Obituary: José Antonio Abreu, El Sistema founder and creator of Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, 79

Posted on: March 26, 2018

“José Antonio Abreu, a Venezuelan government economist turned musical educator who created a network of youth orchestras that has been replicated in dozens of countries around the world, died March 24. He was 79,” reads an unsigned Sunday (3/25) Associated Press report. “Mr. Abreu had been known to be battling several illnesses…. Mr. Abreu was the teacher to generations of Venezuelan classical music performers, most notably Gustavo Dudamel, musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic…. Born in the western city of Valera on May 7, 1939 … Mr. Abreu … studied music from an early age. But he initially put his artistic aspirations on hold to become an economist … and later entering politics…. In 1975, he formed a small orchestra of a dozen young musicians that would become the seed for El Sistema, or the System. Four decades later, the government-financed program claims to currently put one million Venezuelan children in contact with classical music through a network of hundreds of youth choirs, orchestras and music centers spread across the country. Internationally, its teaching model has spread to more than 60 countries, while its marquee Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra is a fixture in top-flight concert halls from New York to London.”

Posted March 26, 2018

Pictured: José Antonio Abreu with children from Venezuela’s El Sistema music education program, which he founded in 1975.