For a long time I have been impressed with the program, EL SISTEMA. This is a government sponsored program in Venezuela that has been in existence for some 30 years. It provides Venezuelan children (most of them in the program are poor or working class) with a music education. It gives them a chance to learn how to play a musical instrument, play in an ensemble or sing in chorus. There are even choruses for deaf children who make music with hand gestures. With dedication and gusto, these young musicians experience the beauty of music every day of their lives, and that is life changing.
In December of 2012 I attended a concert of the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Gustavo Dudamel in Philadelphia. The ensemble played with such passion and commitment. I honestly had not experienced such an exciting performance of an instrumental group since I was a teenager and heard my first live concert at Lincoln Center in New York City. There were several encores for the Venezuela ensemble. I thought the audience was going to break out into a riot–there was so much energy in the hall, and genuine admiration and pride for this talented maestro and his orchestra expressed by standing ovations, applause and screaming.
There are two films available about this program. One is in Spanish and is called EL SISTEMA. The other is TOCAR Y LUCHAR and is multilingual. I highly recommend the uplifting documentary, TOCAR Y LUCHAR, for those who want to see the children playing and hear commentary by such important musicians as Sir Simon Rattle and Plácido Domingo.