Venezuela’s El Sistema provides outlet for kids in the barrio

Posted on: February 16, 2012

In Thursday’s (2/16) New York Times, Daniel J. Wakin reports from Caracas, Venezuela, “Corrugated tin roofs, ramshackle cinder-block huts, labyrinthine streets caked with garbage and rubble, the possibility of random violence at any turn. And this section of the Sarría barrio is not even bad for Caracas. But Sarría also plays host to a center of El Sistema, Venezuela’s program of social uplift through classical music. So just across the street from such blighted scenes young children with violins and French horns and trumpets filled the spaces of an elementary school on Tuesday. … The contrast was stark but also typical of El Sistema, which was founded in 1975 but became widely known only in the last five years thanks in part to the meteoric rise of its most famous product, the conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Mr. Dudamel, 31, became music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009 and is now in Caracas with his orchestra for a cycle of the Mahler symphonies. … El Sistema’s aim is to address a depressingly universal problem: how to remove children from poverty’s snares, like drugs, crime, gangs and desperation. … With nearly one-third of Venezuela’s population of 29 million under 14, the need is large. Since the program’s founding, El Sistema estimates that it reaches 310,000 children in 280 teaching locations, called núcleos, said Eduardo Méndez, the executive director.”

Posted February 16, 2012