José Antonio Abreu awarded Honorary Membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society

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.”


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