Earlier this week, Dr. Jose Abreu, the founder of Venezuela’s national youth orchestra program known as “El Sistema”, was announced as a recipient of Sweden’s Polar Music Prize. If you haven’t heard about the amazing work that Dr. Abreu has done in fostering a thriving network of youth orchestras throughout Venezuela, we’ll try to briefly summarize this incredible program or you can watch the 60 Minutes segment.
33 years ago Dr. Abreu gathered 11 students in his garage to teach them music. Today the program involves 300,000 children from across the country in regional orchestras. What is so inspiring about this program is that even children living in extreme poverty are offered the opportunity to study an instrument and belong to a powerful network that utilizes role modeling and mentorship to facilitate musical study. El Sistema’s premier youth orchestra, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, has toured the world, and its most famous success story Gustavo Dudamel will be joining the LA Philharmonic as Music Director this coming fall.
America’s leading orchestras and conservatories have closely studied the El Sistema model for some years. Mark Churchill, the Dean of New England Conservatory’s Preparatory School, has helped to facilitate dialogue between Dr. Abreu and American music educators. All of this work has led to the launch of the Abreu Fellows Program, which will be housed at New England Conservatory. The fellowship is a one-year post graduate program beginning next fall. The Fellows will spend a year studying between Boston and Caracas, and will use their studies to teach the El Sistema model in their community. Applications are due tomorrow for this program! We look forward to meeting the fellows and following their work.