Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Emanuel Ax and violinist Itzhak Perlman are just some of the classical music luminaries that are heading to Caracas in the coming days. All of them are eager to perform with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, directed by 28-year-old Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel, and inspire the students of the education system known as “el sistema.”
Founded by visionary conductor Jose Antonio Abreu in 1975, “el sistema” introduces Bach and Mozart to kids living in the city’s poorest barrios. Through the distribution of free instruments and instruction, the program aims to provide another option to the drugs and guns that surround them. And so far, it’s been successful. Today, about 300,000 children participate in “el sistema.”
“The kids, the young people are so eager to make music and so serious,” Perlman told reporters recently. “I’m kind of speechless.” It really is inspirational. Hopefully something similar will makes its way to the U.S. when Dudamel debuts as musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in October.