Wednesday, September 23, 2009

El Sistema: A Great Music Program for the Poor Children of Venezuela

There was a time in this country when the Arts were an integral part of good public policy. Today, the first thing to be slashed from public school budgets is the music program, and symphonies in smaller markets throughout the country are struggling to survive without public funds.

In Venezuela, "El Sistema is a publicly financed voluntary sector music-education program originally called Social Action for Music. This state foundation oversees Venezuela's 125 youth orchestras and the instrumental training programs which make them possible. The walls of the crowded Caracas head office are plastered with photographs of generations of beaming children and their instruments, so many smiling children that there is hardly any blank wall left. El Sistema has 30 symphony orchestras. But its greatest achievement are the 250,000 children who attend its music schools around the country, 90 percent of them from poor socio-economic backgrounds."

For those who live under a rock and venture out occasionally to attend town halls or go to the shooting range, the democratically elected president of Venezuela is Hugo Chavez, a socialist. The right wing in this country has fits when his name comes up, for no reason I can discern. He's certainly not a threat to the U.S., his relationship with President Obama is cordial, and he made some uncivil comments about W. in a UN speech -- something about the smell of sulphur lingering after W.'s speech. Granted, I have a twisted sense of humor, but I thought this was hilarious.

Anyway, thumbs up to El Presidente. You've done good for the poor children of Venezuela.

Here's a brief video about El Sistema:


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