keep up the good work musical & otherwise for all freedom loving peoples on our dear Planet Earth. This message is from a violin teacher, ‘down under’ in Australia.

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