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Venezuela’s rigorous classical music training program for kids, El Sistema, has expanded beyond the country’s borders and across the globe and into the United States, where it has found growing success. Founded in 1975 by Venezuelan conductor José Antonio Abreu, El Sistema originally began with eleven students in a garage before evolving into a nation-wide program that emphasizes empowering poor children to escape poverty.

 

El Sistema now has more than 100 programs in the U.S. The Los Angeles Philharmonic is even creating a National Youth Orchestra modeled on El Sistema.

But, as Jonathan Wolfe reports, the program also has its critics who claim that the Abreu, the organization’s leader, exercises too much authority over the program and that its central notion of creating a more ideal society through music education is misleading.

Photo by Jonathan Wolfe