Since its founding in 1975, Venezuela’s National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras and Choirs, called “El Sistema” has used music education as a vehicle for social change. It cultivates an ‘affluence of spirit’ which today brings hope, joy and positive social impact to 400,000 children and their families and communities throughout the country. Its founding principles include a team-based approach to collective, cooperative education characterized by trust, discipline, empathy, commitment, structure, and support for self-esteem.

This unprecedented success has inspired hundreds of similar programs which serve an estimated one million children in at least sixty countries around the world.

El Sistema was founded in Venezuela in 1975 by José Antonio Abreu and is now known as Fundación Musical Simón Bolívar. The organization has 31 symphony orchestras, and more than 300,000 children attend its music school “nucleos” around the country. More than 80% of the students come from poor socio-economic backgrounds. The system was designed to improve the life trajectory of young people living in poverty and as a paradigm for social change.

The intensive approach engages youth in group lessons, rehearsals and performance, while emphasizing peer learning and community engagement. The goals of El Sistema centre on developing critical life skills and laying the groundwork for success. The founder of El Sistema; Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu; is a former economist and conductor who has, since 1975, been advocating the belief that a free, intensive, classical music education for the poorest of the poor might positively influence the social problems plaguing the country.