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What is El Sistema?
El Sistema is a program in Venezuela that uses music education as a vehicle for youth development. Founded in 1975 by economist and musician José Antonio Abreu, El Sistema is a social program largely funded by the government and designed to protect Venezuelan youth from dangers associated with extreme poverty. Administered by Fundación Musical Simón Bolívar, it has served more than 400,000 children.
In 2009, the founder of El Sistema, José Antonio Abreu, won the TED Prize, which he used to establish a fellowship program for American musicians passionate about their art and social justice to learn about El Sistema in Venezuela. Fellows from that program have catalyzed the growth of El Sistema-inspired sites throughout the United States, serving children and communities with little or no significant access to music education. Some programs are school-based; others are offered after school.
There is no one right way to build a Sistema-inspired program or teach a Sistema-inspired lesson, and there is no ultimate curriculum guide or single pedagogical methodology. The videos and website resources provide both philosophical context and practical teaching examples — many drawn from a mixture of familiar pedagogies including Suzuki, Dalcroze, Kodály, and Orff — to support and inspire P-5 music educators teaching in and out of school.
El Sistema-inspired programs growing around the world share the goal of uplifting students and changing lives through music. El Sistema is a musical culture built around the values of access, generosity, and community. The power of music does not lie solely in the artistic achievement that is presented on a stage. Instead, it lies in the creative, disciplined process of striving to create music together, and the social, academic, and artistic growth that benefits all children who have this opportunity.