I have just watched one of the best Proms concerts I’ve ever seen on BBC 4. Venezuela’s Simón Bolívar Orchestra wowed a packed Albert Hall with a programme of mature playing which belied their years. The conductor, Gustavo Dudamel is 26 and the members of the orchestra are 16+.
All are products of El Sistema (short for Fundación del Estado para el Sistema de Orquesta Juvenil e Infantil de Venezuela). Founded 32 years ago by José Antonio Abreu this national system of music schools offers free tuition and instruments to 250,000 of Venezuela’s deprived children through a network of 125 youth orchestras in 90 music schools around the country.
Could it happen here? A musical training project, beginning in Raploch will extend throughout the next ten years to other areas of Scotland. Susan Carragher who is responsible for communities and culture for Stirling Council, travelled to Venezuela in May to investigate El Sistema. If East Lothian ever feels the need for a Spanish-speaking instrumental instructor to carry out a similar fact-finding mission, let me throw my sombrero into the ring 🙂
One of the nice touches in the concert occurred just before the orchestra’s second encore when the members of the orchestra and the conductor all donned track suit tops in the vibrant colours of the Venezuelan flag (try to picture it before clicking). This was a type of joyous nationalism rarely seen when that word hits the news.