El Sistema in penitentiaries

May 27, 2008

Translated from Spanish by ES-NYC founding member José Bergher.

Sunday, May 25th 2008
The Penitentiary Symphony Orchestra has students in three reclusion centers.
The jails’ conservatory
FESNOJIV plants classrooms in prisons
The figures.-

250 inmates receive music instruction
3 jails were chosen for the pilot project. At year’s end, 5 of the country’s penitentiary facilities will be integrated into the project
The first students have been prepared for the past 11 months
40 teachers, including those of singing, participate
3 million dollars were granted to support the first 3 núcleos, through an agreement between FESNOJIV, the Ministry of Justice, and the Interamerican Development Bank.
3 lutherie [instrument making] workshops for making cuatros [a small Venezuelan plucked-strings instrument from the guitar family] and guitars will be built inside the jails
“When I first arrived here, I thought, ‘I put a lock in my life, I screwed myself. But one begins to live music, discovers its echo, and the moment arrives when you do not so much feel the music score so much but the harmony one has with the instrument.” Thus, rehearsing with a shining violin at a hallway that resembles more a conservatory’s than a jail’s,  speaks a 24-year-old woman inmate who is serving a term in INOF, Instituto Nacional de Orientación Femenina de Los Teques.
Violins, violas, cellos, and one doblebass play in tune the Ode to Joy [from Beethoven’s 9th symphony] behind the walls of this center, one of the three in which the pilot project of the Orquesta Sinfónica Penitenciaria is being implemented. To María, a tall and hale 31-year-old woman, the classes have served as a safety valve, which once in a while takes her out to the street.
“This is a window. A way to get out with music. The profe [familiar for “professor”] used to fight with me a lot because of the long fingernails, but this is part of the effort, dedication, and discipline this means,” she points out.
The plan to humanize jails through music began eleven months ago under the tutelage of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice and FESNOJIV, which this week was awarded the Príncipe de Asturias Prize because of “its deep ethical conviction applied to the betterment of social reality.” 
During the classes, María does not talk about the transgression she committed, neither do her companions. It is a norm in the Orquesta Penitenciaria not to inquire into the causes that brought the person to prison.
“My sister is a violinist in the Orquesta Sinfónica de Barquisimeto, but I had never handled her violin. I did not think that a this age I would be able to feel this harmony with music,” says Maria.  
Besides this Los Teques detention center, music classrooms have been installed in the Santa Ana Jail, in Táchira State, and in the Penitentiary Center of the Andes Region, in Mérida.
In each of the prisons, the System of Orchestras follows a method identical to that of conservatories. The difference is that, at this first stage, the orchestra was divided up by locations. At INOF, for instance, there are only string instruments; at the Mérida jail, winds; and at Santa Ana, percussion.
On April 29th, [in the morning of] the same day when [starting at 4 p.m. and lasting a couple of hours]  there was an energy blackout in 17 of the country’s states, the three núcleos performed for the first time as an [unified] ensemble in a concert at the Teatro Teresa Carreño. Before then, they used to interact by listening to CD recordings during the practice sessions in each jail.
“We were kind of scared, but after ten months’ training there is some self-confidence. It was fantastic! In spite of the handcuffs and two guards per inmate, I did not feel like a prisoner,” comments another woman inmate.
After the first concert, in which 123 male and female inmates took part, the scope of the dreams increased. It is not Gustavo Dudamel or Edicson Ruiz who are being talked about the most in the penitentiary núcloes; most of the inmates would like to follow in the footsteps of Henry Ávila, an inmate who learned to play percussion and, after being freed, was employed by FESNOJIV. 
Ysmel Serrano, general director of Inmates’ Custody and Rehabilitation, explains that the goal is to incorporate to the activity 40% of the population of the jails where the project is implemented. According to the plans, there will be five the pilot jails [sic] by year’s end, including Tocuyito’s jail and the new penitentiary in Coro.
The goal, of course, is to reduce the number of quarrels. “Many tough things happen here. When one thinks he can rest he hears shouts, insults, and fights. Music is a way to leave behind the bad. Furthermore, this is brilliant; my only musical reference used to be King Changó,” says another young woman.
In the jails music has no schedule. The inmates go to rehearsals after they work in the kitchen or in the workshops. However, Lenín Mora, the project’s general coordinator, stresses that the teaching demands certain discipline codes. “They are treated for what they are, talents [talented people], and therefore they have to brush [groom] themselves, clean themselves, and keep a [good] physical appearance. The changes have been incredible,” he says. 
Freddy Ibarra, the Los Teques group’s director, did not resort to the classical scores by Beethoven or Chopin to motivate his women students. He composed two songs for them, and these are never missing from the repertoire: Algún Día [Some Day] and Las Campanas Sonarán Por Mí [The Bells Will Sound for Me]. “The last one is my favorite. With the music we realize that we are worthy human beings, and we want to sound the bell that is struck before being freed.” 


José Antonio Abreu awarded Honorary Membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society

May 19, 2008

José Antonio Abreu awarded Honorary Membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society

José Antonio Abreu is the inspirational Venezuelan economist and
composer who in the early 1970s founded the National System of
Children’s and Youth Orchestras of Venezuela (El Sistema), through
which hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan children – including the
celebrated conductor Gustavo Dudamel – received their formative
musical experience.

Maestro Abreu accepted the special award from RPS Chairman Graham
Sheffield at the RPS Music Awards ceremony on 15 May 2008, becoming
only the 123rd recipient since the election of Carl Maria von Weber in

The citation of the Royal Philharmonic Society Council reads:

“The vision and leadership of José Antonio Abreu, the Venezuelan
economist and musician, led him, in 1975, to found ‘El Sistema’, an
intensive educational programme designed to lift children out of
poverty and deprivation by teaching them to play classical music.
Thirty years on Venezuela has 60 children’s orchestras, 120 youth
orchestras and a network of choirs – all of which feed into the now
flourishing professional musical life of the country. 250,000
Venezuelan teenagers and children are currently part of El Sistema:
lives are being transformed, communities empowered and orchestras
built for the future. Inspired by ambassadors of the project such as
the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, which thrilled audiences in the UK
last year, news of Venezuela’s programme of social action through
music is rapidly spreading throughout the world – not least to
Scotland where a pilot scheme is being introduced this year in
Stirling’s Raploch community. No one person more completely embodies
the Royal Philharmonic Society’s core purpose of ‘creating a future
for music’ than José Antonio Abreu.”


José Antonio Abreu’s acceptance speech of the Venezuelan branch of B’nai B’rith’s Human Rights Award

April 1, 2008

Thanks to El Sistema-New York City (ES-NYC) member Jose Bergher for the translation.
February 26 2008

My heart is filled with jubilation on this day in which, for lack of personal merits that might have made me worthy of such a prestigious honor, I am receiving this distinguished award on behalf of all those illustrious artists and educators who during thirty three years have accompanied me with admirable abnegation and solidarity around an effort inspired by noble ideals concerning the destiny of youth and infancy in Latin America. Today, perhaps more than ever, the mission of art in the environment of the new generation transcends the horizon of aesthetic values to project itself, with growing intensity, over the ample and vital domain that embraces from the personality’s integral humanistic upbringing, to the full insertion of the younger person and the child, by means of their artistic development, in a constructive, fertile, and growing social life. The new Latin American music generation constitutes a lofty testimony of a continent that, in the youth and children‚s orchestras and choirs, finds an upright paradigm.

In the ample and luminous trajectory of the Jewish Fraternity B’nai B’rith stands out emphatically the defense of human rights, the strengthening of family life, and education. And it is here, precisely, that FESNOJIV appears, before anything, as a project consecrated to the fight for education, but not only in its being accepted, but, particularly, in whatever concerns aesthetic upbringing, dedicating our day-to-day efforts to guarantee the massive and growing access of youngsters and children of medium and low economic resources to artistic education, by virtue of its condition of preeminent right consecrated in the [Venezuelan] Constitution, the Law of Education, and, specifically, the Organic Law for the Protection of the Child and the Adolescent.

And therefore, if the educational process wishes to promote the growth of human individuality, harmonizing it with the systemic unity of the social group to which it belongs, it is of crucial importance the function assigned to aesthetic education, meant to preserve the natural intensity of all modes of perception and sensation and their mutual coordination and in relation to the environment; to stimulate the manifestation of feeling in a communicable form; and to also habilitate the communicable expression of those modes of mental experience that, otherwise, would remain partially or totally unconscious.

For Jacques Dalcroze, rightly so, the fundamental elements of rhythm, space, and time are inseparable. Likewise, in music and in human existence understood as Art, they are indissoluble. Therefore, also, in aesthetic education the optimum result responds neither to the system of teaching nor to the academic qualifications of the Teacher, but, above all, to the creation during the teaching and learning cycle of a generous pedagogy in healthy freedom and true love, able to yield that perfect model of the “beautiful soul,” in whose bosom become conciliated sensorial instinct and moral duty.

To democratize the education system to the extent of guaranteeing youngsters and children full access to literature and art, to the highest philosophical thinking, and to the ecumenical life joyfully shared, cannot be conceived but as priority cause, unavoidable, and emerging towards a profound and valid transformation of civil society and the State. It is about a National Pedagogical Project understood as a giant challenge to the Venezuelan intellectuality and artistic world. We are obliged to it by the great purpose of guaranteeing artistic education and aesthetic upbringing to the new generation that, today in the classroom and tomorrow with powerful and visionary creativity, be able to imagine and dream of the country as a colossal work of art in perpetual boom and recreation, a banner in the purpose of becoming, before History and the World, a nation of justice, peace, and hope.

By virtue of this, the youth and children orchestras and choirs constitute such a particularly suited instrument to solidly initiate youngsters and children in the collective life, in the solidarity-filled coexistence, in a communitarian doingness truly productive of the personality. Because of its own technical and artistic nature, the orchestral and choral activity among youngsters and children assists, necessarily, the forge of a fraternal and solidarity-filled fraternal spirit, a vigorous development of self-esteem, and the cultivation of the ethical and aesthetical values linked to the music doingness. Because the youths and children of the Choir and the Orchestra creatively interact rehearsing, playing, listening, and cooperating, the music, and whatever it implies in terms of personal development, family dynamics, and communitarian joy, joins in a natural and spontaneous manner the individual and collective existence. We now encounter art not only at museums and concerts, but in the persons and everyday things, against the perverse use of leisure time, against drugs and violence. The Mention of Honor recently awarded by the UN‚s Program for the Development of the Nation‚s Youth and Children Orchestras, as „one of the ten most successful Venezuelan programs in the fight against critical-level poverty,‰ solidly reconfirms the fundamentally social nature of a project, which, on having coincide in Orchestral and Choral life youngsters and children of all social levels, promoting at the same time the access of the [economically and socially] least-favored into the life of art, consolidates it day by day, as an advanced force of social inclusiveness and communitarian integration.

To the extent that we educators believe, with greater and more passionate conviction, in the immense potential of the artistic doingness, understood not anymore as an anachronistic redoubt of pseudo elites but as an imminent and prodigious threshold of a new Earth, portal of a new sky, we shall have found a portentous key to structurally break poverty’s vicious circle: the spiritual wealth that music sows and multiplies will forever vanquish material poverty produced by injustice. Commitment and concept that merge education and culture into one and insoluble dimension, which, together with aesthetic priority, strengthen ethical conscience, and which champion the education system‚s structural transformation according to a novel academic model fit to guarantee a new man for a new world, initiated in the humanistic knowledge and, simultaneously, fully able in the professional exercise of the technique, full of creative initiative, passionate in the delivery and for existential struggle.

Because all of this, with the sentiment of my deepest gratitude, tonight I full heartedly embrace the B’nai B’rith Fraternity, in the cause, common and unquestionable, of continuously dignifying and exalting the authentically human, on behalf of the sacred principle that proclaims the primacy of the spirit, as unexhausted source of Being, Goodness, and Truth. It‚s not accidental that such a conviction finds a matchless apostle in Yehudi Menuhin, eximious [most excellent] master of our time. The excellence of his violinistic art and his infinite love for teaching glorify the highest, almighty, and eternal God, to whom Yehudi Menuhin, teacher of all the world‚s children and youngsters, constantly intones from immortality the magnificent psalm: “For You, Lord, is my music. I shall sing your mercifulness with harps and lutes, above the cithers‚ arpeggios.”

In the struggle for Human Rights, let us vigorously incorporate children‚s sublime right to music, in whose bosom shines Beingness in its splendor and its ineffable mystery.

Let us reveal to our children the beauty of music and music shall reveal to our children the beauty of life.

The original in Spanish from Nuevo Mundo Israelita Digital:

José Antonio Abreu:
“En el combate por los Derechos Humanos, incorporemos con vigor el sublime derecho de los niños a la música”

Colma mi corazón de júbilo este día en el que, a falta de méritos personales que pudieran haberme hecho digno de tan señalado honor, me toca recibir esta insigne distinción en nombre de todos aquellos ilustres artistas y educadores que, durante treinta y tres años, me han acompañado, con abnegación y solidaridad admirables, en torno a un esfuerzo inspirado por nobles ideales concernientes al destino de la juventud y la infancia en América Latina. Hoy, acaso más que nunca, la misión del arte en el ámbito de la nueva generación trasciende el horizonte de los valores estéticos para proyectarse, con creciente intensidad, sobre el amplio y vital dominio que abarca desde la formación humanística integral de la personalidad, hasta la plena inserción del joven y el niño, mediante su desarrollo artístico, en una vida social constructiva, fecunda y ascendente. La nueva generación musical latinoamericana constituye excelso testimonio de un continente que, en las orquestas y coros juveniles e infantiles, encuentra enhiesto paradigma.

En la dilatada y luminosa trayectoria de la Fraternidad Hebrea B’nai B’rith destaca enfáticamente la defensa de los derechos humanos, el fortalecimiento de la vida familiar y la educación. Y he aquí que, precisamente, el Sistema Nacional de las Orquestas y Coros Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela surge, ante todo, como proyecto consagrado a la lucha por la educación, mas no sólo en su acepción universal, sino, particularmente, en cuanto se refiere a la formación estética, consagrando nuestro esfuerzo, día a día, a garantizar el masivo y creciente acceso de jóvenes y niños de medianos y escasos recursos a la educación artística, en su condición de derecho eminente consagrado por la Constitución, la Ley de Educación y, específicamente, la Ley Orgánica para la Protección del Niño y del Adolescente.

Y es que, en efecto, si el proceso educativo se propone fomentar el crecimiento de la individualidad humana, armonizándola simultáneamente con la sistémica unidad del grupo social a que pertenece, resulta de crucial importancia la función asignada a la educación estética, llamada a preservar la intensidad natural de todos los modos de percepción y sensación y su coordinación entre sí y en relación con el ambiente; a estimular la manifestación del sentimiento en forma comunicable y a habilitar, asimismo, la expresión comunicable de aquellos modos de experiencia mental que, de otro modo, permanecerían parcial o totalmente inconcientes.

Con razón, para Jacques Dalcroze, los elementos fundamentales del ritmo, espacio y tiempo, son inseparables. Por lo mismo, en la música y en la existencia humana entendida como Arte, resultan indisolubles. De ahí también que, en la educación artística, el óptimo fruto no responde ni al sistema de enseñanza ni a la idoneidad académica del Maestro, sino, ante todo, a la creación durante el ciclo de instrucción y aprendizaje de una didáctica generosa en sana libertad y amor verdadero, capaz de conformar aquel perfecto modelo del “alma bella”, en cuyo seno se concilian instinto sensorial y deber moral.

Democratizar el sistema educativo al extremo de garantizar a jóvenes y niños plenario acceso a la literatura y al arte, al pensamiento filosófico superior y a la vida ecuménica gozosamente compartida, no puede ser concebido sino como causa prioritaria, insoslayable y emergente para una profunda y valedera transformación de la sociedad civil y del Estado. Se trata de un Proyecto Nacional Pedagógico entendido como reto gigante para la intelectualidad y el mundo artístico venezolanos. Nos compele a ello el magno propósito de garantizar la educación artística y formación estética a la nueva generación que, hoy desde el Aula y mañana con poderosa y visionaria creatividad, sean capaces de imaginar y soñar el país como colosal obra de arte en perpetua eclosión y recreación, señera en el propósito de erigirse, ante la Historia y ante el Mundo, como nación de justicia, de paz y de esperanza.

Por ello mismo constituyen las orquestas y coros juveniles e infantiles instrumento particularmente idóneo para iniciar solidamente a jóvenes y niños en la vida colectiva, en la solidaria coexistencia, en un quehacer comunitario propiamente realizador de la personalidad. En virtud de su propia índole técnica y artística, la actividad orquestal y coral entre jóvenes y niños conlleva, necesariamente, la forja de un espíritu solidario y fraterno, un vigoroso desarrollo de la autoestima y el cultivo de los valores éticos y estéticos vinculados al quehacer musical. Puesto que los jóvenes y niños del Coro y la Orquesta interactúan creativamente ensayando, tocando, escuchando y cooperando, la música, y lo que ella implica en términos de desarrollo personal, dinámica familiar y alegría comunitaria, se incorpora de manera natural y espontánea a la existencia individual y colectiva. Acudimos al encuentro del arte, ya no sólo en los museos y conciertos, sino en las personas y en las cosas de todos los días, contra el uso perverso del tiempo libre, contra la droga y la violencia. La Mención de Honor recientemente otorgada por el Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo a las Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de la Nación, como “uno de los diez programas más exitosos de Venezuela en el combate contra la pobreza crítica”, reconfirma sólidamente la índole fundamentalmente social de un proyecto, el cual, al hacer confluir jóvenes y niños de todos los sectores en la vida Orquestal y Coral, promoviendo al mismo tiempo el acceso de los menos favorecidos a la vida del arte, lo consolida, día a día, como avanzada de inclusión social e integración comunitaria.

En la medida en que los educadores creamos, con mayor y más apasionada convicción, en la inmensa potencialidad del quehacer artístico, entendido este último ya no como anacrónico reducto de pseudo-élites, sino como umbral inminente y prodigioso de una nueva tierra, pórtico de un nuevo cielo, habremos hallado clave portentosa para quebrantar estructuralmente el círculo vicioso de la pobreza: la riqueza espiritual que la música siembra y multiplica ha de vencer por siempre la pobreza material producto de la injusticia. Compromiso y concepto que funden educación y cultura en una sola e indisoluble dimensión, que, junto a la prioridad estética, afianzan la conciencia ética, y que propugnan la transformación estructural del sistema educativo conforme a una pauta académica novedosa, idónea para garantizar un hombre nuevo para un nuevo mundo, iniciado en el saber humanístico y, simultáneamente, cabalmente apto para el ejercicio profesional de la técnica, pleno de iniciativa creadora, apasionado por la entrega y por la lucha existencial.

Por todo ello, con el sentimiento de mi más honda gratitud, abrazo esta noche de corazón a la Fraternidad B’nai B’rith, en la causa, común e incontestable, de dignificar y exaltar sin cesar lo auténticamente humano, en nombre del sagrado principio que proclama el primado del espíritu, como fuente inagotable del Ser, el Bien y la Verdad. No por azar semejante convicción encuentra incomparable apóstol en Yehudi Menuhin, maestro eximio de nuestro tiempo. La excelencia de su arte violinístico y su infinito amor a la enseñanza glorifican al dios altísimo, omnipotente y eterno, a quien, desde la inmortalidad, Yehudi Menuhin, maestro de todos los niños y jóvenes del mundo, entona sin cesar el salmo magnífico: “Para ti es mi música, Señor. Cantaré tu misericordia con arpas y laúdes, sobre arpegios de cítaras”.

En el combate por los Derechos Humanos, incorporemos con vigor el sublime derecho de los niños a la música, en cuyo seno fulge el Ser en su esplendor y en su inefable misterio.

Revelemos a nuestros niños la belleza de la música y la música revelará a nuestros niños la belleza de la vida.

Chefi Borzacchini’s book: “Venezuela Sembrada de Orquestas”

March 31, 2008

Let’s find a way to have Chefi Borzacchini’s book translated into
English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Japanese, Arabic, and Chinese:
“Venezuela Sembrada de Orquestas.”

It’s a history of Maestro Abreu’s FESNOJIV.

How about one of the prompters at the MET as conduit to translator/publisher?

UN translators?

Know anyone?

Know anyone who knows someone?

Variously translated as:
–Venezuela Seeded with Orchestras;
–Venezuela Sprouting with Orchestras;
–Venezuela Bursting with Orchestras [in Jenn Chang’s thesis].

Yahoo search results for “Venezuela Sembrada de Orquestas” :

ES-NYC has a copy; Jose Bergher might be able to arrange for purchase of extra copies.

Hello world!

March 31, 2008

Welcome to The Infinite Power Of Music blog––TIPOM for short.

We hope to engender a wikipedia-type collaborative resource center for promoting the world’s most INCLUSIVE and SUCCESSFUL music-education system– JOSE ANTONIO ABREU‘S EL SISTEMA.

Please visit our other blog: http://elsistemanyc.net/

And this website: elsistema-nyc.org