José Antonio Abreu
( 2001 , Venezuela )

...for achieving a unique cultural renaissance, bringing the joys of music to countless disadvantaged children and communities.

An orchestra is much more than a mere artistic structure. For the young playing music together is a way of deeply interacting with one other, evoking a devotion to excellence, the discipline of working together...


José Antonio Abreu was born in Venezuela in 1939. His education pursued two tracks: he obtained a Ph.D. in petroleum economics in 1961, and in 1964 graduated as a composer and organist from Venezuela’s national conservatory of music. By 1969 he was a Professor of Economics and Professor of Planning at different universities, and was also a Deputy in the Venezuelan Congress. In 1975 he began the work for which he has been awarded, founding the Symphony Orchestra Simon Bolivar and the National Symphony Youth Orchestra (NSYO).

Contact

Sistema Nacional de Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela (FESNOJIV) Torre Oeste, piso 18, Parque Central Caracas 1010 VENEZUELA

http://sistemaglobal.org/
http://elsistemausa.org/
http://www.el-sistema.de/
http://www.elsistema.se/

Biography

The success of the NSYO under Abreu’s direction led to the establishment of youth orchestras in other Venezuelan States, which has grown into the National System of Children and Youth Orchestras of Venezuela, under the auspices of a State Foundation, FESNOJIV. This now involves 110,000 Venezuelans, grouped in 120 youth orchestras, 60 children’s orchestras and a network of choirs, with musical training starting from the age of two. The orchestras are based on 75 ‘orchestral cells’ around the country, each with at least one orchestra, and the System also includes workshops in which children learn to build and repair instruments, special programmes for children with disabilities or learning difficulties, and specialist centres or institutes for phonology, audiovisuals and higher musical education.

Perhaps the most remarkable element about this orchestral System is that it is explicitly oriented towards lower-income social strata. It has been described as “a social movement of massive dimensions, that works using music as the instrument that makes the social integration of different Venezuelan population groups possible and supports the strata with low income.” The orchestras have had a substantial social impact in the communities in which they are active, legitimising and promoting music throughout the community and leading to something of a musical and cultural renaissance. Studies have also shown that the young people involved in t …

The success of the NSYO under Abreu’s direction led to the establishment of youth orchestras in other Venezuelan States, which has grown into the National System of Children and Youth Orchestras of Venezuela, under the auspices of a State Foundation, FESNOJIV. This now involves 110,000 Venezuelans, grouped in 120 youth orchestras, 60 children’s orchestras and a network of choirs, with musical training starting from the age of two. The orchestras are based on 75 ‘orchestral cells’ around the country, each with at least one orchestra, and the System also includes workshops in which children learn to build and repair instruments, special programmes for children with disabilities or learning difficulties, and specialist centres or institutes for phonology, audiovisuals and higher musical education.

Perhaps the most remarkable element about this orchestral System is that it is explicitly oriented towards lower-income social strata. It has been described as “a social movement of massive dimensions, that works using music as the instrument that makes the social integration of different Venezuelan population groups possible and supports the strata with low income.” The orchestras have had a substantial social impact in the communities in which they are active, legitimising and promoting music throughout the community and leading to something of a musical and cultural renaissance. Studies have also shown that the young people involved in the orchestras also perform better in other areas of academic and social life.

This unique programme of musical education and awakening has attracted much international notice and acclaim. UNESCO awarded FESNOJIV its

International Music Award in 1993-94 and in 1998 UNDP commended it as an outstanding example of poverty reduction. Inspired by the many tours of El Sistema’s orchestras over the world, similar initiatives have been started in many countries, for example several Latin American countries, all over the USA, in Germany and in Sweden. It is probably the first worldwide movement for social change through art.

FESNOJIV is a substantial organisation with nearly 1,000 staff spread through the 75 ‘orchestral cells’. Abreu has been the Director of the Foundation since its establishment in 1994, before which he was for five years Venezuela’s Minister for Culture and President of its National Council for Culture. In 1998 he received UNESCO’s title ‘Ambassador for Peace’. He his also a recipient of several awards, among them more recently the 2008 Prince of Asturias Arts Award, the 2009 Polar Music Prize, the Légion d’honneur of France and the Peace Prize of Seoul, Korea, in 2010. He received honorary degrees of the Metropolitana University, Caracas, in 2010, and from Carleton University, Canada, in 2012.