The attention of the orchestral world fell squarely on Venezuela last month when mega-maestro Gustavo Dudamel returned to his native country for an ambitious Mahler symphony cycle with fellow travelers LA Phil and locals Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra. [The final performance in the series was broadcast live from Caracas onto big screens across the US.] Dudamel is of course himself a product of the latter ensemble, the crown jewel in Venezuela’s impressive and widely-publicized music education program, El Sistema. Pictured above are some of the youngest students involved in El Sistema classes, from a slideshow by Meridith Kohut for The New York Times.
I’ve recently had opportunities to engage with several public school administrators regarding challenges in primary music education in this country and have been shocked to discover that a number of these folks have never even heard of El Sistema, let alone its US offshoot and other successful [if smaller-scale] programs stateside. Needless to say my personal and professional concern over the future of early childhood experiences with music and the arts in American society is hardly allayed by this degree of ill-informedness amongst policy makers.
Update: A few hours after I posted this NPR All Things Considered ran a story on the recent encounter between the LA Phil, El Sistema and Mahler:
Mahler For The People – mp3
NPR All Things Considered - March 1, 2012
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