Orchestras and educators look to spark El Sistema in U.S.

Posted on: May 21, 2010

In Friday’s (5/21) Los Angeles Times, Reed Johnson writes, “In the classical music world today, no two words inspire more evangelical fervor than ‘El Sistema,’ unless perhaps they’re ‘Gustavo Dudamel.’ El Sistema, a.k.a. the System, is, of course, the ballyhooed 35-year-old Venezuelan national music training and youth orchestra program that has taught hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan children to play and appreciate classical music. That includes its star protégé, Dudamel, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 29-year-old music director. It’s a tough act to follow. But that’s not stopping cities such as L.A., Boston, New York and Baltimore from trying. … The missionary zeal flowed freely earlier this month when dozens of music educators, youth program administrators and others converged here for a three-day symposium, ‘Composing Change: YOLA and the El Sistema Movement.’ ” Hosted by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in partnership with El Sistema USA and the League of American Orchestras, “the conference was part of an ongoing effort, not to slavishly imitate every chapter and verse of the El Sistema playbook, but to adapt some of its key ideas and methods to a U.S. context. … In general, the attendees agreed that the obstacles in translating El Sistema to the United States have as much to do with differing economic and social values as they do with the right-versus-wrong way to cradle a violin or finger an oboe.”

Photo: Abreu Fellow Rebecca Levi with a student in Baltimore’s OrchKids program

Posted May 21, 2010