Venezuela’s El Sistema music program began in 1974 by pianist and economist Dr. José Abreu. Today, the music program is implemented in communities around the world. According to the El Sistema website, many participants begin as early as 2 years old and the goal is to create social change through the medium of music.
“El Sistema is a tested model of how a music program can both create great musicians and dramatically change the life trajectory of hundreds of thousands of a nation’s neediest kids. Among its graduates, El Sistema Venezuela has nurtured international musicians such as Edicson Ruiz and Gustavo Dudamel and the world-renowned Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra.”
In February 2009, El Sistema founder, Jose Antonio Abreu, shared the story of El Sistema during a TED talk, which lead to the rapid growth of the successful program.
In a 2012 article, the New York Times recognized how through the unique program, Venezuela is able to teach children of any social class, the gift of music. “Orchestras and music training centers around the country were established to occupy young people with music study and to instill values that can come from playing in ensembles: a sense of community, commitment, and self-worth.”
El Sistema has been the center of countless news reports, documentaries and has caught the attention of many well-known musicians.
While the primary goal of the music program is to create social change, it is also helping brain development. A recent study shows that children who learn to play instruments early on will have better brain development. A five-year study by the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC reveals that music instruction speeds up brain efficiency.
In Venezuela, the music program is having a positive effect on more than the brain as well. In a recent article published by Lancaster Online, a pediatrician discusses the positive influence music has on the brain but it also discusses the impact the program has on the over 500,000 participants. “As a direct result of the program, the Venezuelan population has had many positive results, including a 20 percent decrease in the high school dropout rate and even an increase in participants’ employment.”