El Sistema In Caracas, Venezuela

Simón Bolívar Youth Symphonic Band of El Sistema

Friday September 24th. at the Simón Bolivar's Hall,
Centro de Accion Social por la Musica (New Building).

  • Marching Song of DemocracyPercy Grainger
  • Suite King PomadeGyorgy Ranki
  • Elegy for Miles DavisRichard Rodney Bennett
  • GallimaufryGuy Woolfenden
  • intermission
  • ConcertangoLuis Serrano Alarcon
  • Vranjanka Kenneth Hesketh
  • Yiddish DancesAdam Gorb

El Sistema is the most remarkable social and artistic experiment in the world today. Thirty five years ago, musician and economist Dr Abreu, began a youth orchestra in Caracas with a first rehearsal attracting eleven students. Was it worth continuing, or should he just give up.

There are now over 350,000 students enrolled in orchestras, bands and choirs throughout Venezuela. At the top of the pyramid is the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, youthful only in name, but in fact a fully professional orchestra of the highest caliber. Members work throughout the country, teaching individual players and coaching sections, acting as professors in the various Conservatorios and Nucleos.

With an orchestra of about 100, including 6 cellos, 5 double basses and an army of excellent clarinet players, all playing with the passion and commitment which is typical of every group in El Sistema, the results are always exciting, and sometimes quite extraordinarily good. This wind band has been in exisitence only for five years, created by Jesus Perrazo, a former member of the WASBE Board.

My schedule daily was a three hour rehearsal in the morning followed by lunch, a further three in the afternoon after which the students were given a packed supper of a sandwich, fruit, drink and a cookie. Thus El Sistema looks after the physical, social and musical well-being of the students enrolled. While in Caracas, I was fortunate to hear a nucleos group from a nearby suburb, playing folk arrangements, a superb brass group from caraboso, the first and second orchestras of the Conservatorio playing Tchaikovsky, and the world class Theresa Carreno Orchestra in their last concert before a tour to Berlin, Amsterdam and London, where I caught their second concert on my return. If you have a chance to catch their top brass group on their tour of Europe in the New Year, take it, they are also extraordinarily good.