Is music literally capable of saving lives? According to Dr. José Antonio Abreu, it definitely is. His story is a reason to celebrate, and a powerful reminder of the power of music for children.
In 1975, Dr. Abreu, a Venezuelan economist and musician, founded El Sistema, ”The System,” a classical music youth training program for children in some of the poorest Venezuelan communities. Now publicly funded with branches in the United States, United Kingdom, and Portugal, El Sistema helps Venezuela’s 125th youth orchestras with training, funding, and the ability to travel worldwide to perform some of the highest level youth classical music in the world.
Why use music as the mechanism for social change? When asked about his vision for El Sistema, Dr. Abreu said:
“Music has to be recognized as an agent of social development, in the highest sense because it transmits the highest values – solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion. And it has the ability to unite an entire community, and to express sublime feelings.”
Seventy to ninety percent of the children who participate in the program come from the poorest neighborhoods in Venezuela– like Sevilla, a slum in Caracas. Abreu’s success in navigating the program through thirty-eight years of political turmoil is testament to his determination and conviction about the power of music for children. Watch the 60 seconds video here, or watch the clip below!