Ted and Jose Antonio Abreu’s wish: El Sistema to Go Global

For the past few days,  whatever spare time I have has been spent surfing TedTalks.com.  Today’s uploads were especially thrilling as I finally got to hear from the founder of El Sistema:  Jose Antonio Abreu.

Mr. Abreu is a retired economist, trained musician, and social reformer who founded El Sistema (“the system”) in 1975 based on the conviction that what poor Venezuelan kids needed was classical music. After 30 years and 10 different political administrations, El Sistema is now a nationwide organization of 102 youth orchestras, 55 children’s orchestras and 270 music centers.  This February,  he was announced as one of 3 winners of the 2009 TED Prize:  $100,000 + “One Wish to Change the World.”    

Comprised of close to 250,000 young musicians, El Sistema uses music education to help youth, most from impoverished circumstances, to achieve their full potential and acquire values that favor their growth and have a positive impact on their lives in society.    Several participants have gone on to major international careers, including Gustavo Dudamel, incoming music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and double bass player Edicson Ruiz, who at the age of 17 became the youngest musician ever to join the Berlin Philharmonic. 

Witness and be moved by the passion and joy of the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra (composed of high-school musicians) led by the charismatic Gustavo Dudamel as they perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, 2nd movement, and Arturo Márquez’ Danzón No. 2.  I love the idea that these young kids are taught at a very early age to work as an ensemble – that in working together,  they may achieve something great.


What is Mr. Abreu’s wish? “I wish you would help create and document a special training program for at least 50 gifted young musicians, passionate for their art and for social justice, and dedicated to developing El Sistema in the US and in other countries.”

To help with this wish,  go to http://www.tedprize.org/contactadmin/?a=grant&winner=abreu.


Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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