El Sistema USA Lands in the Tough 'Hood of West Philadelphia

“If you put a violin in a child’s hands that child will never hold a gun.”                                    -Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu

Jose Antonio Abreu’s insight 35 years ago led to the creation of El Sistema, Venezuela’s wildly successful, intensive social rescue program that uses orchestras to transform at-risk youth into focused, compassionate adults.

EL SISTEMA USA, shows what happens when a global movement lands in a tough neighborhood of West Philadelphia.  Stanford Thompson, a visionary 23 year old African American trumpet player from Georgia, started the Play On, Philly! program two years ago. Our cameras were there on day one, following 13 year old Zebediah, shy behind his dread locks; 11 year old Raven, always in motion; and all the other kids as they go from the first squeak on their instrument to navigating Beethoven and Brahms.

A message from Jamie Bernstein, Producer

My father, Leonard Bernstein, believed with all his heart in the power of music to transform the lives of young people.  I wish he’d lived long enough to see El Sistema – a Venezuelan youth orchestra program that is bringing social transformation to thousands of disadvantaged children, all around the world.

Two years ago, El Sistema arrived in a tough neighborhood of West Philadelphia.  We’re telling the story of the kids, the teachers and the community as the music begins to change all of their lives.  Leonard Bernstein isn’t here to see what’s happening, but you are.  I hope you’ll join us on our amazing journey.

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