Responding to new criticisms of El Sistema

Posted on: November 13, 2014

“El Sistema, the internationally celebrated programme in Venezuela that aims to lift young people from poverty and into orchestras, has been criticised by a British academic as a ‘model of tyranny,’ ” writes Hannah Ellis-Peterson in Tuesday’s (11/11) Guardian (London). “Writing in the Guardian, Geoffrey Baker … criticised the organisation for the ‘opacity of its financial affairs’ and its lack of rigorous evaluation to quantify its claims of ‘miraculous social transformation.’ … Quoting musicians in one El Sistema ensemble, Baker also said the orchestras were ‘a model of absolute tyranny’ … and said his findings raised ‘serious questions about the much-heralded efforts to transplant it to the UK.’ However, Reynaldo Trombetta, a Venezuelan musician and writer who has worked with El Sistema … rejected Baker’s allegations…. ‘I have to wonder if he spoke to any of the parents of the kids from the barrios, the slums, who are desperate to get their kids into El Sistema … El Sistema is absolutely still a beacon of light benefitting a lot of people.’ ” Also cited in Ellis-Peterson’s article are Argentinian pianist Alberto Portugheis and Marshall Marcus, former head of music at the Southbank Centre and now the chair of Sistema Europe.

Posted November 13, 2014