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Music For Building Human Dignity

The TED site (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, founded in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds; since then its scope has become ever broader) offers a speech by Jose Antonio Abreu “on kids transformed by music” (16:58).
This music teacher in Venezuela thought up and realized a system (‘El Sistema’) of bringing children from all social spheres together in orchestras. In his speech (Spanish with English subtitles) he outlines how immensely uplifting this experience is especially for the poorest children: They realize (maybe for the first time) that their contribution counts, that they are important and taken seriously. It helps them acquire a sense of responsibility, punctuality and perseverance which also helps them to improve at school and succeed in life.
One of Abreu’s former pupils, Gustavo Dudamel, now conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra; on his personal web site, Dudamel (who has been an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist since 2005) writes about ‘El Sistema’ and the effects it has on children. Here’s one example:

Lennar Acosta, now a clarinettist in the Caracas Youth Orchestra and a tutor at the Simón Bolívar Conservatory, had been arrested nine times for armed robbery and drug offences before the sistema offered him a clarinet.
“At first, I thought they were joking,” he recalls. “I thought nobody would trust a kid like me not to steal an instrument like that. But then I realized that they were not lending it to me. They were giving it to me. And it felt much better in my hands than a gun.”

In the video below, Dudamel conducts the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra, which contains the best high school musicians from Venezuela’s life-changing music program. They play Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, 2nd movement, and Arturo Márquez’ Danzón No. 2.

I found the information on Abreu, Dudamel and ‘El Sistema’ via Bruce Spear’s blog entry on “Finding and Following a Path” – thanks, Bruce!

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